European Parliament President David Sassoli dies at 65

David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, died Tuesday morning in Italy, announced his spokesman and the office of the Parliament in Washington. He was 65 years old.

The office said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Sassoli had died in the Italian town of Aviano.

No cause of death was immediately available. But he was hospitalized with severe pneumonia during a plenary session of parliament in Strasbourg, France, in September. He then returned to Italy to recover, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Sassoli was hospitalized again in Italy on December 26 because his immune system was not functioning normally, his spokesperson Roberto Cuillo said on Monday. on social networks.

Mr Sassoli, a member of the center-left Italian Democratic Party, has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009. He was elected vice-president five years later and has headed the body since 2019.

Almost three years ago, he was not a well-known figure outside Italy when he defeated Jan Zahradil, the Eurosceptic candidate from the Czech Republic, after two rounds of voting.

Sassoli’s spokesperson said in mid-December that he would not seek a second term, which lasts two and a half years, before a vote scheduled for next week in Strasbourg.

The European Parliament approves or rejects legislation, establishes budgets and supervises various institutions within the European Union. Its 700 members and more serve five-year terms; the next elections will take place in 2024. Parliament also plays a crucial role in the selection of the President of the European Commission, whose members are appointed by national governments.

The current chairman of the committee, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke of Mr Sassoli’s illness in a Twitter post Monday evening.

“Dear David, my thoughts are with you as you fight for your health,” she wrote. “I wish you a speedy and full recovery. Good luck, as you often say.

Roberta Metsola, Vice-President of the Parliament, wrote on Twitter early Tuesday that she was heartbroken by his death.

“Europe has lost a leader, I have lost a friend, democracy has lost a champion,” wrote Ms Metsola, a conservative lawmaker from Malta who is running to succeed Mr Sassoli.

David Maria Sassoli was born in Florence, Italy on May 30, 1956, according to his website and a short biography posted online by his political group in Parliament.

He worked as a journalist before joining the European Parliament. He was married to Alessandra Vittorini and had two children, Livia and Giulio, according to his website.

Mr. Sassoli was a champion of European values ​​and integration. In April 2021, he warned that a verdict by the Polish Constitutional Court – which concluded that the country’s Constitution prevailed over certain laws established by the bloc – had called into question “one of the founding principles of our Union “.

He told the New York Times the same month that he was “satisfied” with the European Parliament’s decision to strip a condemned neo-Nazi Greek lawmaker of his immunity as a member of the forum. (Lawmaker Ioannis Lagos was later extradited to Greece from Brussels to serve a 13-year prison sentence.)

In October, Mr. Sassoli praised Aleksei A. Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, for having “tirelessly fought against the corruption of the regime of Vladimir Poutine”.

“It cost him his freedom and almost his life,” he wrote on Twitter, after the European Union awarded Navalny its biggest human rights prize. “Today’s award recognizes his immense bravery and we reiterate our call for his immediate release.”

In his last twitter message, on January 1, Mr Sassoli described the euro as “a symbol of peace and integration, the realization of a historic political vision, of a united continent with a single currency for a single market”.

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