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European Parliament President Sassoli dies aged 65

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European Parliament President David Sassoli, an Italian socialist and former journalist, died on Tuesday at the age of 65 in hospital in Italy, his spokesperson and office said, according to Reuters. 

Sassoli died at 1.15 a.m. (0015 GMT), his spokesperson, Roberto Cuillo, said on Twitter.

“Sassoli had been admitted to hospital last month because of a serious complication related to his immune system,” his office had said on Monday.

He had been president of the 705-seat parliament since July 2019. Sassoli, whose term in the predominantly ceremonial role had been due to end this month, had said he would not run for re-election.

Maltese lawmaker Roberta Metsola, from the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), is widely expected to be a candidate for the post.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the European Union’s executive body, paid tribute to Sassoli, saying that she was deeply saddened by his death.

“David Sassoli was a compassionate journalist, an outstanding President of the European Parliament and, first & foremost, a dear friend,” she said on Twitter.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also sent condolences.

“Saddened to hear of the death of EP_President David Sassoli, a strong voice for democracy and NATO-EU cooperation,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.

Italian politicians on many sides paid tribute to Sassoli, and his death dominated morning news shows. Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Sassoli’s death was shocking and praised him as profoundly pro-European.