“I hope that this will incentivise both the commission and the Polish government to try and find new ways forward,” Timmermans said after European and foreign affairs chiefs of the 28 EU member states met in Brussels on Tuesday.
“But obviously you can only find ways forward if there is a willingness to look into the recommendations that the commission has put on the table,” he added.
Talks between Poland and the European Commission came to an impasse after the Polish authorities insisted there was no threat to democratic principles in this country, despite the EU’s executive arm putting forward a swathe of recommendations for Warsaw.
Timmermans, who previously mentioned further action, has taken sanctions against Poland off the table and suggested it would be counterproductive to give Warsaw a deadline to react after the Tuesday meeting.
“I don’t want to do that, I want to see if this is an opportunity to rekindle the dialogue,” he said.
“Having said that, you know our toolbox, all the tools are in the toolbox and if we need to use the tools in our toolbox, the commission is free to do so.”
In January last year, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced it was starting a "rule-of-law" probe into whether far-reaching changes made by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party after it swept to power in October 2015 violate EU standards.
Changes to the judiciary at one point triggered a political deadlock over the country’s constitutional court.
Critics accused the governing Law and Justice party of aiming to stack the Constitutional Tribunal, Poland’s top court, with PiS supporters, undermining its ability to challenge new laws.
Law and Justice argued it was unfair that a constitutional court with a majority of judges appointed by the previous parliament should be able to scupper flagship policies for which PiS secured a mandate in democratic elections in late 2015.
Polish Supreme Court judges meeting in a general assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution warning that further changes to the judiciary planned by the government "are leading to the destruction of the judicial system” and aim to “subordinate the courts to politicians.”
The resolution added: “In this situation, the Supreme Court cannot remain indifferent to the obvious violation of the principles and norms of the constitution."