Cypriot politician Christos Stylianides has stepped in as Greece’s new shipping minister after Miltiades Varvitsiotis resigned on Monday over the death of a passenger who was pushed off a ferry he tried to board in Piraeus.
The Greek port police are investigating the death of 36 year old Antonis Kargiotis last week when he tried to board the Blue Horizon just as it was disembarking.
He was pushed off the gangway by the ship’s crew as the ferry raised anchor and was moving away. According to port security camera images, the young man fell into the sea but drowned as he got caught in the departing vessel’s powerful wake.
Port police have also been criticised for not being on scene when the incident occurred.
Varvitsiotis caused public furore for making “unfortunate” comments about the incident.
He was quoted as saying that, “there are those who mourn the lost life and those who mourn the people who went to work in an effort to earn a living and today find themselves facing murder charges.”
The minister later apologised, saying he never intended to equate the victim with the perpetrators.
He posted on X saying, “in no way did I wash away the responsibilities that the ship-owning company has, which it still refuses to assume.”
Varvitsiotis has served in various posts during the present and past Mitsotakis administrations, and minister of shipping in 2013-2015.
The new Greek shipping minister was a dentist until he got actively engaged in Cyprus politics in the late 1990s with the Democratic Rally (DISY) party.
Christos Stylianides, 65, was considered a rising star in Cyprus politics, serving first as government spokesman and later close aide to former President Glafcos Clerides, especially during the troubling years of the UN’s “Annan Plan” to reunite the island in a federal solution, which he openly supported.
He was elected to the Cyprus parliament for two terms and briefly served as government spokesman under President Nicos Anastasiades.
MEP and Commissioner
In April 2014 he was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for DISY and the European Popular Party and later that year was appointed European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, a post he held for five years.
Stylianides gained popularity for being the EU’s point person through the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, was on the ground during humanitarian crises, such as earthquakes, floods and the Syrian refugee crisis.
Sidelined by the Anastasiades administration and DISY leadership as a potential presidential candidate with strong hopes of being elected, Christos Stylianides was hand picked by Kyriakos Mitsotakis as Greece’s first minster of climate control and civil protection.
He stepped down in May 2023 and was elected an MP in the June elections for the Hellenic Parliament.
News reports said that Stylianides was asked by Mitsotakis to consider a future government post, prior to Varvitsiotis’s resignation.