The European Parliament has reacted with shock and sadness to the death of its president.
David Sassoli's spokesperson broke the news on Twitter at three o’clock this morning, followed by a wave of posts from the president's colleagues in the European insitutions expressing their appreciation of the man and their condolences to his family.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote: “I am deeply saddened by the death of a great European and Italian. David Sassoli was a passionate journalist, an extraordinary President of the European Parliament and above all a dear friend. My thoughts go out to his family. Rest in peace, dear David.”
On Monday, Sassoli’s spokesperson had announced that he had been hospitalised on 26 December due to “serious complications” following problems with his immune system.
In the autumn, Sassoli had contracted Legionnaires' disease and suffered from severe pneumonia.
The former reporter and TV news anchor had been elected to the European Parliament in 2009, after turning to politics full time two years before.
Parliament’s First Vice President, Roberta Metsola (MT, EPP), who will now take over the presidency briefly until the mid-term elections scheduled for next week’s plenary session, wrote:
The chairs of the European Parliament's groups across the political spectrum were swift to express their condolenses this morning.
The head of the European Parliament's centre-right EPP Group Manfred Weber wrote on Twitter:
The S&D Group Chair Iratxe Garcia also expressed her condolences:
Stéphane Séjourné, Chair of the European Parliament's Renew Group, wrote the following: "Deeply saddened by the disappearance of David Sassoli. We are losing a committed President and a man of conviction. Thanks to him, our assembly had never ceased to keep democracy alive, even at the heart of the Covid crisis. My thoughts to his loved ones and his family."
The Greens/EFA Group expressed their reaction through co-chairs Ska Keller and Phillippe Lamberts:
The ID Group's Marco Zanni also took to Twitter to express his grief, writing: "News that saddens us. We express our condolences for the passing of the EP President David Sassoli, holding on to his family and loved ones in this painful moment."
The ECR's co-chairs Ryszard Legutko and Raffaele Fitto made a joint statement on behalf of the Group:
Finally, The Left Group's Manon Aubry shared her condolences as well: "Very moved to learn of the death of the President of Parliament David Sassoli. Very attentive, he has always maintained a constructive dialogue with our group over the past 2 years. On behalf of our group, The Left, I send all our thoughts and condolences to his loved ones!"
In front of the main entrance of the Brussels seat, MEPs, Parliament employees and citizens gathered for a minute of silence in honour of the president.
The President's press office announced in the afternoon, that a ceremony to honour David Sassoli's memory will be held next Monday 17 January at the opening of the plenary session in Strasbourg "in the presence of former MEP and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta".
The statement continued by adding that "in Rome, President David Sassoli will lie in state on Thursday 13 January from 10.00 to 18.00 in Sala della Protomoteca of the Campidoglio. The funeral service will take place on Friday 14 January at 12.00 in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli".
The election of the President for the second half of the mandate will take place as scheduled on Tuesday in Strasbourg, followed by the elections of the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors during the course of the part-session.