New Cyprus Justice and Defence Ministers start work

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New Justice and Defence Ministers, Emily Yiolitis and Charalambos Petrides respectively, got to work on Monday after being sworn in at the Presidential Palace.

Yiolitis and Petrides took over from outgoing ministers George Savvides and Savvas Angelides who were appointed as the country’s Attorney General and Deputy AG.

They were also sworn in during a busy Monday in government.

During the swearing-in ceremony, President Nicos Anastasiades gave a short speech highlighting the importance of the roles assigned to Yiolitis – the second female in cabinet – and Petrides, a former mayor.

He said Yiolitis’ excellence as a lawyer, and her professionalism and academic achievements led him to appoint her as Justice Minister.

“My dear Emily, my dear Charalambos, you receive this position from ministers who have set a high bar,” Anastasiades said, noting that they will have to live up to the standards set with their “honesty, hard-work, determination, impartiality and always respecting meritocracy.”

Anastasiades said that Petrides’ role as Defence Minister will include overseeing reform of the National Guard, adapting to current challenges at a “decisive moment” in Cyprus’ history.

Yiolitis’ briefing includes completing the reform of the justice system, launched by Ionas Nicolaou and carried on by the outgoing George Savvides while seeking to modernise Cypriot law and the penal system.

Addressing Petrides, the president praised the work of previous defence ministers, who reduced national service to 14 months and “the successful integration of 3090 professional soldiers” and other reforms.

While thanking President Anastasiades for entrusting her with the Justice Ministry’s portfolio, Yiolitis said: “We can and ought to deliver the rule of law we promised our fellow citizens. We can and ought to complete the reform of justice.”

Yiolitis is only the second woman to be appointed justice minister since the foundation of the Republic in 1960.

“I will be listening to you, and together we will plan our next steps carefully, decisively and swiftly.”

The new Defense Minister, and former Aglandjia Mayor, said he is fully aware of the task he is undertaking and his responsibility towards the National Guard and the President.

Petrides pledged to respect the idea of “national unity regarding national security, always taking into consideration the whole political establishment and of course Greece’s views”.

A mini reshuffle, a result of the two ministers being appointed at the head of Cyprus legal services combined with the resignation of Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis, is to be completed in July.

Incumbent Deputy Minister of Shipping Natasa Pilides will be taking over Lakkotrypis’ portfolio, while Vasilis Demetriades, a shipping expert serving at the EU will take over the junior ministry.

Pilides, moves to the Energy Ministry from shipping where she was appointed when the ministry was established in March 2018.

Demetriades is believed to be suited for the job, as he is currently coordinating the mid-term review of the EU Maritime Transport Strategy.

The mini reshuffle comes at a crucial time for the island as tensions with Turkey are ratcheting up and great uncertainty remains in the wake of the pandemic, meaning Yiolitis and Petrides will have their hands full.

It is thought to be Anastasiades’ final cabinet shake-up, forming the team that will be with him until the administration expires in 2023.

Petrides and Yiolitis had to be sworn in earlier than the scheduled 10 July after Attorney General Costas Clerides abruptly resigned on Friday.

Clerides has been replaced by Savvides who will have the outgoing Defence Minister Savvas Angelides as his deputy.