President of European Parliament David Sassoli has died

President of European Parliament David Sassoli has died
EP President David Sassoli © EP Media Centre

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.”

“A sincere and passionate European, we already miss his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile,” said European Council President Charles Michel.

“I am extremely saddened by this terrible loss of a great European and proud Italian, a thoughtful journalist, an extraordinary President of the Parliament and above all a dear friend,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Sassoli died on 11 January at 01:15 in Aviano, Italy, where he had been in hospital since 26 December. He was 65 years old.

A journalist by training, Sassoli was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and sat for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). He became President of Parliament in July of 2019.

A new President

At the time, the Christian Democrats agreed with the Social Democrats and Liberals – the two largest groups in the EU Parliament – that they would provide a new parliamentary president in January 2022, halfway through the five-year parliamentary term, De Standaard reports.

Next week, the plenary will elect a new president. Sassoli had not been planning another presidential term but his successor may be the 42-year-old Roberta Metsola of the European People’s Party (EPP).

Metsola reacted to Sassoli’s death early Tuesday morning on Twitter: “My heart is broken. Europe has lost a leader, I have lost a friend, and democracy has lost a champion.”

In Belgium, some MEPs have already reacted, including Benoît Lutgen who salutes “a passionate supporter of European construction” who led the institution with a “firm but always benevolent hand.”

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