I don’t have a clear memory of when I met David Sassoli. I finished my parliamentary term in 2009, at the beginning of his. On the other hand, I remember very well the regular occasions of contact, in my capacity as President of the European Green Party and our last meeting in person, following his somewhat surprise election in 2019 as the Presidency of the European Parliament, to discuss the Greens’ attitude on the Von Der Leyen Commission and the need for a broad alliance against sovereignists.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, our contacts were limited to a few rare phone calls and messages on Whatsapp exchanged until a few days before Christmas. The themes were always the same, apart from a few friendly jokes: how to make Europeans see concretely the role of the EU, how to respond to the attacks of sovereignists and anti-Europeans, and also to the inadequacies, inconsistencies, powerlessness of its representatives. To my frequent protests about the lack of progress of the EU, in particular on human rights and migrants, to which he always reacted, always had a positive answer, encouraging, of trust.
In his speeches, in his affable attitude towards everyone, this very simple and “primary” European passion it was obvious and he seemed almost out of place in the somewhat cynical and often harsh environment of the European institutions. The European Parliament in fact it is not easy to manage. The legislative and budgetary powers it now has, the political divisions and corporate interests that are increasingly present and which reflect the disputes and conflicts between political positions, the different economic sectors, the interference of governments, the Council and the Commission seem to times undermine its credibility as the only institution where European democracy is more evident and also more effective. Sassoli exercised his role by trying to represent with determination its unique and irreplaceable value in the balance of power of the EU.
Very often, seeing it squeezed between Ursula Von der Leyen e Charles Michel or among the various grim members of the European Council, even in the most difficult moments, it seemed to me that his sunny attitude gave a much more credible and sincere image than that of his interlocutors. During the pandemic, I truly found commendable his not at all obvious battle to keep the European Parliament functioning and active, a complex machine with 751 MEPs from 27 countries and working in 23 languages on important laws and regulations; unlike the Italian Parliament, it was possible vote online and conduct debates in plenary and committees and demonstrate that, despite a thousand complications, a parliament can be made to function fully even in times of pandemics.
I knew that his health was precarious from an infection he caught a few months ago and that he had already passed leukemia. But the news of his death has me very much surprise and grieved. Like the many thousands of people who, important or ordinary citizens, remember today their contribution to the European cause and to a human and gentile of politics.
Photo credits © Cristina Castagnoli