NEWS

New civil protection minister to be sworn in on Friday

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The government on Monday confirmed the appointment of Christos Stylianides, the Cypriot former European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, to the newly created post of minister for the climate emergency and civil protection. Evangelos Tournas, a former chief of the Air Force Staff, was appointed deputy minister.

Their swearing-in ceremony will take place Friday morning; Stylianides will receive honorary Greek citizenship before that, government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou said.

The ministry will be in charge of the Hellenic Fire Service, until now under the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection, which will now focus on overseeing the country’s security forces.

Stylianides’ appointment was sealed last week, when he met Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the latter’s office. The offer was made then and Stylianides accepted, a couple of days later, by SMS, just before leaving for Brussels, where he is currently serving, since May 2021, as the European Commission’s special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU.

Stylianides was chosen by Mitsotakis on the basis of his great experience in crisis management as a member of the Juncker Commission (2014-19). As a commissioner, he implemented rescEU, a system set up to improve protection of citizens from disasters and the management of emerging risks. The program establishes a new European reserve of resources which includes a fleet of firefighting planes and helicopters, medical evacuation planes, as well as a stockpile of medical equipment and field hospitals that can respond to health emergencies, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.

As a person respected in EU circles, Stylianides can be counted on to mobilize EU resources when Greece needs them.

Indicative of Stylianides’ clout was the way Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament, welcomed his appointment on Monday. “Warm congratulations to our friend Stylianides for his appointment in the Greek government. You are a true friend of Europe and you have our full support!” Weber tweeted.

Mitsotakis is also counting on Stylianides’ detachment from Greek political rivalries to secure the opposition’s tolerance, if not its backing.