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Timmermans: “David Sassoli, our struggles and our coffees, nobody knew how to combine like him”

from Francesca Basso, correspondent from Brussels

The vice-president of the EU Commission Frans Timmermans moved remembers his “friend” David Sassoli, who died on January 11: “We were talking about children, young people at the top of his thoughts”

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
BRUSSELS – «It is a moment of great emotion. I lost a friend. The last time we spoke was at Christmas. I sent him a message of good wishes and he immediately called me, we had a chat ». Frans Timmermans he is vice president of the European Commission and was a friend of the president of the EU Parliament David Sassoli , both prominent members of the European socialist family. “He was not very well but not very bad,” says Timmermans, who is moved in remembering his friend who passed away yesterday.

How was your friendship?
“In recent years we have talked to each other every week, we have seen each other very often. David often invited me to lunch and we talked about politics, about Italy, a country that he loved with all his heart and that I love too. We discussed what is happening in Europe and the task of the European Parliament, the Commission: a very intense contact, two years very close. It was difficult for him in the pandemic how to get Parliament to operate. There were different visions in the hemicycle but he was a real one pontifex, he was a builder of bridges, even among politicians who have an enormous distance he knew how to find a way to talk to them, with his way of smiling. I’ve never seen anyone angry with David, he always knew how to find the right way to make the other feel at ease even if he didn’t speak Italian: it took 5 seconds and then Davide had built his bridge. Since becoming President of the European Parliament he has done so. I miss him very much ».

Is there a battle you have waged together?
“Even before he became president, as vice-president of the European Parliament he always helped me in the battle for respect for the rule of law. He was very fond of it, freedom of the press was essential for him, fundamental for the functioning of European and national democracy. He has always given me his support even in the most difficult moments with Poland and Hungary, in the political group and in Parliament. With his open and honest attitude, he contributed to making the EU Parliament a champion of the rule of law and freedom of expression. This is David’s strong bond ».

Were there any moments of confrontation? She is Dutch, David was Italian …
«Not comparison but explanation. Several times he asked me why some harsh statements by some Dutch minister and I tried to explain the national conditions in Holland, the personality of these men. It was our dialogue: I explained what was happening in Holland and he what happened in the Democratic Party and in Italy when we needed it. Even if he was disappointed or angry he always tried to see the other’s point of view, even when he didn’t agree, and for this he asked me for explanations. And he was looking for solutions. This is how we have found common solutions such as Next Generation Eu and that we are finding some on the future of the Stability Pact, on the refugee problem, on the climate problem ».

What is the political legacy?
«Fighting climate change and young people were two deeply linked themes for David. We started every lunch, every coffee we had together, talking about our children, their studies, their loves. David has worked hard to combat youth unemployment in Italy, Spain and Greece, which are affected by this serious problem. Young people were at the center of his political activity. If we want to honor his memory we must focus on the problems of young people, on the opportunities we must give them. Climate policy is linked to this. The bond with young people, how we can build a dialogue with them was a central commitment of his task as president of the EU Parliament ».

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