“L’European Union it’s not a accident of history“. A sentence that for David Sassoli it has become a political program. Repeated once, twice, three times in his inauguration speech as president of the EU Parliament, it has become the most faithful testament of his mandate to Brussels started right in the middle of the season national-populism, of the bitter divisions among the then 28 member states, of the Brexit experienced as a wound difficult to heal, of the clashes on the issue migrants, for which he always asked solidarity both inside and outside the EU, and on respect for the rule of law. He inherited the most important seat of the Plenary in a Europe that has never been so weak and remained at the helm until the end, after almost two years of pandemic which further undermined the resilience of the Community institutions.
“I am the son of a man who at 20 fought against other Europeans. And I’m a mother’s son. She too, at the age of 20, left her home and found refuge with other families ”. All of this was no longer supposed to happen and for this reason, from that first message of his, decisive but moving, delivered in front of his colleagues at the Eurochamber, he underlined the importance of “That eagerness for justice” that “Desire for fraternity” which should never have been given up again, putting the “nationalist degeneration that has poisoned our history ”the antidote found by the founding fathers of Europe.
Flashes of that degeneration, during his tenure, David Sassoli had to fight them from the start. He inherited a Europe to which he returned barbed wire curtains, where laws were passed that they limited freedoms of judges, journalists, human rights defenders and minorities, where mass immigration wanted to respond with barriers, i closed ports, the use of the military force and the criminalization of NGOs. His commitment against this illiberal drift it is also testified by the behavior of the deputies of the time Brexit Party from Nigel Farage who, on the occasion of that first speech of his, decided to desert the Plenary. It was only the first attack on Sassoli and his idea of Union. Then there were others, like the your back turned during the’Ode to joy during the first session or the personal attack on him by the former MEP Belinda de lucy, also a member of the British anti-European party, which accused him of “direct interference with the internal politics” of his country for having met the President of Parliament in London during the period of talks on the separation of the Kingdom from the EU, defining his “immoral action, be ashamed”.
But on this Sassoli has never taken any step backwards. As well as on respect for human rights. In a Europe less and less supportive and increasingly attracted by the temptation of new barriers, of new walls, he was the only president of the European institutions, unlike his colleagues Ursula von der Leyen e Charles Michel, which did not just put the veto on European funding to these barriers, but to define them as the symptom of “A certain moral degradation”: “The Union cannot become one fortress against the poor people escaping from war, hunger or infamous regimes – he had declared in an interview with Republic last October – Protecting our borders, especially when they are threatened by authoritarian regimes, is a duty towards our citizens, but building walls against desperate people would be a denial of our values and lose our humanity“. The good memory he dedicated to him also testifies to this Mediterranea Saving Humans on Twitter, one of the NGOs committed to saving migrants in the waters of the Mediterranean: “They attacked you from all sides for that choice, to let us who were under investigation speak for the rescue missions at sea of migrants – they write referring to one of the events organized for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Europe Day – The same courage had led you to meet numerous other times the associations involved in civil relief in the Mediterranean and your words against the policies of walls and pushbacks have always been very clear . You have done many things to help people migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, people stranded at sea waiting for a safe harbor and held hostage by unscrupulous ministers just for electoral propaganda. Things that aren’t public, but we know why you never backed down when we called you on the phone. A friend is leaving with you, a respectable person, a piece of that Europe that we dream of and for which we continue to fight ”.
He too dreamed of that Europe, so much so that the commitment in defense of human rights went beyond the battle over the solidarity response to the migratory crisis, the one that at the beginning of his mandate he defined “The starting point” together with the abolition of the right of veto in the EU Council, while the rest of the European leaders focused on green turn. In fact, he fought on the front line against the arrest in Russia of Alexei Navalny, after his return from Germany following hospitalization for poisoning from Novichok. After the sanctions imposed by the EU, he and other officials and members of EU institutions ended up in the blacklist from Vladimir Putin come “persona non grata”. “Apparently I’m not welcome at Kremlin? I suspected it a little – he later commented on Twitter – No sanctions or intimidation will stop me or the European Parliament from defending human rights, freedom and democracy. Threats will not silence us“.
He had time, however, to witness the first victory in one of the last battles waged in defense of human rights: that for the liberation of Patrick Zaki. He who on June 16, for the 30th birthday of the Egyptian student of the University of Bologna, had given Twitter a harsh message of condemnation against the authorities in Cairo: “Today Patrick Zaki will spend his 30th birthday in Egyptian prisons. Zaki did nothing, he did not commit any crimes. His detention is a disgrace for those who believe in human values and fundamental human rights. Greetings, Patrick. We will not leave you alone “. Zaki was released on 8 December last and today he too published his memory of the President of the EU Parliament: “He had followed my case for two years with real passion and interest – he wrote – He had never missed an opportunity to talk about me and ask for immediate release. Not just for me, but for every prisoner of conscience. Such misfortune not to have had a chance to meet, but in the few tweets we exchanged he knows how much I appreciate him and his efforts. May his soul rest in eternal peace ”.
His, however, was also a mandate characterized by pandemic from coronavirus, which exploded in Europe about six months after his election and which forced him, like all MEPs, to remain physically out of the EU institutions for many months. A situation that Sassoli suffered immediately, so much so that he wanted to accelerate the recovery of the Strasbourg Plenary in attendance since last June, also exposing himself to the criticisms of those who said they were against it. The words of thanks for the effort made by the European machine Sassoli had somehow already pronounced during his moving speech which took place a year earlier, at the end of the extraordinary session in July 2020: “They were very difficult months – he said – We went out of their way to make Parliament work. And with the functioning of the Parliament we have made the European Union work ”.