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Greece appoints former EU commissioner from Cyprus to head new climate change ministry

GREECE has appointed a former EU commissioner and Cypriot national to head the new Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection.

Christos Stylianides will need to be awarded Greek citizenship before being sworn in on Friday. Between 2014-19 he was the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.

The right-wing New Democracy government has faced uproar over the devastating impact of wildfires across Greece this summer, which forced the evacuation of whole regions and saw 125,000 hectares, much of it forest, torched. The establishment of a new ministry tasked with addressing the impact of climate change — widely blamed for the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires — is aimed at blunting criticism of its handling of the crisis.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was set on a non-party political appointment and had approached former armed forces chief Evangelos Apostolakis, a defence minister in Syriza’s last administration, but Admiral Apostolakis declined, saying there was no cross-party support for the new ministry.

Mr Stylianides’s appointment carries its own controversies, as a member of the EU Commission that, with the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, imposed an aggressive programme of privatisations and cuts on Greece in return for bailout payments to allow it to pay down its debts.

The Greek firefighters’ union has pointed to the successive cuts to fire service budgets, which saw thousands of firefighters laid off, as one reason the country has struggled to contain blazes. The EU’s terms also included privatisation of the water supply, negatively affecting pipe maintenance, leading to dry hydrants and empty water tanks.

In his role as humanitarian chief Mr Stylianides directed EU funds to refugee camps in Greece, but critics say the bloc’s policy entailed imprisoning refugees in the country instead of assisting them to seek asylum.

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