EU Parliament President Sassoli: The legacy of conflict avoidance

Status: 11.01.2022 10:19 a.m.

Sassoli came as an alternative candidate for his office as President of the EU Parliament. He could hardly set his own accents, but harmonized well with the head of the commission – his successor should now benefit from that.

By Holger Beckmann, ARD-Studio Brussels

David Sassoli was definitely one thing: a sharp critic of right-wing populists and nationalists – in his time in the European Parliament as well as in his home country Italy, where he was a journalist and TV presenter for the RAI.

Holger Beckmann
ARD studio Brussels

“National Socialism and racism are not opinions, but crimes” – this is how the social democratic politician, who was born in Florence in 1956, repeatedly put it.

At the head of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels, he hardly missed an opportunity to remind Europe of its own responsibility for refugees – and of the fact that the European Union still does not, many years after the peak of the so-called refugee crisis finds common migration and asylum policy. For Sassoli it was an untenable situation.

Instead of Weber came into office

But overall, Sassoli was still considered a less than charismatic political head. When the top EU jobs were re-sorted and awarded in the summer of 2019 after the European Parliament elections, hardly anyone had expected him.

He was something of an alternative candidate after the German CSU European Parliamentarian Manfred Weber did not become President of the EU Commission, although as the top candidate of the European Christian Democrats, who were still strong in the elections, he should have and wanted to be. But the EU member states did not want to – and installed Ursula von der Leyen.

Compensation had to be found for Weber – it was agreed to split the term of office of the President of Parliament: the first two and a half years went to the Social Democrat Sassoli, then Weber was to follow. So that would have been almost now. But Manfred Weber had lost his ambitions and Sassoli wanted to extend.

My own accents hardly met with any response

That would not have happened, however, his renewed candidacy was considered hopeless even in his social-democratic party family. It was said again and again from those around him that he was not able to distinguish himself sufficiently enough in his office – the corona pandemic was to blame.

He had tried again and again – and not only when it came to migration, but also when it came to conjuring up European unity – especially during the Corona era: “This crisis needs a European answer – namely common European debts” was his plea. Corona bonds or similar things are the means of choice – “Anyone who claims that they can manage this on their own is wrong. That would be the wrong way, I think.”

Agreement with the head of the commission

Sassoli avoided conflicts with the EU Commission. On the contrary, he emphasized whether in common European debts, in Brexit or in the question of how the European Parliament should get more rights in the future, the common ground with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. And for her part, when she was inaugurated, she promised to give the so-called Spitzenkandidatystem in EU parliamentary elections more space in order to strengthen parliament and its influence.

Sassoli’s successor, whom Brussels had already agreed on in recent weeks, may benefit from this: it is the 42-year-old conservative Maltese politician Roberta Metsola – the first woman to hold this post after almost 20 years.

Sassoli himself had repeatedly had to cancel appointments due to illnesses in the past few months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *