Italian Socialist David Sassoli was elected Wednesday to the presidency of the European Parliament for a term of two and a half years. His election, after two rounds of voting, could facilitate the approval of the choice of the German Ursula von der Leyen to take the presidency of the European Commission.

“We must have the strength to relaunch our integration process, changing our Union so to be able to respond more strongly to the needs of our citizens and give real answers to their concerns, to their increasingly widespread sense of loss,” said the new president of the chamber after his election, at a brief address to the MEPs.

Underlining the priorities that the Parliament will have to pursue in the coming years, Sassoli added that “youth unemployment, migration, climate change, the digital revolution, the new world balance, just to name a few, which need new ideas and courage”.

At 662 votes cast, 37 of which were blank or void, Sassoli received 345 MEP votes, just 11 over the 334 majority threshold. The European Conservatives and Reformists candidate, Jan Zahradil got 160 votes, the Greens candidate Ska Keller 119 and Sira Rego of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) 43.

Sassoli got 325 votes on the first round, just seven short of a majority, while Zahradil got 162 votes coming second, Keller third by surprise with 133 votes and Rego last with 42.

The 63-year-old former journalist from Florence has been a member of the Strasbourg Parliament since 2009.

A vote for the new EU Parliament’s presidency had been postponed to 3 July 2019 following the European Parliament’s inaugural session on 2 July.