David Sassoli, the Italian journalist who built a career in politics and became president of the European Union parliament, died in a hospital in Italy early Tuesday morning, his spokesman said. He was 65 years old.
Roberto Cuillo’s message on Twitter did not offer further details. Sassoli, a socialist, had been hospitalized since December 26 due to abnormal functioning of his immune system, Cuillo said in a statement published the day before.
“This hospitalization was necessary due to a serious complication derived from a dysfunction in the immune system,” the note explained.
Although he had been dealing with health problems for months, Sassoli remained in office, where his energy and smile were his hallmark.
Sassoli came to the presidency of the European Parliament in 2019 after an intricate political struggle between community leaders that gave the presidency of the European Commission to the German Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen and that of the European Council to Belgian liberal Charles Michel.
“I am deeply saddened by the terrible loss of a great European and a proud Italian,” von der Leyen said on Twitter. “David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, a prominent President of the European Parliament and, above all, a dear friend.”
Sassoli was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009. He won another term in 2014 and served as vice-president of the chamber. He had considered running for the second half of the five-year term that begins next week, but decided not to run for re-election when lawmakers choose their new president in Strasbourg, France.
The European Parliament represents the 450 million citizens of the bloc and calls itself “the heart of European democracy”. It is one of the seven branches of the EU and has more than 700 deputies elected directly by the member countries.
Sassoli had strong convictions, especially on social issues such as migration.
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