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Bulgaria mulls to oppose possible EU sanctions against Hungary

Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, pictured April 2017, says that the Bulgarian government has made a "unanimous decision to prepare a position in defence of Hungary"

Sofia (AFP)

Bulgaria's defence minister said Wednesday his country would oppose EU sanctions against Hungary, which Brussels accuses of posing a "systematic threat" to the bloc's founding values and the rule of law.

"The Bulgarian government took a unanimous decision to prepare a position in defence of Hungary," Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said in a statement.

Any punitive action against Hungary "would create a dangerous precedent," he said.

Hungary joins Poland in opposing EU action against Hungary. The Polish government said last week that it would veto any EU sanctions against Budapest.

Karakachanov, leader of a nationalist formation that is a junior coalition partner in the conservative cabinet of premier Boyko Borisov, did not say when the Bulgarian government's position will be issued.

Hours later, however Borisov, speaking on the sidelines of an EU summit in Austria, played down the statement by Karakachano, saying that the Hungary issue was discussed but no formal decision had been taken.

"There is no drama, nothing has been decided," he said, while suggesting that it might be good for Hungary to adjust some of its most controversial politics.

Last week, the European Parliament initiated a procedure which could ultimately see Hungary stripped of its EU voting rights over a series of controversial reforms that Brussels says undermine democracy.

Borisov pinpointed Wednesday that five of his GERB party's six lawmakers in the EU legislature had already voted against the motion last week while one abstained.

The motion is already highly unlikely to succeed as Poland -- a fellow ex-communist state that is also facing the same procedure -- has promised to wield its veto to prevent such sanctions.

Borisov's conservative government has also come under scrutiny for systematic failures to impose the rule of law.

If the EU does decide to sanction Hungary then Poland and possibly Bulgaria could be next, Karakachanov has argued.

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 but is still subject to special monitoring for failing to curb widespread corruption and improve the independence and efficiency of its judiciary -- problems also faced by Hungary.

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