European Parliament President David Sassoli died early Tuesday morning, aged 65, his spokesperson announced.
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“The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, passed away at 1.15 a.m. on January 11 at the hospital in Aviano, Italy, where he was hospitalized,” Roberto Cuillo said on Twitter.
Sassoli had been hospitalized since December 26, “because of a serious complication due to a dysfunction of the immune system,” his office said in a statement on Monday.
Sassoli had been taken to a hospital in Strasbourg in September to be treated for a severe case of pneumonia.
Sassoli began his professional career as a journalist, working in newspapers before moving to television. He was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009 as a member of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party — part of the wider Socialists and Democrats group in the Parliament.
Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, who is running as the candidate from the conservative European People’s Party to succeed Sassoli as president, tweeted: “I am heartbroken. Europe has lost a leader, I have a lost a friend, democracy has lost a champion,” adding that Sassoli “dedicated his life to making the world a better, fairer place.”
“What a big shock and a big loss,” MEP Ismail Ertug said in a tweet. “He left us too early. My condolences to his family! Dear David, Rest In Peace!”
MEP Paolo Borchia said he was “stunned by the death” of his fellow Italian.
Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe tweeted that he is “very shocked and sad,” offering his “deepest condolences to [Sassoli’s] family, friends and colleagues in the European Parliament.”
Lili Bayer contributed reporting.