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Politics

Greece Names Cypriot to Head Climate Crisis Ministry, Fires Response

September 6, 2021

ATHENS – Reaching outside the country, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appointed Cyprus’ former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, to lead the new Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry.

Mitsotakis had to regroup after his first appointee, retired Army General Evangelos Apostolakis – who had served SYRIZA as Armed Forces Chief – stepped down hours before being sworn in when the leftists accused him of wanting to serve his country and not the party. Stylianides, a Cypriot citizen, was to be named an honorary Greek citizenship in order to serve, in line with Greek law, no explanation why Mitsotakis – whose Cabinet also includes three former far-right wingers who jumped to the Conservatives – didn’t name a party member for the post. “I accepted it with full awareness of the challenges and expectations,”said Stylianides, reported Kathimerini, the job entailing overseeing responses to disasters such as the wildfires that consumed parts of the country this summer.

“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,” said Stylianides, who had served as spokesman for Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in 2013-14. Mitsotakis said there were lapses in responses to the fires and ousted former Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who was booted from the former PASOK Socialist party for taking the position. Stylianides, 63, was also a Deputy to the European Parliament, the Cypriot Parliament and Cyprus’ ruling conservative Democratic Rally (DISY).

He has a dentistry degree from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and has completed an executive education program in International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said Kathimerini. He also 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, suspected of corruption, who then resigned. Former Chief of the Air Force Staff, Evangelos Tournas, was appointed the Deputy Minister for the new agency, government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou told news reporters. Tournas said the appointment is “a personal honor and a collective challenge” which includes strengthening the capabilities of the Fire Department” with an emphasis “on the best preparation and… prevention.”

He added: “It’s a challenge for which everyone is needed,” as Mitsotakis said the fires were largely caused by climate change which brought a record heat wave that turned forests – that hadn’t been cleared and where unlawful dumping had taken place – into tinderboxes.

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