STRASBOURG, France — The European Parliament removed Polish lawmaker Ryszard Czarnecki as the assembly’s vice president on Wednesday after he insulted a fellow Polish MEP by comparing her to a Nazi collaborator.
MEPs voted by 447 votes to 196 to strip Czarnecki, of Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, of the largely ceremonial office for “serious misconduct.”
Czarnecki, 55, last month branded MEP Roza Thun a “szmalcownik” — an insult referring to Polish collaborators during World War II who handed over Jews to the Nazis for money.
Czarnecki, who is one of 14 European Parliament vice presidents, then refused to apologize during a radio interview.
In January, heads of the main political groups wrote to the parliament president Antonio Tajani to “denounce an unacceptable and degrading declaration” and ask for sanctions for “this deplorable attitude.”
The spat comes in the midst of an ongoing crisis between the EU and the PiS-led government in Warsaw over highly controversial judicial reforms which Brussels says threaten the rule of law.
The EU has threatened to impose unprecedented sanctions that could strip the Polish government of its voting rights in Brussels.
“It’s good that so many people are shocked, we cannot tolerate that,” Thun told AFP, who had criticized the nationalist policy of the current Polish government on Franco-German broadcaster Arte.
Czarnecki remains a member of parliament and a new vice president must now be chosen from his European Conservatives and Reformists political group, which also includes Britain’s ruling Conservative party.
It also comes at a time Poland has a diplomatic crisis with Israel over a new law banning statements suggesting Polish complicity in the Holocaust, which was signed into law Tuesday by Polish President Andrzej Duda.
The legislation, proposed by Poland’s conservative ruling party, has angered Israel, which says it will inhibit free speech about the Holocaust. The United States also strongly opposes the legislation, saying it could hurt Poland’s strategic relations with Israel and the US.
As currently written, the legislation calls for prison terms of up to three years for attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or nation. The bill would also set fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.
One key paragraph of the bill states, “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich… or for other felonies that constitute crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or whoever otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the true perpetrators of said crimes – shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.”