The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, dies at 65
The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, during an interview with EL PAÍS in 2019 in Brussels.Delmi Álvarez

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, has died at the age of 65. Admitted to the Italian hospital in Aviano since last December 26 due to a serious complication in his immune system, he died at one fifteen in the morning of this Tuesday, according to his spokesman, Roberto Cuillo. The Italian journalist and politician is the first high-ranking European president to die while in office. This circumstance has occurred for a few days, because next Tuesday the position is renewed and he no longer chose.

Sassoli was elected president of the European Parliament in July 2019, when he replaced the also Italian Antonio Tajani after the European elections of that year. He was not destined for the position in principle. The member states had negotiated that this post belonged to the Social Democratic family, to which the Italian belonged, but to someone from the Eastern countries: the appointed was the Bulgarian Sergei Stanishev. But the MEPs, led by the Spanish socialist Iratxe García, rebelled against the intentions of the presidents of Government and heads of state of the European Union, did not want to be protected on this occasion and appointed Sassoli, who had been vice-president, president. in the previous legislature. He thus became the 17th president of the European Parliament since it was elected by direct suffrage.

His last months in office have been marked by his health problems. In September, he contracted pneumonia caused by Legionella, not Covid-19. He was admitted to the hospital and spent two months recovering in Italy. He returned to activity in November, at the plenary held in Strasbourg. He repeated a month later, when he presented the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the daughter of Russian opponent Alexei Navalni. A few days later, he was admitted to the hospital again for those immune complications that have caused his death.

David Sassoli, during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on November 24.
David Sassoli, during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on November 24.

The Italian came to the European Parliament in 2009. He was head of the list of the Democratic Party, the PD, in central Italy. His popularity allowed him to achieve a record in individual votes, an option allowed in Italy. It achieved 412,500. His face was well known. Until then he had presented the main newscast of the RAI, Italian public television, where he had started to work in 1992. Before that, he did so for seven years in the Roman newspaper The day, having started his professional career in smaller newspapers and local news agencies, following in the footsteps of his father, also a journalist Domenico Sassoli.

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He was born in Florence on May 30, 1956, although in 2013 he tried to run for mayor of Rome, his adopted city, competing in the PD primaries against today’s Italian Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, and who was finally the winner in that process, Ignazio Marino. His first steps in politics were as a young man linked to Catholic associative movements. Later he turned to more left-wing positions, moving away from his family’s support for Christian democracy.

During the two and a half years that he has been president of the European Parliament, Sassoli had a friction with the majority of Spanish MEPs. After the Court of Justice of the EU recognized that the Spanish judges should have allowed Oriol Junqueras to collect his MEP certificate, the Italian quickly recognized that condition for the fugitives from justice Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí. The intention of the Spaniards was that it be delayed until the legal services of the European Parliament prepared a report. Luxembourg’s decision caused a change in the position of the Presidency of the European Parliament, since until then it had not allowed the former president of the Generalitat, a fugitive, to enter the institution’s buildings.

A fan of music and classical history, he has always been one of the most fervent Europeanists in Italian politics and served as such in a tense 2019 interview with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a meeting that resembled a train crash. “It was a sincere dialogue, without too many formalities. Johnson made proposals that did not have a solid legal basis and that could not serve as a starting point. And so I told him, with great sincerity. And I told him that we must act seriously out of respect for European citizens, but also for the British ”, described Sassoli in an interview in EL PAÍS, when he spoke of the conversation they had about Brexit.

Father of two children, Giulio and Livia, Sassoli was considered in Italy someone very close to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella. He also had good relations with the Vatican and was linked to men from the Catholic orbit, such as the Jesuit Francesco Ochetta.

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