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Monday, January 24, 2022

European Parliament President David Sassoli dies at 65


BRUSSELS (AP) – David Sassoli, an Italian journalist who worked his way into politics defending the oppressed and downtrodden to become president of the European Union’s parliament, died Tuesday at the age of 65 in an Italian hospital.

European Council President Charles Michel called Sassoli an “honest and passionate European”. We already remember his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile. ,

His spokesman, Roberto Cuillo, said Sasoli, a socialist, had been hospitalized since December 26 because of abnormal functioning of his immune system. Sassoli will be buried on Friday at Rome’s Santa Maria degli Angeli Church, where the state funeral takes place.

Sassoli had been battling ill health for months after contracting pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria in September. His health subsequently declined steadily and he was forced to miss several important legislative meetings. Still, as much as possible, he stayed at work, where his jovial and easy-going smile has always been a trademark. He was strongest when he raised the issue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean or dissidents such as Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was battling the Kremlin from a prison cell.

“Everyone loved her smile and her kindness, yet she knew how to fight for what she believed in,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recalled. How Sassoli traveled to Germany to see the infamous Berlin Wall three decades ago.

European unity was his criterion, as was justice among all Europeans.

French President Emmanuel Macron said, “Our union has lost an Italian patriot, a great European and a tireless humanitarian at the same time.”

Over the past few months, he reformed enough to preside over a session of the European Parliament in December to give Navalny’s daughter the European Union’s main human rights award, the Sakharov Prize. High in symbolism, it showed him at his best. A few weeks later, his best wishes for the new year showed him as an optimist with great hopes.

“We can have that hope when we don’t neglect those in need. When we don’t build walls on our borders. When we fight injustice of all kinds. Here’s to us, here’s hope,” he said in his address. said in.

He is survived by his wife, Alessandra Vittorini, and their children, Livia and Giulio. Flags flew halfway and the European Parliament opened the mourning register. The European Commission will observe a minute’s silence during the meeting on Wednesday.

Pope Francis, who welcomed Sasoli to audiences last year, sent an unusually heartfelt telegram of condolences to Sasoli’s wife, paying tribute to her “as an animated believer of hope and charity … who In a peaceful and dignified manner, worked for common people. Good with generous commitment.”

A lifelong fan of Fiorentina football club, he emulated the refined style of the team where Gabriel Batistuta and Roberto Baggio flourished. But in the end, like the Florence club, he never reached the highest level. Being the head of the European Parliament is not compared to being the prime minister or leading the European Commission or the Council.

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Sassoli to lead the European legislature in 2019 comes after political infighting between EU leaders, with German Christian Democrat von der Leyen becoming president of the European Commission and Belgium’s free-market liberal Michel as president of the EU Council. worked as Sassoli and von der Leyen were chosen by EU leaders practically out of the blue, surprising themselves and the rest of the world.

Even if he often supervised von der Leyen and Michel, Sassoli led an institution that has become more powerful over the years and has been able to chart the course of the European Union in many areas. Be it the digital economy, climate or Brexit.

A skilful political shaker, using his affability, he helped steer many of the most important political issues facing the European Union to a successful conclusion – and with no more than a 1.8 trillion-euro pandemic recovery fund and a seven-year budget.

Yet his 2 1/2 years in charge were both marred by the pandemic, which has often turned the European Parliament into a remote digital institution, where his human heat lost effect, and his own deteriorating health.

He reached his pinnacle on the European stage, but he was equally respected in his native Italy.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi expressed condolences on behalf of the Italian government and paid tribute to Sassoli as “a man of institutions, a deeply European supporter, a passionate journalist, Sassoli was the epitome of balance, humanity, generosity.”

The head of Sassoli’s Democratic Party and a longtime friend, Enrico Letta, praised Sassoli’s European passion and vision and vowed to pursue them, although “we know we are not over it.”

Sassoli was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009. He won another term in 2014 and served as its vice-president. He started out as a newspaper reporter before entering broadcasting in Italy as a high-profile presenter. This was the ladder of his political career.

He had considered running for the second half of a five-year term starting next week, but decided not to run for re-election when lawmakers elected his new president in Strasbourg, France.

Roberta Metsola, the Christian Democrat who was set to take office from Sassoli next week, said: “I am heartbroken. Europe has lost a leader, I have lost a friend, democracy has lost a champion.” She added that Sassoli “dedicated her life to making the world a better, better place.”


Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield in Rome and Sam Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.

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