Luca Jahier: Tribute to David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, who passed away on 11 January 2022

Today, we have lost a good friend, an excellent journalist, a remarkable politician and a great European. We can truly say that he changed the course of the European Union during the pandemic, keeping the Parliament open and defending the most vulnerable. He did this partly by taking unprecedented initiatives, as when during the first wave he emptied one of the Parliament buildings so that it could be used to care for women and single mothers suffering from COVID-19.

Europe still has much to say if only we, and you, can say it together. If we turn our efforts to the public interest, and if the Parliament listens to what people really want, fear and need. This was his guiding principle as a politician, which steered his work as President of the European Parliament after he was elected unexpectedly following the 2019 European elections.

He was able to bring the Parliament to agree on issues despite it being far more disparate than in the past. He was able to provide the president designate, Ursula von der Leyen, with a broader majority than that enjoyed by her predecessors on a transformative political agenda geared to the vital transition towards a Europe which is sustainable, innovative, rooted in values and rights, social and strategically autonomous.

He stood firm and pushed through all the measures needed to cope with the health crisis, guaranteeing the broadest possible democratic participation in the shaping of the many urgent decisions which have changed the face of Europe. And in the course of just a few months, he laid the groundwork for the proposals put forward by Mr Macron and Ms Merkel and the European Commission to be turned into the biggest recovery and resilience plan that Europe has ever seen. He united the European Parliament as it has rarely been united in the past.

He was a decent, kind man, journalist and politician. He understood situations and himself. Unlike so many, he never let his position go to his head. David Sassoli made his three innate gifts - consistency, loyalty and generosity - his strongest weapons in both life and politics. I often dealt with him directly, and remember his smile and expression. He always endeavoured to forge a personal connection with everyone he spoke with, and that was his hallmark and the key to his success.

He was an example for us all: he was on good terms with everyone and knew how to capitalise on that relationship in the public interest. He was a Catholic democrat, a deeply spiritual man who revered David Maria Turoldo, whose name he bore, Giuseppe Dossetti and Giorgio La Pira, whose legacy he made common knowledge during his days as a journalist.

I would like to quote some of his last words, delivered at Christmas and recorded just a few days before he went back to hospital: "We embody hope when we do not close our eyes to those in need, when we do not put up walls at our borders, when we fight all forms of injustice. Happy Christmas to us all!"

Thank you, David. My very best wishes to Sandra and the children you loved so much.

Luca Jahier

This article was published on the Italian website VITA on 11 January 2022.

Luca Jahier, Italian journalist, member of the European Economic and Social Committee since 2002 and Committee president from 2018 to 2020.