Two extraordinary meetings held at the Presidential Palace this week highlighted once again the meddling of political parties in matters of national importance.
Protecting football and halloumi have deteriorated so badly that politicians are being called to fix the problem, later presenting themselves as saviours of the day.
First, the President invited all stakeholders in the halloumi sector to argue their differences and narrow the disparities to bring the island’s number one export back on track to securing the protected designation of origin (PDO) label that has been languishing in Brussels, admittedly, not for the fault of Eurocrats.
This follows the ‘landmark’ appeal victory in the UK, where the Cypriot authorities celebrated winning back the trade name, temporarily lost simply over the incompetence of bungling civil servants in the first place.
The fact that the PDO file has been stuck in a drawer somewhere in the Commission offices is purely our doing, as farmers and dairy producer feud over the ratios used for the goat’s and cow’s milk, as well as how it is made, whether it is folded and how many mint leaves (or parts thereof) should be included per package.
Instead of proceeding with the PDO file when it was first submitted years ago, pressure on politicians from farmers and cheesemakers to alter the ‘right’ ingredients of halloumi complicated the application.
As a result of which Cyprus is being punished by not allowing the file to be reviewed for a final PDO licensing, let alone approved and stamped.
Thus, fake halloumi makers are springing up, challenging the export opportunities of Cypriot makers, who now face rigid limitations on variants of the squeaky cheese that could add to its marketing allure, such as spicy and sweet halloumi, slices, round and flat.
At the right time, the halloumi factor could have contributed immensely as a confidence-building measure, bringing Greek and Turkish Cypriots closer to each other for common production methods and sales, an opportunity also lost.
It is clear that the present generation of farmers and dairy producers do not deserve access to this ‘white gold’ and obviously does not care about the legacy they leave to the next generation if there is unique and protected halloumi left by then.
Furthermore, politicians and policymakers should have agreed on a common national strategy that would have protected the industry from future threats and not let a group of self-interest individuals determine how it is made, doomed to have an expiry date lingering over it.
The other bungling matter of politicians is, of course, corruption in football, which has disgraced the once ‘beautiful game’.
The clubs-controlled cartel known as the Football Association should have been disbanded long ago and restructured on a democratic foundation, and not directed by those who have interests in the game and television rights, that subsequently influence decisions.
The backhanders to allow for an outcome of a game have for too long been tolerated by political parties that rely on their favoured clubs for membership and votes at local and national elections.
The president should have had the courage to shut down football, where millions of taxpayers’ euros have been squandered in grants and free land and come up with a clean-up act that would trickle down to the grassroots.
This is where sports and healthy activity should have been a priority, not fuelled rivalries and poor examples of corruption that our next generation looks to and mimics in everyday life.