Weeks after European Parliament Vice President Ryszard Czarnecki called a fellow lawmaker a derogatory term for Poles who blackmailed Jews during World War II, MEPs voted overwhelmingly on February 7 to remove Czarnecki from his post.
Lawmakers voted 447-196 to remove Czarnecki, who served as one of 14 vice-presidents, and who has a history of inflammatory comments, will remain an MEP from Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party and a member of the Euroskeptic European Conservatives and Reformists bloc.
The controversy around Czarnecki erupted in January when he called rival Polish MEP Roza Thun a “szmalcownik” – an anti-Semitic Polish term for a Nazi collaborator – when he appeared on a German television programme to chastise Thun for her criticisism of Czarnecki and the PiS party, whom she accused of fostering authoritarianism in Poland.
His comments caused an uproar in the halls of the European Parliament which led to the body’s main political organ, the Conference of Presidents, to end Czarnecki’s term for committing violations based stemming from “serious misconduct”.
The vice president of the parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group, Josef Weidenholze, said Czarnecki’s comment “went far beyond what is acceptable political discourse,” which were later backed by a Tweet from German MEP Jo Leinen, who said, “Attacking other members with Nazi slogans is a no-go.”
Czarnecki accused his fellow lawmakers of carrying out an “anti-Polish” campaign by voting for his ouster, saying he would continue standing up for both the PiS and Poland.
The EU Parliament flatly refuted his claims saying, “The proposal by the Conference of Presidents is not aimed at Poland or the ECR political group,” adding, “The proposal simply expresses the opinion of the political leaders that Mr Czarnecki should no longer represent them.”
The vote comes at a time when the European Parliament and Poland’s right-wing government are locked in a series of disputes over the health of Poland’s democracy under the stridently nationalist and increasingly authoritarian PiS, who recently pushed through a controversial law that criticises any mention of Poland’s collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The new law has drawn heavy criticism from Israel, the US, and EU who say the sets a dangerous precedent for normalising a form of historical revisionism that has little to do with established facts.