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President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, dies

After contracting pneumonia last September, Sassoli had spent more than two months recovering in his home country and had recently returned to politics
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AFP/FREDERICK FLORIN  -   : AFP/FREDERICK FLORIN - President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli

European Parliament President David Sassoli died on Tuesday at the age of 65 after more than two weeks in hospital in Italy due to complications following a dysfunction of his immune system, his spokesman Roberto Cuillo said.

"The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, died at 1.15am on 11 January," Cuillo announced on Twitter.

He said the death occurred at the Oncology Reference Centre (CRO) in Aviano, Italy, where he was hospitalised.

The Italian politician's spokesman added that "the date and place of the funeral will be communicated in the coming hours".

After contracting pneumonia in September, Sassoli had spent more than two months recovering in his home country and had recently returned to politics when he was admitted to an Italian hospital on 26 December for "serious complications following a dysfunction of his immune system".

His admission was not made public until Monday, a fortnight later, when his spokesperson announced the cancellation of all his public events.

Following this announcement, the social networks of the leaders of the European institutions and several of the heads of the main groups in the European Parliament, as well as the Italian political class, were filled with expressions of support and affection for the President of the European Parliament.

The Italian Social Democrat, who before entering politics had a long career in journalism, was appointed President of the European Parliament in July 2019 and was in the final week of his mandate, as next Tuesday the Parliament will elect a new President as it reaches the halfway point of its term of office (2019-2024).

This is the first time in the history of the European Parliament that a sitting President has died.

According to Parliament's rules of procedure, the first Vice-President must act as President until a successor is elected.

In this case, the first Vice-President is Roberta Metsola of the European People's Party (EPP) from Malta, who was already a favourite to win the post in next week's reshuffle in Strasbourg, France.