European Parliament President David Sassoli dies at 65

European Parliament President David Sassoli died early on Tuesday at a hospital in Italy 

Sassoli was hospitalised on 26 December due to complications resulting from a malfunctioning immune system
Sassoli was hospitalised on 26 December due to complications resulting from a malfunctioning immune system

The outgoing president of the European Parliament, Italian socialist MEP David Sassoli, has died at 65, his spokesperson announced.

His death comes as a shock after he was recently hospitalised on 26 December due to complications resulting from a malfunctioning immune system.

“The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, passed away at 1:15am on 11 January at the hospital in Aviano, Italy, where he was hospitalised,” spokesperson Roberto Cuillo wrote on Twitter.

Previously Sassoli had been hospitalised in Strasbourg in September for severe pneumonia, having spent the last months of his presidency in 2021 absent from his role.

His health problems prevented Sassoli from attempting a re-election bid for the presidency in the second half of the European parliamentary legislature, which is expected to be decided on Tuesday, 18 January.

European leaders, MEPs, civil servants and many other notable figures and organisations the world over took to the internet in an outpouring of grief to express their profound sorrow at Sassoli’s passing.

Among them was European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen: “I am deeply saddened by the terrible loss of a great European and proud Italian. David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, an outstanding President of the European Parliament and, first and foremost, a dear friend. My thoughts are with his family.”

European Council President Charles Michel described Sassoli as a “sincere and passionate European,” adding: “We already miss his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile.”

The Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, billed to be his sucessor upon an election for the presidency for the second half of the legislature, expressed her heartbreak at Sassoli’s passing. “Europe has lost a leader, I have lost a friend, democracy has lost a champion. David Sassoli dedicated his life to making the world a better, fairer place. His Parliament joins Alessandra, Giulio & Livia in mourning their loss. All my thoughts are with them.”

“Europe has lost a leader, I have a lost a friend, democracy has lost a champion,” adding that Sassoli “dedicated his life to making the world a better, fairer place,” Metsola said.

"Sassoli will always be remembered as an exemplary man who kept the interests of the European people at the forefront. He was also a man who knew how to best run the presidency entrusted to him," the Nationalist Party said in a statement.

Sassoli was born in Florence, on 30 May, 1956, and is said to have begun working as a journalist from an early age with small newspapers before moving to Rome to join the staff of Il Giorno, a Milan-headquartered daily newspaper.

In the early 1990s he moved to television, starting as a correspondent for TG3 and soon became a fixture on news programmes on Rai Uno and Rai Due. By the end of the 90s he had become special correspondent at TG1, and spent a decade managing the main editions of the channel’s news programmes. By 2007 he was deputy director.

Sassoli’s first foray into politics was due to Walter Veltroni, ex-mayor of Rome and the first leader of Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party, which was founded in 2007, and which Sassoli joined. Sassoli was elected for the first time to the European Parliament in 2009, and was the head of the party’s delegation from 2009 to 2014.

In 2012, Sassoli made a failed bid for mayor of Rome as the Democratic Party candidate, but he was re-elected to the European Parliament in 2014 and also elected as a Parliament vice president. His main focus was transport issues.

He then won a third term in 2019, positioning him as a leading socialist vice-president at the perfect moment when the European Council’s quest for party balance in the EU’s new leadership slate called for a center-left Parliament president.

Sassoli was a fierce supporter of the EU and a true European at heart but that didn’t stop him from criticising the institutions and treaties where he saw fit. At the time of his election, Sassoli highlighted the need for reform to the EU’s leadership selection process and suggested the possibility of seeking amendments to the treaties.

“We hope to be able to enter in a process of treaty revision but we can’t say it now, it will depend on the work that will be done…This legislature must be a political legislature, and it must be political in the sense that we need to give shape and content to the request of a new Europe.”

Sassoli leaves behind his wife Alessandra and their two children, Giulio and Livia.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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