Bulgarian PM hopes EU won't vote on Polish judicial reforms

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on Thursday he hoped the European Union's disciplinary measures against Poland over judicial reforms would not go so far as to require a vote by EU leaders.

Speaking to Brussels correspondents of European media - including PAP - in Sofia, the Bulgarian head of government said: "If we have to vote, we are in for some sleepless nights. I deeply hope that Poland will spare us from having to meet this challenge."

In December 2017, the European Commission launched disciplinary measures against Poland - known as Article 7 - giving Warsaw three months to amend its judicial policies in line with the rule of law. 

Having assumed the presidency of the Council of the EU (made up of national ministers) for the next six months, Sofia will actually determine how Article 7 proceeds.

As the country's minister for European affairs, Lilyana Pavlova, announced, the first discussion about Poland in the Council of the EU will take place in February.

Poland will then be asked to submit its statement, whereupon the EU ministers can issue recommendations for the country. Only then can the Council of the EU - by a majority of four fifths and with the approval of the European Parliament - declare Warsaw to be at risk of a serious breach of EU values.

In that case, the matter could be referred to the European Council (made up of EU heads of government or state) which could impose sanctions on Poland, but only if all other members agree.

Borisov and Pavlov's words indicate that Bulgaria will expect Poland to respond to the EC's criticisms.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who met EC President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday, emphasised that Poland sought to explain its judicial reforms to EU partners, but did not intend to amend its new laws on the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council, as the EC expects.

Borisov wants the dispute to be settled. He told reporters: "When I talked to the Polish PM, I was assured that Poland would do everything in its power for the Article 7 procedure not to reach the European Council. This would set a very dangerous precedent and so we should find a solution before it happens."

The Bulgarian PM noted he had been friends with European Council President (and former Polish PM) Donald Tusk for years, and he also sought friendship with Poland. 

"Poland is great," Sofia's leader said, "Bulgarians and Poles have great respect for each other - they love each other, live together and share a common future."

But Sofia must be neutral and impartial, Borisov added.

Asked if Bulgaria would support Poland or rather the EC, if the dispute were to be settled through a ballot, the Bulgarian PM replied: "I cannot say that our Polish friends are failing to comply with the rule of law. It is very difficult to establish whether this is the case. When the aim is to offend someone, the rule of law is always raised."

At the same time, the Bulgarian head of government reiterated Sofia would prefer to avoid a vote on the subject. 

"I hope that Poles, our Polish colleagues, do not force us to put Article 7 on the agenda," Borisov concluded. 

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said on Thursday that Warsaw took a goodwill approach and wanted to make sure that political tensions - such as the launch of Article 7 - did not arise anymore.