Following the selection of heads of the other EU institutions on Tuesday, the European Parliament in its first plenary meeting in Strasbourg elected its president on Wednesday. Italian MEP David-Maria Sassoli from the socialist group (S&D) and one of the current vice-presidents was surprisingly elected to president, well ahead of the other candidates.
David-Maria Sassoli, 63, is a former journalist who became a politician in 2009 when he was first elected to the European Parliament as a member of the Democratic Party in Italy. He will now face a government in his home country that is Eurosceptic and on collision course with the EU.
“Many, probably out of love, have written that my election as president of the European Parliament would redeem the honour of Italy. I thank them. But the honour of Italy will never depend on a single person. It depends on the fact that we are a great, extraordinary country,” he tweeted after his victory.
In a brief address to the Parliament immediately after the vote, Sassoli thanked the MEPs for their confidence in him. “In these months, too many people have fuelled divisions and conflicts that we thought were a sad reminder of our history. Instead, the citizens have shown that they still believe in this extraordinary path, the only one capable of providing answers to the global challenges before us”.
“We must have the strength to relaunch our integration process, changing our Union so to be able to respond more strongly to the needs of our citizens and give real answers to their concerns, to their increasingly widespread sense of loss.”
He also underlined the priorities that the Parliament will have to pursue in the coming years. “We are immersed in momentous transformations: youth unemployment, migration, climate change, the digital revolution, the new world balance, just to name a few, which need new ideas and courage”.
To be elected, a candidate must win an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, that is 50 % of the votes plus one. Sassoli achieved this in the second round with 345 votes out of 667 valid votes, ahead over ECR’s candidate Jan Zahradil (160), Greens Ska Keller (119), and GUE/NGL’s Sira Rego (43). Before the voting, all candidates presented their visions for the leadership of the parliament.
During his first mandate period (2009 – 2014), Sassoli was a member of the parliamentary committees on development respectively transport & tourism and a member of the delegations for Israel respectively the Pan-African parliament. During the second period (2014 – 2019) he was one of the vice-presidents of the parliament and a member of the Parliament’s Bureau deciding on procedures.