He was the historic leader of the Radical Party (the first expression of the Radicals in post-World War II Italy was the Italian Radical Party, founded in 1955). Between 1979 and 2009, he was a Member of the European Parliament, where he sat as a full member in the Committee on Legal Affairs, in the Committee on Budgetary Control and in the Delegation for relations with Israel. He was also President of the Nonviolent Radical Party.
He's considered an example of left-libertarian and liberal socialist.
Marco Pannella was born in Teramo (Abruzzo) from an Italian father and a Swiss mother on 2 May 1930.
He attended the classical lyceum Julius Caesar in Rome. In 1955 Pannella graduated in law at the University of Urbino.
At 20 years old, Pannella became a national representative at the university level for the Italian Liberal Party (PLI), member of the student association Unione Goliardica Italiana (UGI) and at 23 he was President of the Unione Nazionale degli Studenti, (National Union of Students).
At 24 he promoted the foundation of the Partito Radicale (hereinafter the "Radical Party"). From 1960 to 1963, he was in Paris as a correspondent of the Italian newspaper Il Giorno. During his long political career, Pannella co-founded a series of organizations such as the Italian league for divorce, the League for objection of conscience, the League for the abrogation of the Agreement between the Catholic Church and the Italian State (Concordat), the Centre of legal initiative "Piero Calamandrei", as well as the Italian Association for Demographic Education (AIED). He has been at the forefront of the promotion of important reforms regarding narcotics and faced incarceration on various occasions for his civil disobediences. He played a prominent role in the movement that led to the legalization of abortion in Italy in 1978. He also promoted actions to grant electoral rights for Italians aged 18.
Engaged in the defence of civil rights in Eastern European countries, in 1968, he was arrested in Sofia for having distributed leaflets against the Communist regime. He was one of the first promoters and founders of the Green and ecologist political movements in Europe.
Over the years, he was engaged in Italy in the defence of civil rights as well as against the public financing of political parties and against corruption of Italian politics. Beginning in the 1970s, Pannella promoted a series of referendums on themes ranging from social to political issues, in particular on those relating to the legality of the State, the rule of law and to the administration of justice.
He was elected to the European Parliament in 1979. He sat in the Technical Group of Independents which was a technical alliance of left wing MEPs who were not allied with either the Soviet influenced Communist parties or the mainstream Social Democratic parties. He served as chair of the group along with the hardline Irish Republican Neil Blaney and Danish left-wing Eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde.Throughout the 1980s, he promoted international anti-prohibitionist campaigns on drugs and was one of the founders of the Radical Antiprohibitionist Coordination (CORA) and of the International Antiprohibitionist League.
A believer in Gandhian nonviolence, Pannella carried out several hunger strikes in Italy and elsewhere to defend civil rights and to end extermination through starvation the world over. This included a hunger strike in 2007, to protest against the death penalty. This strike was set off by the hanging of Saddam Hussein. A hunger strike in April 2014 to protest Italian prison conditions resulted in Pannella having to have surgery.
A disciple of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, Pannella was one of the first European Federalists and fought, through nonviolent means, for the creation of the European Union.
He was elected Secretary of the Radical Party in November 1981 and remained in office until November 1983. At the RP Congress in Budapest in 1989, he launched the creation of the Transnational Radical Party of which he became president of the Federal Council on that occasion.
In 2003, he created together with other prominent European personalities the Medbridge Strategy Center, whose goal is to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between Europe and the Middle-East.
He was honorary President of the Party of the Rom (ROI) in the Czech Republic and he was also honorary member of the Socialist Slovene Youth. The Jewish National Fund (Hebrew: קרן קימת לישראל, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) dedicated him a reforestation area in the Negev Desert in Israel.
In October 2011, he became a member of the French Federalist Party in order to take part in the founding convention of the European Federalist Party which took place on 5/6 November 2011. Thus he became a founding member of the European Federalist Party.
Pannella had never been married and had no children. He had been living for several decades with his girlfriend Mirella Parachini. In 2010, he alluded in an interview to the fact that Parachini and he had always been in an open relationship "without jealousy". In the same interview, Pannella admitted to being bisexual and to having had "three or four" significant relationships with other men. He was an atheist.
Pannella died on 19 May 2016 of cancer, after agreeing to be sedated. The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi described him as a "lion of freedom".