In a surprise move, Greece appointed former Cypriot EU humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides as the head of its newly formed Climate and Civil Protection Ministry.
Although Stylianides will not be the first Cypriot to hold office in a Greek government, he is the first Cypriot needing to be given an ‘emergency’ honourary citizenship to be ushered in, as he has no ties with Greece.
Stylianides’ appointment has caused mixed reactions ranging from messages of endorsement to scenarios of Greece’s interference in Cyprus politics as he is rumoured to be running in the 2023 Presidential elections.
Analysts in Nicosia interpret the move as a career step before returning to Cyprus to claim the Presidency of the Republic in two years.
In Greece, opposition circles have criticised Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis’ decision to appoint a Cypriot ‘outsider’ to fill a critical post in his government, overlooking candidates from Greece.
Stylianides will be in charge of services responding to wildfires after Greece suffered destructive wildfires this summer.
Over 58 major wildfires broke out across Greece during August, destroying a quarter of a million acres of forests.
Kostas Vaxevanis, an outspoken critic of Mitsotakis and journalist, blasted the Prime minister, saying he could not comprehend the need to bring in Stylianides.
“In a country of 11 million and tens of thousands of neo-democrats (members of the ruling New Democracy Party), Mitsotakis did not find one to appoint as Minister.
“And we are not talking about a Ministry of Nuclear Energy, for which difficulties would be understandable…” Vaxevanis tweeted.
But Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has welcomed the move, congratulating Stylianides for his appointment, wishing him success.
Stylianides, 63, is no stranger to crisis management as he has served as the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner from 2014 until 2019.
In 2014, he briefly served as the European Union’s Ebola Coordinator.
He was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in May 2014, where he served until October 31, 2014, to become a commissioner.
Stylianides holds a dentistry degree from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and has completed an executive education program in International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
In Cyprus, Stylianides has served as government spokesperson twice.
Once under Glafcos Clerides in 1998-99, and a second stint for President Anastasiades, in 2013-14.
Stylianides is not the first Cypriot to serve in the Greek government.
The first was Loukis Akritas, who served as Deputy Minister of Press and Information in 1944, lead by George Papandreou following the country’s liberation from Nazi Germany.
In 1964, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Education, in charge of implementing the Educational Reform proposed by Evangelos Papanoutsos.
Yiannos Kranidiotis, also of Cypriot origin, served Greece as a diplomat.
He was initially appointed Deputy Foreign Minister in 1994, until January 1995.
In 1997, he was re-appointed Deputy Foreign Minister, a post he held until his death on 14 September 1999.
Currently, Nobel Prize winner for Economics, Sir Christopher Pissarides, is serving as an economic advisor to Mitsotakis.
In September 2020, he picked Pissarides to chair a committee tasked with drafting a long-term growth strategy for the country.
Stylianides will be sworn in on Friday.