European Parliament President David Sassoli died in the early hours of Tuesday at a hospital in Aviano, Italy. He was 65.
The Italian former journalist and center-left politician had been seriously ill for more than two weeks and canceled all official activities.
“The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, passed away at 1:15 a.m. on January 11 at the hospital in Aviano, Italy, where he was hospitalized,” Roberto Cuillo said on Twitter.
Sassoli had been hospitalized since December 26, “because of a serious complication due to a dysfunction of the immune system,” his office said in a statement on Monday.
In September, Sassoli was taken to hospital in Strasbourg, where he was treated for a severe case of pneumonia. He resumed his political duties in November.
Sassoli began his professional career as a journalist, working in newspapers before moving to television. He was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009 as a member of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party — part of the wider Socialists and Democrats group in the Parliament.
Tributes paid to Sassoli
In a message on Twitter, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote: “I am deeply saddened by the terrible loss of a great European & proud Italian. David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, an outstanding President of the European Parliament and, first & foremost, a dear friend. My thoughts are with his family.”
Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, who has been running as the candidate from the conservative European People’s Party to succeed Sassoli as president, tweeted: “I am heartbroken. Europe has lost a leader, I have a lost a friend, democracy has lost a champion,” adding that Sassoli “dedicated his life to making the world a better, fairer place.”
European Council President Charles Michel said he felt “sad and filled with emotion” by the news of Sassoli’s death, adding: “We already miss his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile.”
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “I am shocked and saddened by the sudden death of David Sassoli. His vision of Europe as a beacon of peace and democracy in the world will shine on as a lasting legacy. We mourn this remarkable Italian and proud European.”
I am shocked and saddened by the sudden death of the @EP_President David Sassoli. His vision of Europe as a beacon of peace and democracy in the world will shine on as a lasting legacy. We mourn this remarkable Italian and proud European.
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) January 11, 2022
Greek MEP Alexis Georgoulis said: “We all are deeply saddened by the passing of David Sassoli. A passionate European and a great democrat has gone just days before the end of his term, as the President of the European Parliament.
“He played a vital role in ensuring the proper functioning of the European Parliament during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been a pro-European politician and visionary and has significantly enhanced the role of the EU Parliament through various initiatives such as the Conference on the Future of Europe as well as Next Generation EU.
“At the beginning of his mandate, he pointed to the need for a better Europe, closer to its citizens, and he stayed coherent until the end of his journey. He wanted ‘A Europe that innovates. A Europe that protects. A Europe that illuminates through its democratic model.
A new project of hope’. We must continue his battle to uphold these values and vision,” Geeorgoulis said.