Things we learnt in plenary: EU budget, Erasmus+, agricultural reform 


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Human rights and the EU's budget for the next seven years took centre stage in Parliament this November plenary week in Strasbourg. On Wednesday president Martin Schulz presented Malala Yousafzaï with the 25th annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in the presence of past Sakharov laureates. The 2014-2020 budget received the Parliament's backing after arduous negotiations with member states, while MEPs also demanded the right to decide for themselves where Parliament should sit.

Young Pakistani human rights hero Malala Yousafzaï received the 2013 Sakharov prize for her fight to promote education for girls in the face of Taliban aggression. Parliament also welcomed 22 previous laureates for a special ceremony markingthe prize's 25th anniversary.

On Tuesday MEPs approved the EU's €960 billion budget for 2014-2020, securing Parliament's key priorities including a mid-term review and greater flexibility over spending. They also approved the Union's budget for next year as well as funds to cover the 2013 payment gap.

As part of the long-term budget, MEPs also gave their final blessing to a greener and fairer EU agricultural policy, helping farmers to cope better with market challenges. They also approved the new cohesion policy to invest €325 billion in infrastructure and create employment in Europe's regions.

MEPs said "yes" to the new Erasmus+ programme, enabling up to five million people - almost twice as many as now - to study, train or volunteer abroad.

The Parliament rather than member states should be able to decide where it sits, according to a resolution adopted by MEPs, pressing to initiate the necessary treaty changes to allow this.

Publicly listed companies would have to fill at least 40% of their non-executive board seats with women, the Parliament said in a resolution. To come into effect the new rules need to be endorsed by the governments in the Council.

MEPs also backed plans to provide small investors with easy-to-understand information on investment products.

Parliament voted to extend EU financial aid to help Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia to complete the decommissioning of their old Soviet era nuclear plants.

Kevin (Malta), Nicolo (Italy) and Paweł (Poland), the three winners of the Facebook editor-for-a-day competition, came to Strasbourg to cover the Sakharov prize ceremony and interview one of our previous laureates. Find out more by clicking on the link for our Facebook page on the right.