The Greek government confirmed on Monday that former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, will head the newly formed Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry.
Former Chief of the Air Force Staff, Evangelos Tournas, was appointed deputy minister, government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou said opening a press briefing on Monday.
Stylianides, a Cypriot citizen, will receive an honorary Greek citizenship in order to serve ahead of his swearing in ceremony on Friday, in line with Greek law.
“I accepted it with full awareness of the challenges and expectations,” the Cypriot official said of his appointment after the announcement. “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.”
On his side, 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.”
“It’s a challenge for which everyone is needed,” he added.
The creation of the new ministry and the change in the leadership of Civil Protection came after the devastating wildfires that destroyed thousands of hectares of land this summer and sharp criticsm of the government’s response.
The former Commissioner, 63, had briefly served as a deputy to the European Parliament (July-October 2014) and the Cypriot Parliament (2006-13), with 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. 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. Michailides resigned two days later. Stylianides also had another short stint as spokesman under current President Nicos Anastasiades, in 2013-14.