Newly-elected European Parliament President David Sassoli is a former television journalist who turned to politics ten years ago as a centre-left MEP.
Parliament on Wednesday chose the 63-year-old social democrat to succeed another Italian, Antonio Tajani, an ally of Silvio Berlusconi from the right-wing EPP group.
His election means Italy keeps one of its three key European jobs, following the departure of European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
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The sober intellectual will not be an ally of the populist coalition currently ruling in Rome.
Born in Florence on May 30th, 1956, father-of-two Sassoli studied political science before starting work as a newspaper and news agency journalist. He began working for national broadcaster Rai in 1992, rising through the ranks to become a familiar face for millions of Italians, presenting the evening news on the main channel, of which he also became deputy director.
In 2009, Sassoli joined the Democratic Party, newly formed from former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni's union of the two main left-wing and centre-left parties. His celebrity meant he was elected MEP on the DP's list with a whopping 400,000 votes, sending him from Italian television screens to a new career at the European parliament.
Sassoli became head of the DP's European group and briefly attempted to enter national politics as the party's candidate in Rome's mayoral primaries but was beaten by Ignazio Marino, who went on to become mayor.
David Sassoli with his predecessor, fellow Italian Antonio Tajani. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP
Re-elected MEP in 2014, Sassoli became parliament's vice-president in charge of the budget and Euro-Mediterranean policy. “While in charge of this policy, I represented the European parliament at numerous official occasions, developing dialogue with institutions in Mediterranean and Middle East countries,” Sassoli writes on his webpage.
He was the joint author of the Sassoli-Dijksma European railway reform which liberalised rail travel in 2017 after three years of complex negotiations.
“I have not completely abandoned my journalist career, I still collaborate in an active way with various dailies and periodicals,” he writes. He co-wrote a book with Francesco Saverio Romano about the drama of cabinet meetings during the 1978 kidnap and murder of prime minister Aldo Moro by far-left militants.
“If you put your trust in me, we will fight together for a parliament that is modern, more transparent, environmentally sound, accessible to citizens,” he promised fellow MEPs ahead of the vote on his nomination.
“Nothing is possible without people, nothing is durable without institutions,” he added, quoting one of the EU's founding fathers, Jean Monnet.