Cyprus president in early cabinet reshuffle

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Just ten months into his administration, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides has reshuffled his cabinet, replacing four ministers, as well as five junior ministers and commissioners.

The reshuffle comes a week after announcing his intention to reshape the cabinet before completing 18 months in office that would entitle an official to a ministerial pension.

The new government officials will be sworn in on Wednesday.

The changes will see Vasilis Palmas taking over as Defence Minister from Michalis Giorgallas, Maria Panayiotou succeeding Petros Xenophontos as Agriculture Minister, Marios Hartsiotis assuming the post of Justice Minister from Anna Procopiou, and Michalis Damianos replacing Popi Kanari as Health Minister.

The changes will see two women leaving the cabinet, Kanari and Procopiou, and just one entering the government, resulting in just two female ministers out of eleven.

Furthermore, Nikodemos Damianou has been appointed as the deputy minister of innovation, research, and digital policy, succeeding Philippos Hadjizacharias.

Other appointments include Marilena Raouna in the new post of Deputy Minister of European Affairs, Panayiotis Palates as Commissioner for Citizens, Charalambos Christofinas as the Commissioner for Mountainous Regions, and Antonia Theodosiou as Commissioner for the Environment.

The five other junior ministers remain unchanged.

The reshuffle follows the resignation on Friday of Philippos Hadjizacharias, Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, amid speculation that he would be among those to be replaced by President Christodoulides.

Hadjizacharias was identified as one of four cabinet members slated for dismissal before March this year, with the others being Health Minister Popi Kanari, Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos and Justice Minister Anna Procopiou.

Rumours

Over the weekend, rumours of ministers ready to hand in their resignations had grown.

President Christodoulides had previously announced the reshuffle on December 31, emphasising that the replacements would possess significant expertise in their respective fields.

Announcing the reshuffle on Monday, Christodoulides expressed gratitude for the outgoing ministers’ service and collaboration during their tenure.

New Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis has had his own law office in Limassol since 1990. He has a Master’s degree in Theology from the University of Nicosia, and is a registered arbitrator at the Cyprus Arbitration and Mediation Centre. He is also a registered insolvency practitioner.

Hailing from Polystipos and Larnaca, new Health Minister Michalis Damianos is a barrister with LLB honors from the University of Southampton and an LLM in International law from the University of Cambridge. After working in international law firms in the U.K., Damianos returned to Cyprus. He was elected municipal councillor in Strovolos from 2011 to 2016 and since 2018 has been Vice President of the Democratic Party, a key coalition party supporting President Christodoulides.

The new defence minister, Vasilis Palmas, is no stranger to the Presidential Palace as he was Deputy Minister of State in President Nicos Anastasiades’ government from May 2017 to February 2022.

Born in Limassol in 1964, Palmas studied in political science and public administration. He has served as the President of the Democratic Party Youth (NEDIK) and as the General Secretary of the Democratic Party (DIKO).

Promotion to minister

Maria Panayiotou, the incoming agriculture minister, has been environment commissioner during the past ten months, with a master’s degree in architecture specialising in ecological building and restoration. Born in 1982, in Larnaca, she is a historian and archaeologist, with a PhD in modern and contemporary history from the University of Cyprus.

The new junior minister for innovation, Nikodimos Damianou, was born in Nicosia in 1973. He has a Bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University and a Ph.D. in computer and network management from Imperial College. With expertise in payment systems and fintech, he has been the General Manager of JCC Payment Systems Ltd for the past six years.

Marilena Rauna, born in Larnaca in 1983, takes over the newly established role of Deputy Minister for European Affairs. With a foundation in law and international relations, she brings valuable experience from her previous role as the director of President Christodoulides’ diplomatic office and special councillor to Christodoulides from 2018 to 2021 when he was Foreign Minister.

Raouna studied law at the University of Oxford (BA in Jurisprudence) and pursued postgraduate studies (LLM) in public international and European Law at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences as a Chevening scholar. She holds a degree in French language and culture from the University of Sorbonne.

Taking over as commissioner for the environment, Antonia Theodosiou, is an architect with a master’s degree in architecture from Aachen University of Technology, Germany. She is a member of the Greens Party central committee.

The new Commissioner for the Citizen, Panayiotis Palates was born in Nicosia in 1985. He studied at the school of philosophy at the University of Ioannina and has a degree in archaeology.

Palates completed his postgraduate studies at the University of Strasbourg in France, in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (Sciences Humaines et Sociales).

The newly appointed commissioner for the mountainous areas, Charalambos Christofinas, was born in Kyperounda in 1966.

Christofinas has a degree in political science and public administration. With experience in both the public and private sectors, he has worked at the Water Development Department and the construction services industry.