In a session marked by the tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa, Parliament held a minute of silence for the victims and then debated with the Commission how to improve how refugees are received in the EU. Political extremism was strongly condemned and new rules were approved for shale gas extraction, flight crew working time and the recognition of professional qualifications. This year’s Sakharov Prize is awarded to Malala Yousafzai for her fight for girls’ education in the face of the Taliban.

A minute of silence was held during the opening of the plenary in memory of the hundreds who lost their lives in the tragic boat accident off Lampedusa last week. President Martin Schulz said the tragedy should lead to a change in the EU's migration policy. The refugee crisis facing Europe was further debated on Wednesday.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of thought was awarded to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for her fight for young women's right to education and who is now a global activist.

On Wednesday MEPs approved new rules on tobacco products, greatly increasing the size of the health warnings on packets, regulating e-cigarettes, banning all flavourings with a short reprieve for menthols, but still allowing slim cigarettes to remain on the market. On the basis of all this, the Parliament will now negotiate with member states on the final legislation.

The European Commission should investigate the activities of neo-Nazi organisations across the EU and set up a database and observatory on hate crime, said MEPs on Wednesday. Many also said that extremist movements should be tackled regardless of their political colour.

Free movement should not be used as an excuse to avoid a debate about the inclusion of Roma people, according to speakers in a separate debate about Roma integration strategies.

Shale gas extraction is rapidly becoming a significant business throughout the world, including Europe, and its potential consequences for the environment and public safety will have to be carefully examined before operations are licensed following Parliament’s approval of a Commission proposal.

New rules for flightcrew working time were passed on Wednesday when Parliament accepted a European Commission proposal on new safety standards that had been hotly debated in the months leading up to the vote.

On Wednesday the EP approved the electronic European Professional Card, making it easier for doctors, pharmacists, architects and other professionals to work in another EU country. The rules will also help prevent medical professionals subject to disciplinary measures in one country from working in all others.

Senegalese president Macky Sallwas was received in the plenary where he described the EU as a source of inspiration and hope. He expressed the wish "that Europe and Africa open a real project of peace and security".