Written by Nicola Censini and Micaela Del Monte.
‘The European Union is not a hitch in history … We are not a hitch in history.’
Those were the words of the late David Maria Sassoli during his acceptance speech in July 2019 after being elected as president of the European Parliament. He was the seventh Italian to hold that office, and the second since the first direct elections to the Parliament in 1979. During his early life, Sassoli was an active member of numerous associations including the Scouts, and was deeply convinced that Catholicism and secular society could work together to build a better society. A journalist by profession, Sassoli’s entry into politics coincided with his candidacy in the 2009 European elections, as leader in the Central Italy constituency.
Sassoli served for three consecutive mandates in the European Parliament. On 1 July 2014, he was elected vice-president with responsibility for Mediterranean policy, budget and buildings. He was reconfirmed as vice-president in January 2017. Sassoli’s commitment to the European project and ceaseless defence of democratic values shone on several occasions during his terms of office in the Parliament. He stood up repeatedly in defence of both EU citizens and non-EU citizens being denied human rights by authoritarian regimes. He worked to make citizens’ voices heard, particularly those of the weakest. He fought to strengthen the EU’s social dimension and denounced Europe’s reluctance to assume its political duties towards developing countries on vaccines. Sassoli invited his fellow European citizens to welcome those fleeing war and hunger, who look at Europe as a land of hope. In 2020, when Europe faced the most severe wave of COVID-19, Sassoli fought for Parliament to remain active during the pandemic’s most critical months.
David Maria Sassoli passed away in office on 11 January 2022, aged 65. His death in January 2022 spurred emotional reactions from his colleagues in the European Parliament, EU political leaders and civil society, with many EU leaders paying their respects and praising his vision of Europe. The European Parliament will pay tribute to Sassoli in January 2023, one year after his death.
Read the complete briefing on ‘David Maria Sassoli (1956-2022): President of the European Parliament 2019-2022‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.