Belgium in Brief: Europe bids farewell to a statesman

Belgium in Brief: Europe bids farewell to a statesman

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli died in his native Italy. The news came as a shock – Sassoli was just 65 and was carrying out presidential duties just days before his death.

Praised for his dedication to Europe and garnering support from various political angles, the former journalist was a widely popular President who proved adept at navigating the more divisive issues that took place during his time in office.

In Brussels, the bubble of European institutions can sometimes seem a little insular and difficult to relate to. It’s hard enough getting your head around Belgium’s own political patchwork of regional and federal authorities, let alone figuring out the delicate interplay between EU-wide organisations.

However, whilst critics often lament the opacity of this structure (indeed, Brexit’s ringleaders lambasted the EU for being anti-democratic), Sassoli’s voice of moderation will be missed.

The President’s Christmas address acknowledged the barriers that are being put up around the EU and called for a human approach to many of the continent’s challenges. If anything, the pandemic has underlined the need for international cooperation rather than dealing with major issues on a state by state basis.

As European flags fly at half-mast, Sassoli’s spirit should live on.

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1. President of European Parliament David Sassoli has died

The President of the European Parliament, Italian social democrat David Sassoli, died on Tuesday in Italy at the age of 65. MEPs and EU leaders have hailed him a “champion of democracy” and a “fighter for Europe.” Read more.

2. ‘Societies need to urgently adapt’: Natural disasters cause billions in damages in 2021

The year 2021 saw around €159 billion worth of damages as a result of natural disasters, according to insurer Munich Re. This makes it the third-most expensive year for insurance claims. Read more.

3. The ‘definitive comeback of the wolf’ in 2021 not celebrated by all

The year 2021 was dubbed the “definitive comeback of the wolf” by the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT), which closely monitored how the animal’s return affected the agricultural sector in particular. Read more.

4. Steep climb in new Covid-19 cases, almost 2,000 hospitalisations

The number of new coronavirus cases in Belgium is, as was expected, continuing to rapidly incline, and remains above the 20,000 mark. Read more.

5. Covid sweeps through Hasselt school after ski trip: 101 students out sick

101 third-year students at a secondary school in Hasselt are out sick following a skiing trip to Austria during the Christmas holidays during which many contracted Covid-19. Read more.

6. Parliament must debate mandatory vaccination quickly, says Vandenbroucke

Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has called on the Chamber to hold an urgent and thorough parliamentary debate on the possible introduction of a vaccination obligation. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: The scandalous Félicien Rops

One of the most scandalous artists of the nineteenth century was born in Namur in 1833. Read more.

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