David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, dies

The Italian Social Democrat had been seriously ill in hospital since the end of 2021

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The President of the European Parliament, David Maria Sassoli, yesterday at the European Parliament.

BrusselsUnder his mandate, Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí were appointed MEPs. And also under his mandate, the ERC leader had to resign. "I have received criticism for my management from both pro-independence and anti-independence players," said David Maria Sassoli (Florence, 1956) in an interview with this newspaper on Europe Day. The president of the European Parliament who has possibly experienced the Catalan conflict most closely died early this morning, according to his spokesman Roberto Cuillo, after weeks in hospital due to a complication in his immune system. He had already had health problems at the end of 2021 that kept him away from parliamentary activity. He is the first top EU official to die in office.

As president of the European Parliament, it fell to him to manage the institution in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when the European Parliament adopted a hybrid operating system to maintain activity despite the difficulties. As a Christian Social Democrat, his voice often contradicted that of other conservative or liberal EU leaders. For example, in the controversy over the release of vaccine patents, where the European Parliament was overwhelmingly in favour, contrary to the position of the European Commission. "In this emergency, sharing patents is an absolute necessity," he said.

A journalist by training, he was a well-known popular TV face in Italy before becoming an MEP in 2009. Ever since his teenage years he was linked to the country's Catholic left, following family tradition. He joined the Democratic Party (PD), which he led in the European elections in 2009, when the PD was in opposition to the conservative government of now also MEP Silvio Berlusconi. In his first legislature as an MEP, Sassoli headed the Italian socialist delegation.

But he did not want to stay forever between Brussels and Strasbourg. This Italian socialist tried to reach the mayoralty of Rome in 2013, but did not make it past the primaries. So in 2014 he revalidated his position as MEP and became vice-president of the European Parliament, a position he kept when his fellow Italian Antonio Tajani was president. Sassoli has always remained stable within the PD, beyond the turbulent Italian political turmoil. In fact, in the last European elections of 2019, the Italian PD suffered a sharp decline, while parties such as Lega or the 5 Star Movement overtook it.

Even so, in Europe the Social Democrats continued to be the second most voted force and in the distribution of the presidencies of the main European institutions, the Socialists got to appoint the European Parliament president, where they placed Sassoli. This is how he replaced Tajani in 2019 at the same time that Ursula Von der Leyen replaced Jean-Claude Juncker. His name was not the bookies' favourite, but he got the post in a legislature where a parliamentary majority is not easy. He needed two rounds to be voted in and with the commitment that after two and a half years (i.e. in 2022) he would be relieved by someone from the European People's Party.