European Parliament President Sassoli dies aged 65

  • David Sassoli became head of the European Parliament in 2019
  • He had been hospitalized in December
  • Sassoli was an Italian socialist, former journalist

BRUSSELS / ROME, January 11 (Reuters) – European Parliament President David Sassoli, an Italian socialist and former journalist, died in hospital in Italy on Tuesday, his spokesperson and office said. He was 65 years old.

Sassoli died at 1:15 am (0015 GMT), his spokesperson, Roberto Cuillo, said on Twitter.

Sassoli was hospitalized last month because of a “serious complication” related to his immune system, his office said on Monday.

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to Reuters.com

He had been speaker of the 705-seat parliament since July 2019. Sassoli, whose term in the predominantly ceremonial role was due to end this month, had said he would not stand for re-election.

Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) is widely expected to be a candidate for the post.

European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen, who heads the executive body of the European Union, paid tribute to Sassoli, saying she was deeply saddened by his death.

“David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, an outstanding President of the European Parliament and, above all, a dear friend,” she said on Twitter.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also sent his condolences.

“Saddened to learn of the death of EP President David Sassoli, a strong voice for democracy and NATO-EU cooperation,” he said in a tweet.

Italian politicians on many sides have paid tribute to Sassoli, and his death dominated the morning news broadcasts. Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Sassoli’s death was shocking and praised him as deeply pro-European.

“Sassoli was a symbol of balance, humanity and generosity. These qualities have always been recognized by all his colleagues, from all political positions and from all European countries,” Draghi’s office said in a statement.

Former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who heads the Democratic Party, called Sassoli “a person of extraordinary generosity, a passionate European … a man of vision and principle”.

COMMITMENT TO FIGHT AGAINST EXTREME NATIONALISM

In his inaugural speech, Sassoli urged Europeans to fight the “virus” of extreme nationalism and called for reform of EU rules on migration and political asylum.

Due to illness, he had been unable to chair the Strasbourg-based parliament in recent weeks and missed the European Commission’s annual State of the Union event in September.

Sassoli started his career as a press journalist before joining the Italian public television channel RAI, where he became a household name broadcasting the main evening news.

He turned to politics in 2009, joining the center-left Democratic Party and easily won the European Parliament elections.

After an unsuccessful attempt to become mayor of Rome, he focused his attention on European politics and rose through the ranks to become President of the European Parliament in 2019.

He was struck down by pneumonia in September 2021, forcing him to spend several weeks in hospital. He never regained his full strength and had to return to hospital in December after suffering serious problems with his immune system.

Register now for FREE and unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru and Neil Fullick in Singapore, Crispian Balmer in Rome, Sabina Siebol and John Chalmers; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Birsel and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment