David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, dies at the age of 65 – national news – archyde

David Sassoli, the Italian journalist who worked his way up in politics while defending the oppressed and downtrodden to become President of the European Parliament, died early Tuesday in a hospital in Italy, his spokesman said.

EU Council President Charles Michel called Sassoli a “sincere and passionate European. We already miss his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile. “

No details were disclosed in a tweet from spokesman Roberto Cuillo. Sassoli, a 65-year-old socialist, has been hospitalized since Dec. 26 for an immune system malfunction, Cuillo said in a statement released the day before Sassoli’s death.

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Sassoli struggled with poor health for months after suffering pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria in September. After that, his health deteriorated steadily and he had to miss several important legislative sessions. But as best he could, he stuck to his job, where his energy and his slight smile were a trademark. He was strongest when he campaigned for migrants who died crossing the Mediterranean or dissidents like Alexei Navalny, who competed against the Kremlin from a prison cell.

In recent months he has improved so much that he will chair a session of the European Parliament in December to award Navalny’s daughter the EU’s most important human rights award, the Sakharov Prize. High in symbolism, it became his political testament.

“During the last week of December the disease worsened and then the last days of his struggle,” Cuillo told Sky TG24 from Italy.

Sassoli became the head of the legislature in 2019 after a complicated political battle between the EU leaders, in which the German Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen EU Commission President and the Belgian liberal Michel took over the post of EU Council President.

Even though he was often overshadowed by von der Leyen and Michel, Sassoli headed an institution that has become more and more powerful over the years and in many areas, be it the digital economy, the climate or Brexit.

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The European Parliament represents the 450 million EU citizens and describes itself as “the heart of European democracy”. It has more than 700 members who are directly elected by their member states.

“I am deeply saddened by the terrible loss of a great European and proud Italian,” said von der Leyen on Twitter. “David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, an excellent President of the European Parliament and above all a dear friend.”

He was also respected in Italy. The leader of the Italian Democratic Party and a long-time friend, Enrico Letta, praised Sassoli’s European passion and vision and vowed to carry it on, even though “we know we are not up to it”.

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In a tweet, Letta described Sassoli as “someone of extraordinary generosity, a passionate European” and a man with “vision and principles, theoretical and practical”.

Another former center-left Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, described his death as a “terrible loss”.

“I will always remember his guidance, his passion, his generous friendship. #CiaoDavid, “tweeted Gentiloni.

Sassoli was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009. In 2014 he won another term and was its vice-president. He started out as a newspaper journalist before joining radio in Italy as a top-class presenter. It was a stepping stone for his political career.

He had considered running for the second part of the five-year term beginning next week, but chose not to run for re-election if the legislature elected their new president in Strasbourg, France.

Roberta Metsola, the Christian Democrat who should replace Sassoli next week, said: “I am heartbroken. Europe has lost a leader, I have lost a friend, democracy has lost a master. ”She said Sassoli“ dedicated his life to making the world a better and fairer place ”.

The Associated Press Writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

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