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Ten things we learnt in the October plenaries

Faster progress on all fronts and more budgetary honesty from member states is what MEPs called for during this week's two plenaries. They criticised the glacial pace of banking union and Single European Sky measures, warned that EU budget cuts demanded by member states make the objectives set by them unattainable and nudged Europe to go for free trade agreements with the US and Japan, as long as vital EU interests are protected.

This year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought goes to Iranians Nasrin Sotoudeh, an imprisoned human rights defender and lawyer, and Jafar Panahi, a film director who called attention with his work to the difficult situation of Iran's poor. EP president Martin Schulz made the announcement on Friday. The ceremony will take place in Strasbourg in December

MEPs called on member states to preserve funding for growth-oriented policies in the next long-term budget for 2014-2020. They also pushed for a better system of financing the Union and invited member states to check their own EU funding requests before seeking to cut the budget needed to pay for them to avoid situations such as the 2012 shortfall and the remedial budget now being negotiated.

On Tuesday, MEPs condemned the lack of progress on the banking union, which had been agreed on during the EU summit on 18-19 October, with many criticising the timetable for the implementation of the measures and saying more has to be done to kick-start growth.

On Thursday, MEPs rejected the nomination of Yves Mersch for the European Central Bank's executive board, calling for a better gender balance with more women on corporate boards. The EP vote is not legally binding.

MEPs voted on Friday on updated EU rules for markets in financial instruments that seek to restrict speculation in commodities blamed for food and energy price volatility and to tighten up rules on high-frequency trading.

Parliament called on member states to remove all obstacles to the single market in a Thursday resolution, citing enduring difficulties in registering cars abroad, opening bank accounts or having professional qualifications recognised between member states.

Talks on a trade deal with the US should start  in early 2013, according to a non-binding resolution adopted on Tuesday. MEPs pointed to the huge potential of a deal but also to the need to protect the EU's farming interests. They also endorsed free trade negotiations with Japan but want EU carmakers to benefit from any agreement.

National air traffic control areas in Europe should be merged into regional blocks by the end of the year under the Single European Sky initiative, to clear congestion, reduce flight times and cut CO2 emissions, MEPs said Tuesday.

In a Tuesday resolution, Parliament demanded that passengers of all transport modes are given timely information and assistance in case of service disruptions. Complaint procedures should be streamlined and measures taken against unfair pricing.  

Three EP Facebook  competition winners from Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania took over the EP's Facebook page for a day on Thursday. They covered the plenary, met president Schulz and observed a Facebook chat with Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Social Democrat group in Parliament.