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European Parliament President Sassoli dies aged 65

European Parliament President Sassoli dies aged 65
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  • David Sassoli became President of the European Parliament in 2019
  • He was taken to the hospital in December
  • Sassoli was an Italian socialist and former journalist

BRUSSELS/ROME (Reuters) – European Parliament spokesman David Sassoli, an Italian socialist and former journalist, died on Tuesday in a hospital in Italy, said European Parliament spokesman David Sassoli. He was 65 years old.

His spokesman, Roberto Coelho, said on Twitter that Sassoli died at 1.15 a.m. (0015 GMT).

Sassoli’s office said on Monday that Sassoli was hospitalized last month with “serious complications” related to his immune system.

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He has been speaker of the 705-seat parliament since July 2019. Sassoli, whose term was due to expire in a mostly ceremonial role this month, had said he would not run for re-election.

Maltese MP Roberta Mitsola of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) is widely expected to be a candidate for the post.

European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen, who chairs the EU’s executive body, paid tribute to Sassoli, saying she was deeply saddened by his death.

“David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, outstanding President of the European Parliament, and above all a dear friend,” she said on Twitter.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also sent his condolences.

“Sad to hear of the passing of European President David Sassoli, a powerful voice for democracy and cooperation between NATO and the European Union,” he said in a tweet on Twitter.

Italian politicians in many ways praised Sassoli, and his death dominated the morning news programmes. Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Sassoli’s death was shocking and praised him as a staunch pro-European.

“Sassoli was a symbol of balance, humanity and generosity. These qualities have always been recognized by all of his colleagues from every political position and from every European country,” Draghi’s office said in a statement.

Former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who heads the Democratic Party, described Sassoli as “a person of exceptional generosity, a passionate European … a man of vision and principles.”

We pledge to stand up to extremism

In his inaugural address, Sassoli urged Europeans to confront the “virus” of extremist nationalism and called for reform of EU rules on immigration and asylum.

Due to illness, he has been unable to preside over the Strasbourg-based parliament in recent weeks, and missed the annual State of the European Union event in September.

Sassoli started his career as a newspaper journalist before joining Italian state radio station RAI, where he became a household name delivering the major evening news.

Turning to politics in 2009, he joined the centre-left Democratic Party and handily won the European Parliament elections.

After a failed bid for Rome’s mayor, he focused his attention on European politics, working his way up to becoming President of the European Union Parliament in 2019.

He contracted pneumonia in September 2021, forcing him to spend several weeks in the hospital. He never regained his full strength and had to return to the hospital in December after suffering from serious immune system problems.

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Additional reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru, Neil Follek in Singapore, Crispian Palmer in Rome, Sabina Sebol and John Chalmers; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Percell and Timothy Heritage

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