Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appointed Christos Stylianides, a former European Commissioner of Cyprus, to take over leadership of the new Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry on Monday.
The new ministry was set up to manage crises and natural disasters, such as the terrible fires experienced by the country in August.
The position of Deputy Civil Protection Minister will be filled by former Air Force general of staff chief Evangelos Tournas.
Stylianides served as European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management in the Juncker Commission between 2014 and 2019.
Stylianides to receive Greek citizenship
Stylianides, a Cypriot citizen, will receive an honorary Greek citizenship in order to serve ahead of his swearing in ceremony on Friday, in line with Greek law.
“I accepted it with full awareness of the challenges and expectations,” the Cypriot official said of his appointment after the announcement. “The consequences of climate change have overtaken us and we must accelerate the major changes without delay. Disaster prevention and preparedness is the most effective weapon we have,” Stylianides said in a social media post.
Stylianides, the son of a shopkeeper, was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus. In 1984, he received his degree as a dental surgeon from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. He later received executive education in International Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He served as government spokesman under President Glafcos Clerides in 1998-99, resigning in protest at the cabinet’s support of then-Interior Minister Dinos Michailides, who was suspected of corruption. Michailides resigned two days later.
Stylianides also had another short stint as spokesman under current Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, in 2013-14.
Stylianides considered a “hardcore Europeanist”
Considered a “hardcore Europeanist”, Stylianides advocated Cyprus’s accession to the European Union as far back as the mid-1990s, when he co-founded the Movement for Political Modernisation and Reform, despite the initial skepticism of many on the political scene.
Although Stylianides is widely regarded a liberal by inclination, his political career has always been with the center-right Democratic Rally party, DISY, on the grounds that it takes a more conciliatory approach to reuniting Cyprus.
He supported the controversial United Nations-brokered blueprint for Cyprus known as the Annan plan, which called for an end to the island’s division and for reunification of its two feuding communities in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
In a referendum in 2004, the plan was accepted by a majority of Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Stylianides’ fellow Greeks Cypriots.
The appointment of Stylianides follows the fiasco of the Greek cabinet reshuffle last week. Initially, Mitsotakis announced Evangelos Apostolakis, a former SYRIZA government minister for the ministerial post. However, a few hours later Apostolakis rejected the post saying that there was no political consensus for his appointment.
The position was left unfilled until Monday.