The Brief – Kaczynski can relax, the EU won’t bite

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

If you want to know what is going on in the EU, speak to the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

Borissov is very open. He can tell you about Brexit what nobody else will dare to utter. He will tell you in advance what will be the discussion on Turkey. He will tell you who is for and who is against Russia sanctions. Just ask, he will tell you everything.

Today 50+ Brussels journalists met with Borissov in Sofia to mark the start of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Borissov took a lot of photos with them, just as he likes to pose with admirers at the football and tennis matches he plays.

One of the questions eventually asked was about “Article 7”, also called the “nuclear option”, which the Commission is dangling over Poland as a response to alleged threats to the rule of law under the PiS government.

As the country holding the Presidency, Bulgaria will have to put the issue on the agenda at the February General Affairs Council.

Borissov made it plain that PiS leader Jaroslaw Kacynski can relax, because the EU won’t bite. Happily enough, Mateusz Korawiecki, the new Polish prime minister, broke the ice with his Brussels visit last Tuesday. At least he is willing to sit down and talk.

“I cannot say that my Polish friends don’t respect rule of law. This is so vague in measuring”, said Borissov.

He is right. If the measurements were correct, Bulgaria too would be under its own rule of law procedure. The Bulgarian judiciary is a joke but Brussels prefers to look the other way.

Borissov and Juncker are both from the EPP, which is too bad for Kaczynski who is from the ECR, together with the UK Tories.

But Kaczynski and Borissov are members of another club. They are not interested in EU values but they really like the EU’s valuables.

The Roundup

Brexit will leave a €13bn hole in the EU’s finances. Budget boss Günther Oettinger wants to fill it by introducing a tax on plastics and keeping income generated by the bloc’s emissions trading scheme.

Coal-fired plants now have to adhere to stricter toxic pollutant limits but Bulgaria and Poland are launching an appeal against EU rules meant to safeguard human health. Poland’s abortion debate has re-emerged in the country’s parliament.

MEPs shied away from totally banning the use of bisphenol A in food packaging, instead, lawmakers plumped for rules that will limit the amount of the potentially dangerous chemical that can be used.

EURACTIV is reporting from Sofia this week, as all of Team Juncker decamps to the Bulgarian capital for the launch of its EU presidency. The Eastern European country expects to take formal steps towards adopting the euro by July.

The Commission insists that its proposal for renewable energy laws is in keeping with WTO rules, after Malaysia threatened to refer the case upwards, branding EU policy “crop apartheid”.

Super computers, funded to the tune of €1 billion by the EU, are on their way. Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas said Europe has to ‘run a little bit faster’ to beat the US and China in developing the technology, which the Commission bills as a major boost for researchers and industry. Check the site later for the full story.

Germany’s government negotiators are big free-trade advocates and France is urging the Bundesrepublik to spend some of its massive surplus in order to boost the EU.

Michel Barnier must be a better negotiator than we gave him credit for, as British radio DJ and current MEP Nigel Farage now wants a second referendum on EU membership, after a short meeting with the charming Frenchman.

They won’t get commemorative stamps but at least Brexiteers can get a special coin to celebrate “independance day” [sic]…

Roundup by Sam Morgan

Look out for…

The Czech Republic will hold its presidential election.

Views are the author’s

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