The Italian president of the European Union’s parliament died on Jan. 11 after being hospitalized for a dysfunctioning immune system.
David Sassoli worked as a journalist and television newsreader for three decades. Sassoli, who was born in Florence on May 30, 1956, studied political science before beginning his career at a newspaper.
“The father of two began working for national broadcaster RAI in 1992, rising through the ranks to become a familiar face for millions of Italians, presenting the evening news on the main channel, of which he also became deputy-director,” per International Business Times.
A well-known public figure, he was elected a member of the European parliament in 2009 after securing 400,000 votes. He became the president of the EU’s legislature in July of 2019.
“Sassoli led an institution which has become ever more powerful over the years and has become instrumental in charting the course of the European Union in many sectors, be it the digital economy, climate or Brexit,” reports AP News.
“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,” Sassoli stated in his speech following his election. He said the EU must “respond more strongly to the needs of our citizens and give real answers to their concerns.”
Sassoli, a socialist, played a significant role in the passage of the EU’s $2.1 trillion pandemic relief fund as well as the bloc’s seven-year budget while serving his first term.
“I’m deeply saddened by the death of a great European and Italian. David Sassoli was a passionate journalist, an extraordinary EU parliament president and above all a dear friend,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, said in her tribute to Sassoli.
Sassoli had been in poor health for several months. He was treated for a severe case of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria in Strasbourg in September. He then relapsed while recovering in Italy.
“Pneumonia is an ugly beast – the important thing is to avoid relapses and the convalescence must be adequate,” he said in September to the Italian outlet Corriere.
He returned to his political duties in November after working remotely in October. He was hospitalized in Italy on Dec. 26 “because of a serious complication due to a dysfunction of the immune system,” according to a statement from his spokesperson Roberto Cuillo.
Sassoli is survived by his wife, Alessandra Vittorini, and two children. His funeral will be on Jan. 14 at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome.
EU flags in Brussels are being flown at half-mast to mark Sassoli’s passing. A vote to elect his replacement will be held later this month.