John on ...Lawmakers stunned, saddened and galvanised by the recent Charlie Hebdo killings... and the freedom of speech demonstrations which followed... both in France and around Europe.
Welcome to our round-up of the first European Parliament plenary session of 2015 here in Strasbourg.
Latvia's ambitious jobs and digital agenda priorities for its current Presidency of the EU - were spelled out by its Prime Minister here.
And the European Parliament and Member States have finally reached an opt-out deal on GMO crop-growing in the EU.
But we begin our coverage with the moving tribute in Parliament to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Archive John off ´Je suis Charlie´-it has become the defiant and poignant rallying cry of defenders of freedom of speech around Europe and the world--a reference to the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, among the 17 slain victims in Paris last week.
In Parliament, the EPP Group´s leading French MEP Alain Lamassoure explained why Europe, which is united in diversity, is now also sadly united in adversity.
Interview MEP Alain Lamassoure
MEP Alain Lamassoure, on
Journalists killed because they're journalists, police killed because they're police, Jews killed because they're Jews, Muslims killed because they read in the Koran that peace is God's most beautiful expression and comics killed because they dared to laugh. Des journalistes tués parce qu'ils étaient journalistes, des policiers tués parce qu'ils étaient policiers, des juifs tués parce qu'ils étaient juifs, des musulmans tués parce qu'ils avaient lu dans le Coran que la paix est le plus beau des noms de Dieu et d'humoristes tués parce qu'ils osaient rire.
Plenary John off Lamassoure set out his vision in the wake of France´s worst act of domestic terrorism in two decades.
MEP Alain Lamassoure
MEP Alain Lamassoure, on
Peace as a goal, as a means to settling differences whilst preserving them – this is the miracle achieved by Europe. This miracle is threatened.
It is up to us to be worthy of this great cry for brotherhood from crowds across Europe that echoed yesterday in the silence. La paix comme but, comme moyen de régler tous les différends en préservant toutes les différences. C'est le miracle qu'a réussi l'Europe. Ce miracle est menacé.
À nous d'être dignes de ce formidable cri de fraternité poussé hier dans un immense silence par toutes les foules d'Europe.
John off European Council President Donald Tusk, in his first official appearance in the European Parliament, referred to the spectre of extremist violence haunting Paris and Europe this past week.
Donald Tusk in Plenary Donald Tusk, European Council President
I am sure, in this room, we have a difference of opinion on the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. But as Europeans we share the fundamental view that no one has the right to use violence, or murder people because they have a different religion or a different sense of humour.
EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber said politicians now had to step into the breach.
Manfred Weber, EPP Group Chairman
Interview Manfred Weber on
One concrete step could be to implement now a PNR system, a passenger name record system on the European level, to know better about the travelling of these people who are under investigation.
PTC John on More competitive, more engaged, more digital.
Those are the three main targets Latvia, one of the EU and Eurozone´s newest members, has set for its 6 month rotating presidency.
Ambitious perhaps in an age of austerity and recession, but Latvians believe hard-earned experience...in doing more with less... is on their side.
John off Latvia once faced record high unemployment and low growth during the recent economic crisis.
But thanks to successful structural reforms, it appears to have turned the corner, said Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma.
Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma
In Plenary Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma on
Latvia's Presidency aims at building a competitive, digital and globally strong Europe.
Our objective is to defend the European values, a space of freedom, security, justice and mutual tolerance which characterises Europe in the world. From the original Latvian
EPP Group Chairman Weber praised Latvia´s resilience.
EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber
In Plenary Manfred Weber
In this regard Latvia remains a glimmer of hope in economically difficult times for the European Union; how it can be done right, how the future can be built.
Insofern ist auch Lettland in diesem Zusammenhang, in wirtschaftlich schwierigen Zeiten, ein Hoffnungsschimmer für die Europäische Union, wie man es richtig machen kann, wie man richtig Zukunft aufbauen kann.
John on GMOs, or genetically modified crops, have been a source of controversy for the EUs farmers and consumers alike since years.
Now confusion about the legality of national bans on GMO crop-growing has been cleared up once and for all here in Parliament.
John off It´s the culmination of four years of contentious debate.
The new procedure approved by Parliament gives each EU Member State the right to opt out of growing GMO crops. Several states, notably the UK and Spain remain favourable to GMO crops.
The EPP Group´s chief negotiator on the issue is Austria's Elisabeth Köstinger. Her country and its strong organic farming constituency is strongly opposed to GMO crop plantings there.
MEP, EPP Group
I´m very happy and glad that we found a solution and that we got this compromise.
A lot of Member States demand to be GMO-free in future and now we have found the procedure where we have legal certainty for those Member States which want to ban GMO cultivation on their territory.
John off Köstinger added that crucially, GMO companies cannot challenge the national bans.
Köstinger Elisabeth Köstinger,
MEP, EPP Group
I think it's a victory for those citizens and Member States and farmers who want to be GMO free.
It´s also a victory for the EPP Group because we always said we want to have the freedom of choice for the Member States and today we reached it.
That's all from this Plenary Session in Strasbourg. If you want to find out more about the largest political force in the European Parliament, visit eppgroup.eu
Thanks for looking in... and see you again soon.
Headline European Parliament plenary round-up: Charlie Hebdo killings - Council and Latvian Presidency back PNR counter-terrorism measures - GMO opt-out approved
Description European Parliament pays tribute to Charlie Hebdo, PNR passage gains with strong Council, Latvian Presidency backing, GMO ban decision left to Member States under new procedure.
Tags Alain Lamassoure; Donald Tusk; Manfred Weber; Laimdota Straujuma; Elisabeth Köstinger; Charlie Hebdo; 2015 Council programme; GMO crops; EPP Group; European Parliament Strasbourg