EU leaders bid farewell to European Parliament president with state funeral

Image provided by the Italian Presidency of the funeral of the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, in Rome – Service de presse de la présidence italienne/AFP

The leaders of the European Union, as well as representatives of the largest institutions in Italy, said goodbye this Friday (14) in Rome, with a solemn state funeral for the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, who died on Tuesday. fair at age 65.

The funeral, which took place in the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, was attended, among others, by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the Head of the European Council, Charles Michel, the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Spanish Government President Pedro Sánchez.

The guard of honor accompanied the arrival of the coffin, covered with the flag of the European Union, an impressive image since it is the first high leader of the entity to die in the exercise of his duties.

The ceremony was broadcast live on Italian public television RAI, under the title “Ciao David”, in a very moving tribute, due to the fact that Sassoli, before entering politics more than 10 years ago, had been the presenter of one of his news.

In a church packed with personalities, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a personal friend of Sassoli, summed up the political man’s legacy: “Protect the weak and don’t let walls build up,” said the prelate.

On Thursday, thousands of people, from ordinary citizens to ministers and political opponents, lined up to enter the fiery chapel installed in Rome’s Capitol hall.

Sassoli died in the early hours of Tuesday in a hospital in northern Italy, where he was admitted on December 26 after a “serious complication due to a dysfunction of the immune system”.

The Italian, who overcame leukemia in the past, was hospitalized in the autumn boreal (spring in Brazil) because of pneumonia that kept him away from parliamentary activity for several weeks.

His two-and-a-half-year term as head of the European Union’s legislative body was due to end this month.

Maltese politician Roberta Metsola has been, since January 11, the interim president of the European Parliament after Sassoli’s unexpected death and will succeed him as incumbent.

For Italian head of government Mario Draghi, Italy has lost “a profound Europeanist (…), a symbol of balance, humanity and generosity”.

A member of the European Parliament since 2009, Sassoli was elected in July 2019 as president of the Chamber after an agreement to distribute the presidency of the main positions in the European Union between the three big groups.

As a result of this pact, the right won the presidency of the European Commission, with Von der Leyen; centrist liberals, the leadership of the European Council, with Charles Michel; and the Social Democrats, Parliament.

His term was marked by the health crisis of the covid-19 that forced the European Parliament, the only directly elected community institution, to work remotely.

During this period, Sassoli ceded the empty premises of Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels for the preparation of meals for people in need and for the installation of a test center for the detection of covid-19.

In mid-November, Sassoli received “unanimous support” from his group to run for a second term. At the time, he avoided declaring himself officially a candidate, amid uncertainties about his health status.

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