BRUSSELS – The European Parliament voted Wednesday to dismiss one of its vice-presidents, Ryszard Czarnecki of Poland, after he compared a rival Polish parliament member to a Nazi collaborator.
The European lawmakers voted 447-196, reaching the two-thirds hurdle required to remove Czarnecki from his position.
Czarnecki, who was one of 14 vice-presidents, will continue to be a member of the parliament in Strasbourg, France, representing Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.
Last month Czarnecki called Roza Thun, a European Parliament lawmaker from Poland’s opposition Civic Platform party, a “shmaltsovnik,” a derogatory term for the Poles who blackmailed Jews, or Poles hiding Jews, during the Nazi German occupation of Poland.
His words came after Thun criticized the Polish ruling party in a German TV broadcast, accusing authorities of moving the country toward “dictatorship.”
Parliamentary party leaders had called for Czarnecki’s dismissal over “serious misconduct.”
After Wednesday’s vote, Czarnecki described the move against him as “anti-Polish,” and said he does not regret defending Poland against opposition politicians who criticize Poland abroad.
“I have been faithful to my views,” Czarnecki told PAP, the Polish state news agency.
The European Parliament denied in a statement that the move was aimed against Poland.
Josef Weidenholzer, vice-president of the EU Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group, said Czarnecki’s comment “went far beyond what is acceptable political discourse.”
The development comes amid increasingly strained relations between Poland’s nationalist-conservative Law and Justice party and most of its international partners from Europe to the Middle East.
The country has recently been criticized by Israel and the U.S. for a new law penalizing certain statements about the Holocaust, seen as an erosion of free speech. An overhaul of Poland’s judicial system, which gives the ruling party control over the courts, has also been condemned by the European Commission.
Czarnecki has a history of controversial statements.
Last summer he was heavily criticized for expressing pleasure that shots were fired at a rescue ship trying to aid refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
He tweeted “At last!!!” in reaction to information that the Libyan coast guard fired shots at a Spanish NGO rescue ship.
This version corrects the location of the European Parliament to Strasbourg, France, not Brussels.