David Sassoli, an Italian journalist who rose through the ranks of politics by defending the oppressed and repressed to become president of the European Union’s parliament, died early Tuesday in an Italian hospital, according to his spokeswoman.
Sassoli was described as a “sincere and committed European” by EU Council President Charles Michel. His personal warmth, compassion, friendliness, and grin are already missed.”
Roberto Cuillo, a representative for the company, did not give any further information in a tweet. Cuillo stated in a statement made the day before Sassoli’s death that Sassoli, a 65-year-old socialist, had been hospitalized since Dec. 26 owing to irregular immune system functioning.
After contracting legionella-related pneumonia in September, Sassoli had been suffering from bad health for months. Following that, his health began to deteriorate, and he was forced to skip numerous critical legislative sessions. Nonetheless, he kept on the job as much as possible, where his vitality and easy grin were well-known. He was at his most powerful when he championed refugees who perished trying to cross the Mediterranean or dissidents like Alexei Navalny, who is fighting the Kremlin from a prison cell.
He has improved sufficiently in recent months to preside over a European Parliament session in December to present Navalny’s daughter with the EU’s top human rights prize, the Sakharov Prize. It became his political testament, rich in meaning.
“There was a deterioration of the sickness in the final week of December, and then the final days of his struggle,” Cuillo told Sky TG24 in Italy.
Sassoli was elected to lead the legislature in 2019 after a tumultuous period of political infighting among EU leaders, which saw German Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen appointed to the EU Commission and Belgian free-market liberal Michel appointed to the EU Council.
Even if he was sometimes overshadowed by von der Leyen and Michel, Sassoli oversaw an organization that grew in prominence over time and played a key role in shaping the direction of the European Union in a variety of areas, including the digital economy, climate change, and Brexit.
The European Parliament is known as “the heart of European democracy” since it represents the EU’s 450 million inhabitants. It has around 700 members that are directly chosen by the member countries.
“I am very sorry by the tragic passing of a great European & patriotic Italian,” tweeted von der Leyen. “David Sassoli was a kind journalist, a brilliant President of the European Parliament, and, above all, a great friend.”
In Italy, he was equally as well-liked. Enrico Letta, the leader of Italy’s Democratic Party and a lifelong friend, commended Sassoli’s European enthusiasm and vision and pledged to carry them through, despite the fact that “we know we’re not up to it.”
Letta described Sassoli as “someone of remarkable kindness, a passionate European” with “vision and ideals, theoretical and practical” in a tweet.
Paolo Gentiloni, another former center-left Italian prime minister, termed his death a “sad loss.”
“I will remember his leadership, his enthusiasm, and his wonderful friendship for the rest of my life.” “#CiaoDavid,” Gentiloni said on Twitter.
In 2009, Sassoli was elected to the European Parliament for the first time. In 2014, he was re-elected to a second term as vice president. He began his career as a newspaper reporter before moving into radio as a high-profile host in Italy. It was a stepping stone on his way to become a politician.
He pondered running for the second half of the five-year term, which begins next week, but opted against it when parliamentarians in Strasbourg, France, chose their new president.
“I am sad,” said Roberta Metsola, the Christian Democrat who was slated to succeed Sassoli next week. I’ve lost a friend, Europe has lost a leader, and democracy has lost a champion.” “He committed his life to make the world a better, fairer place,” she added of Sassoli.