The death of the European Parliament President David Sassoli is a day of mourning for all those who love Europe and democratic institutions. So it is also – if not above all – for us Liberals. David Sassoli was not a liberal. He was a proud Social Democrat, with a solid Catholic background, but he shared with us the same sincere passion for Europe values, as a political entity even before as an institution.
Above all, he was a man without double faces, from which the Italian Democratic Party should take an example: far from the media clamor, despite the fact that he was an active part of the media for thirty years, even becoming the deputy director of the news program of RAI first channel.
When he chose to do politics, he changed his life and perspective, and remained faithful to the founding values of his party and of social democracy, avoiding being overwhelmed by the wave of vulgar utilitarian populism to the mere electoral survival of which the Democratic Party in Italy is imbued. Politeness, measure, and fight against all totalitarianisms have always been his cipher.
When he decided to go into politics, David Sassoli had immediately chosen Europe and also for this reason he was an element of rupture in Italy. In a country like Italy, where politics has always seen – and partly still sees – Brussels and its institutions at best as a “fallback”, for those candidates who were defeated in national elections to whom, however, everyone was owed costs to offer an armchair, or even as a “gym” where to keep warm candidates to be launched on the Italian stage, as if after all the European Union were something small and minor compared to “Big Italy”, Sassoli has overturned this perspective. Never a thought of ‘returning’ to Italy: Europe was his ideal place.
“The European Union is not an accident of history. (…) We are not an accident of history, but the children and grandchildren of those who managed to find the antidote to that nationalist degeneration that has poisoned our history. “
(David Sassoli, July 3rd 2019, Inauguration speech to the
Presidency of the European Parliament)
Back straight to the rule of law
Sassoli was a proud and convinced European, not only because he was the president of the European Parliament but because in Europe he really believed. It was also thanks to his determination that Next Generation EU funds were frozen in countries like Hungary and Poland: “That money cannot be given to those who continually violate the rule of law,” he said.
For this he had become the favorite target of Orbàn and Morawiecki and for this reason the Russian President Putin had included him in the small group of “unwelcome people”. Sassoli replied determined: “Apparently, I’m not welcome in the Kremlin. I suspected it a little. No sanctions or intimidation will stop the European Parliament or me from defending human rights, freedom and democracy. Threats will not silence us. As Tolstoy wrote, there is no greatness where there is no truth “.
When he was elected President of the European Parliament in 2019, as a first act he decided to pay tribute to all the victims of terrorism in Europe by visiting the Maalbeek metro station, one of the sites of the Brussels attacks in 2016.
It is very unlikely that Italy will regain in Europe a personality with such a high sense of EU institutions as Sassoli and probably, without the decisive mediation of him and of the commissioner for the economy Paolo Gentiloni, who was a friend of Sassoli before being a party mate, the Italy would not have been able to get all the money it managed to get from the post-pandemic funds.
In a country where politics today is divided between the vulgar screams of those who wink at fascism and those of those who have elevated ignorance to virtue, Sassoli represented the opposite example and that is why all those who will miss him – regardless of political ideas – they think that politics is above all a service and a mission.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Sassoli in person, but for me who do what for years has been his own job, that is the journalist, the greatest memory is the competence and correctness with which he carried out his work at Rai TG1: never biased, even without hiding his political ideas.
From the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the great investigation that disrupted the Italian party system in the early 1990s, to all the main political and non-political investigations, Sassoli has been a model of professionalism for us journalists, capable of remaining serious and credible, even when, during the evening news, he agreed to get involved in a live gag from a popular italian showman.
He had recently come to my region at some public events and one official visit and as a journalist he had stopped to talk to all his colleagues in our profession and how this had been swallowed up by a vortex that made it increasingly difficult and complex, discredited by those who every day would like to pull her jacket for her own interests. He had also remained a journalist as a man of the institutions, because when he is a journalist, he remains one forever. An aspect that many colleagues, once they become politicians, seem have forgotten. Because as he loved to say: “You can live and die in many ways”.
- Emanuele Lombardini is our blog editor-in-chief. He is an experienced journalist, a Libdem, Italian and passionate European.
The opinions on this blog are of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of ELfR.