Sofia

A vote on sanctions against Poland over its rule of law issues would give the EU “sleepless nights” and should be avoided, Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov said on Thursday (11 January).

“We should not get to this point,” Borisov, whose country has just taken over the presidency of the EU Council – the institution where member states meet – told journalists in Sofia.

Last month, the European Commission triggered article 7 of the EU treaty to open a sanctions procedure against Warsaw.

The commission said that unless the Polish government steps back before the end of March, it would ask the council to declare that “there is a clear risk of a serious breach by the Republic of Poland of the rule of law.”

The decision would have to be taken by a majority of four-fifths of EU countries.

“If we have to go [to] voting, we’ll have sleepless nights on how to vote,” Borisov said, adding that Bulgaria “will do its best” not to bring the discussion to the council.

He said that such a discussion between member states “would set a very dangerous precedent.”

Speaking through a translator, Borisov argued that breaches to the rule of law were “so vague” to measure.

“Every time you want to hurt someone’s feelings, you put [on the table] ’the rule of law’,” Borisov added.

In any case, the Bulgarian government downplayed expectations that a decision would have to be taken in the coming months.

“I don’t expect something specific with immediate effect happening” under the Bulgarian mandate, which continues until 30 June, noted Lilyana Pavlova, the minister in charge of the EU presidency.

She insisted instead that “the procedure is just starting.”

‘A great country’

She explained that “the first step will be to analyse and to have the positions of every country, including Poland.”

“We’ll have to consult with the legal services, having additional analysis and then to continue on the next steps,” she said.

Pavlova rejected, however, the idea that Bulgaria was trying to put to one side an embarrassing issue.

“We are ready to work, we are ready to put it on the agenda. However, we have to follow the procedure,” she said.

The first discussion will take place on 27 February, at a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers.

On Tuesday, the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki met the commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. The two men said in a joint statement that they would try to make progress “by the end of February.”

Borisov, who insisted that Poland was “a great country”, said that he “very much hope[d] that the [Polish] government will do everything needed in order to overcome the controversies and find a good tone of voice.”

“My feeling is that the government is investing effort into finding a solution,” he added.

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