President of the European Parliament David Sassoli has died at the age of 65.
Sassoli died early Tuesday morning in a hospital in the north-eastern Italian municipality of Aviano, his spokesman confirmed to the press.
On Monday the EU parliament confirmed he had been admitted to hospital in Italy on December 26 "because of a serious complication due to a dysfunction of the immune system."
The Italian centre-left politician spent several days in hospital in September with pneumonia. He also had to skip the legislature's October plenary session due to illness.
The Centro di Riferimento Oncologico hospital in Aviano did not respond to requests for information early Tuesday morning.
Sassoli told the Italian the Corriere della Sera newspaper last month that he was not planning to stand for re-election in early 2022.
His spokesman said on Twitter that the time and place of the funeral would be announced in the coming hours.
From journalism to politics
"Ciao David, lifelong friend," Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini tweeted, in one of the first reactions to the news.
Born in Florence on May 30, 1956, Sassoli had been a member of the EU assembly for more than 10 years, following a switch from journalism to politics.
Sassoli belonged to the Social Democratic party Partito Democratico (PD).
He had been president of the European Parliament since July 2019, replacing his compatriot Antonio Tajani from the conservative Forza Italia.
Before that, he had been vice president of the EU parliament 2014 to 2019 and worked for around three years (2014 to 2017) as a representative of then-European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
He got his start in journalism working for smaller newspapers, eventually joining the Rome daily Il Giornio in 1985.
Sassoli later switched to television. His former role as a presenter of the main evening news on RAI public television means that Sassoli's face is quite well known in Italy.
He was critical of many EU members' migration policies and repeatedly advocated on behalf of migrants.
In Italy, migration is a contentious subject, especially between left and right-wing parties, as a large number of migrants arrive in the Mediterranean country in boats in a bid to get into the EU.
Sassoli was also considered a progressive Catholic. According to his party, he was a boy scout and was involved in Catholic youth groups.
He was married and had two children.