Epoch-making transformations “need new ideas, the courage to combine great wisdom and utmost audacity”, such as those of the “founding fathers” of the Community. In these historical circumstances “we must have the strength to relaunch our integration process”, so that the EU may “be able to respond more strongly to the needs of our citizens and give real answers to their concerns, to their increasingly widespread sense of loss.” David Maria Sassoli is the new President of the European Parliament. He was elected in Strasbourg in the second round of voting. Sassoli replaces outgoing conservative president Antonio Tajani. Italy has thus reconfirmed its – otherwise non-obvious – presence in the EU legislature’s top role.
Eurosceptics out of the picture. Sassoli received 345 votes on a total of 704 cast votes: 37 blank and void ballots and 667 valid votes. The required majority for his election was thus 334 votes. The other candidates received votes: Ska Keller (Greens) 119; Sira Rego (United Left) 43; Jan Zahradil (Conservatives) 160. The parliamentary majority that supported Sassoli’s name is clearly “Europeanist.” In fact EPP and Renew Europe (liberals) had not submitted their own candidate to favour the election of Sassoli who, in two and a half years, will hand over the post to an EPP representative, almost certainly Manfred Weber. The ”Eurosceptic” groups remained out of the picture.
From journalism to politics. David Sassoli was born in Florence on 30 May 1956. He has a long journalistic career behind him: he started out in small newspapers, eventually working for Italian newspaper Il Giorno, and in 1992 for Italian state-owned news programme Tg3.
In 1999 he joined the editorial staff of Tg1 (becoming a popular anchorman); in 2007 he was appointed deputy director. In his youth he was involved in educational associations and Catholic youth movements.
On 7 June 2009, he was elected MEP for Italy’s Democratic Party (PD) with over 400,000 votes. In 2014 he ran again for the European elections in the constituency of Central Italy and won over 200,000 preferences. On 1 July of the same year he was elected Vice-President of the European Parliament. On 26 May 2019 he was re-elected for a third term with 128,533 votes.
Liberty, dignity and solidarity. In his acceptance speech at the European Parliament, delivered off the cuff, Sassoli defined the Euro Chamber an institution “which more than any other has a direct connection with the citizens, having the duty to represent and defend them.” And it was to EU citizens that he addressed his remarks, laying the cornerstones of his presidency. “Our freedom – he said with evident emotion – is the product of the justice that we will be able to achieve and the solidarity that we will be able to foster.” “We’re making a start to a parliamentary term where events place a great responsibility on our shoulders. No one can be content with the mere preservation of the status quo.” For Sassoli it is necessary to defend and promote the “founding values of freedom, dignity and solidarity”, every day, inside and outside the EU. Our economic regulations must include “growth as well as social and environmental protection.”
“In love with our Countries.” “We are Europeans also because we are in love with our Countries”, said the President-elect. “However, when nationalism becomes ideology and idolatry, it produces viruses that fuel a sense of superiority and cause destructive conflicts.” David Sassoli recalled his history “marked by suffering” (he mentioned his mother and his father), similar to the stories of many European citizens,
segnata dal “desiderio di fraternità che ritroviamo ogni qual volta la coscienza morale impone di non rinunciare alla propria umanità e l’obbedienza non può considerarsi virtù”.Illustrating the tasks awaiting the new Parliament, Mr Sassoli called for “reinforced procedures to play a leading role in a European fully-fledged democracy” along with the need for “Europe to improve its social sphere and citizens’ protection.”
Reform of the Dublin regulations and immigrations. Addressing the “Ladies and Gentlemen of the European Council”, Mr. Sassoli said that “the time has come to discuss the reform of the Dublin Regulation that this Chamber, by an overwhelming majority, put forward in the previous term.” As regards environmental protection, he said the institutions “should feel a duty to respond to our young people’s demands” to save the planet “with greater courage.” He extended his greetings to the European countries that have applied for EU membership. Addressing pro-Brexit MEPs he said that this “political transition must be pursued with reasonableness, in dialogue and friendship, while always respecting the rules and the respective prerogatives.” Europe still has a lot to say if “we are able to put the political debate at the service of our citizens, and if Parliament listens to their requests, fears and needs” with “heart and ambition”, he declared in the concluding remarks.
Top job to Italy. Until a few days ago Sassoli’s election was anything but a foregone conclusion. The – westward-leaning – agreement reached by heads of Government and State on EU top positions (presidents of the Commission, Council and ECB, High Representative) partly influenced Parliament vote,
although on the sidelines of the Assembly everyone denies that Parliament has been influenced in a choice which falls within its exclusive competence.
Bridging the gap. What can this EU do to draw closer to its citizens? President Sassoli answered SIR’s question highlighting the need to step up communication, “for in most cases citizens are uninformed on the activity of European institutions”, and stressed the “concreteness” of Euro-Chamber decisions, which impact citizens’ daily life, Mr. Sassoli called for concerted effort to bridge the “gap between citizens and the Union”: “how can the European Parliament be the home of citizens if it fails to open its doors to civil society”, if it fails to pursue a permanent relationship and dialogue with 500 million inhabitants of the EU countries?
Plenary session. After the President’s election, MEPs will meet in plenary sitting in Strasbourg to elect 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors. A debate – expected to be lively – is scheduled for 4 July between MEPs, the Commission (Juncker) and the Council (Tusk) on the decisions taken at the European Council on the EU’s top jobs.