EU initiative to free halloumi from division

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Brussels is taking the initiative to end a stalemate in registering Cyprus’ famous traditional cheese as a protected product, with halloumi bogged down in the politics of division.

The Financial Mirror was told by a government source the European Commission is stepping up efforts to break the ice between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides with a delegation visiting the island in February.

Registering halloumi as a product of protected designation of origin (PDO) has languished for over five years in EU corridors due to Cyprus problem politics with Nicosia blaming Brussels for the delay.

“According to the regulations governing the registration of products, the European Commission should have concluded the registration of one of the most important Cypriot products a long time ago.

“However, the file was held up due to the political aspect of the matter,” said the government source.

Recently, Cyprus Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis confirmed that EU technocrats were preparing legal documents that could help bring together the two sides.

The government source has confirmed that authorities have received the documents with the EU technocrats now awaiting a response.

“We expect that the same documents have been submitted to the Turkish Cypriot side.

“We find that the documents are in the right direction as they assign responsibility to the Republic of Cyprus checking whether halloumi produced by Turkish Cypriots is up to EU standards,” said the source.

This will not go down well with Turkish Cypriot halloumi producers as they have stated in the past, that they do not wish to leave checks up to the Cyprus Republic.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO), recognised by the Republic, as it was established before 1974, said it is crucial Turkish Cypriots have an effective say in the way their products are checked.

Currently, Turkish Cypriot cannot export halloumi through the Cyprus Republic under the EU’s Green Line regulations.

“KTTO considers it essential to put in place a control mechanism in the north with its participation and envisages cooperating with the control body designated in the Common Understanding for those tasks entrusted to this body, to ensure the PDO functions effectively for the benefit of Turkish Cypriot producers as well”.

KTTO is the implementation partner under the Green Line Regulation facilitating the crossings of goods from the north to the Republic.

After an agreement between President Nicos Anastasiades and then Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, it was understood that halloumi had found its way out of the political entanglement.

On July 16, 2015, a few days before the publication of Cyprus’ halloumi file in the EU Journal, Anastasiades and Akinci reached an understanding in the presence of then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker’s office issued a statement saying there was “consensus” on the issue of halloumi.

Juncker said in the statement that after a visit to Cyprus he and the leaders of the two sides had resolved the long-standing issue of the halloumi/hellim PDO.

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce with the KTTO were supposed to have a role in supervising the certification process to facilitate Turkish Cypriots exporting halloumi via the Republic.

It was to be achieved with the contribution of the international certification body Bureau Veritas tasked with inspecting halloumi/hellim production throughout the island.

Shortly after Juncker visited Cyprus, the Commission published Cyprus’ official application to designate halloumi as a PDO with no movement since then.