Poland 'taught France how to use fork' says deputy minister amid helicopter row

Forks at a French factory Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Was fork use in Europe pioneered by the Poles?

Poland "taught the French how to use a fork", a Polish deputy minister has said, amid a continuing row over a cancelled defence contract.

Deputy Defence Minister Bartosz Kownacki also accused the French of lacking "class" after losing the multi-billion dollar contract to build 50 Airbus Caracal helicopters for Poland.

A Law and Justice party spokeswoman said the remarks were "unfortunate".

Poland is to buy US Black Hawks instead. Airbus has threatened to sue.

Speaking on TV, Mr Kownacki accused France of responding by withdrawing the offer of free accommodation and a car for the Polish delegation at a defence fair in Paris next week.

"They are a people who learned to eat with a fork from us a few centuries ago. So maybe this is why they are behaving in this way now," he said.

MPs from the opposition Civic Platform party called for him to be fired.

A bumpy ride for Poland's Law and Justice party

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Media captionThe BBC's Paul Adams examines the political scene in Poland

"Forkgate" is the latest in a series of controversies Law and Justice has become embroiled in since taking power last November.

Earlier this month the government retreated from imposing a near-total ban on abortion after massive street protests by women.

The party has also been criticised by the EU for taking control of state media appointments and for reforms to Poland's constitutional court.

Read more: Poland returns to conservative roots with Law and Justice win

The previous Civic Platform-run government had chosen Airbus to supply Poland with helicopters after a tendering process.

But the Law and Justice party, which took power last November, said the deal was bad for Poland and scrapped it.

Forks are believed to have spread from the Byzantine Empire to southern Europe in the early part of the Second Millennium and were commonly used in northern Europe by the 1800s.

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