By choosing Christos Stylianidis, the former European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, to head Greece’s newly established Ministry for the Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has demonstrated his commitment to giving the post to a non-partisan official on the basis of their credentials, as was also the case with his previous choice, former armed forces chief and retired admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
Because of his previous post at the European Commission, Stylianidis can be described as the right person for the job – and at the right time. It would be a mistake for SYRIZA to have a negative reaction to his appointment as this would make the main opposition party appear reactionary for reaction’s sake.
Thanks to his personality and his political trajectory, as well as his European experience, Stylianidis is the perfect example of the kind of official who can work well with any government in Athens. He worked with SYRIZA after all, when was in the Juncker Commission.
Stylianidis is not trapped by narrow party affiliations. As a university student, he was a member of the leftist Rigas Feraios Youth Organization before going on to join the center left and later to take over as government spokesman for the center-right administration of Nicos Anastasiades in Cyprus. He was successful in handling the Cypriot economic crisis in 2013 and was later appointed to the European Commission.
He is also regarded as one of the likely contenders for the Cypriot presidency in February 2023. His appointment to such a prominent ministry in Athens will put him in the limelight; it will also embroil him in Greek affairs, with all the tension and potential loss of political capitol this may entail.
As far as domestic politics are concerned, his appointment may prove an ingenious move by Mitsotakis as he transcends political boundaries and at the same time avoids the tribulations of picking someone with close ties with the opposition.
The appointment of a Greek Cypriot to such an important ministry may also prove as successful as previous such moves, including that of Loukis Akritas by Geogios Papandreou and Yiannos Kranidiotis by Kostas Simitis.
Stylianidis is assuming a formidable role, but his role in creating rescEU, the EU’s civil successful protection mechanism for dealing with natural disasters such as fires and earthquakes, but also a valuable tool in the pandemic, shows that he has what it takes.
His appointment can be seen as a second chance for the government, whose reputation has taken a serious hit from its unfortunate handling of the Apostolakis nomination, as well as for the opposition, which has an opportunity to show that it means it when it talks about consensus and meritocracy.
The new minister of civil protection has the abilities and the right connections to European decision-making and operational agencies. While he will, of course, be judged by the results he brings, all bodes well.