He was considered a progressive Catholic and a fighter for migrant rights. Today David Sassoli has passed away at the age of 65. The Italian had been in clinical treatment since Christmas.
The news fell in the middle of the night: the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, died on Tuesday at 1:15 a.m. at the Centro di Riferimento Oncologico d’Aviano, a clinic in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, said the President of the European Parliament Roberto Cuillo. Sassoli was originally from Florence. He was 65 years old.
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) received the news “with dismay”. “Europe is losing a committed President of Parliament, Italy is losing a smart politician and Germany is losing a good friend,” he said on Tuesday via government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Twitter .
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has ordered mourning flags at his official seats in Berlin and Bonn due to Sassoli’s death. In a letter of condolence to the First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, Steinmeier said that Sassoli had led the European Parliament “in a prudent and constructive manner”.
“He was a strong and convincing defender of European integration, a defender of a social Europe and a charming and winning face of the European institutions in the European public,” Steinmeier wrote. “His friendly and balanced manners and steadfast advocacy for parliamentarism and the rule of law can be a direction and motivation for all of us in these difficult times.”
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted that Sassoli’s death made her very sad. “As President of the EP, he has repeatedly succeeded in bridging the gaps and thus strengthening the Parliament as a whole. We will not forget his unwavering commitment to treating refugees in a humane way,” wrote the Green politician. .
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter “deeply concerned at the terrible loss of a great European and a proud Italian”. She congratulated him as “exceptional President of the European Parliament”. Your thoughts are with the family of the deceased.
Sassoli had already been hospitalized for a longer time, as we learned on Monday. A spokesperson for the European Parliament in Brussels said the Italian was staying in a clinic in his home country and being treated there. The stay had become “due to a serious complication due to a dysfunction of the immune system”. According to the European Parliament, the President of Parliament had been in treatment since December 26. All of her appointments were canceled at the time.
Sassoli missed a session of parliament in October because he had a fever. He had previously been hospitalized for pneumonia. Centro di Riferimento Oncologico d’Aviano hospital did not provide any information when asked on Tuesday morning. Spokesman Cuillo said on Twitter that the time and location of the funeral will be announced in the next few hours.
Monday morning, Sassoli offered his condolences to the death of Italian journalist Silvia Tortora via his private Twitter account. On December 31, he praised the words of the Italian head of state, Sergio Mattarella, in his New Year’s speech.
Sassoli worked as a journalist
Sassoli belonged to the social democratic party Partito Democratico (PD). He had been President of the European Parliament since July 2019. The Social Democrat replaced his compatriot Antonio Tajani from the conservative Forza Italia. Prior to that, from 2014 to 2019, he held the post of Vice-President of the European institution and thus worked for approximately three years (2014 to 2017) as a representative of the then President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz (SPD).
Before his political career, Sassoli worked as a journalist. The career of the studied political scientist began with small dailies. In 1985, he joined the editorial staff of the Roman newspaper “Il Giorno” (Le Jour). He then ended up on TV and even hosted the main TG1 news show on public broadcaster Rai 1.
Italian campaigned for refugees
Sassoli was, among other things, a critic of the migration policy of many Member States. Time and time again, he has championed the concerns of those on the run. In Italy, migration is a matter of dispute, especially between left and right parties, as large numbers of migrants in the Mediterranean country arrive in boats on their flight to the EU. He was also considered a progressive Catholic. According to his party, he was a scout and was involved in groups of young Catholics.
The election of the Social Democrat Sassoli and the handover of President of Parliament to the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) in the second half of the quinquennium were part of an agreement between the heads of state and government of the EU in 2019. The Social Democrats had announced at times that it would ultimately not leave the field to the EPP. Sassoli they expressed their “unanimous support” for a renewed candidacy.
In December, however, the S&D group abstained from putting forward a candidate, paving the way for the election of EPP candidate Roberta Metsola. The Maltese is currently one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament.