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Turkish Cypriot EU halloumi woes

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Turkish Cypriot cheesemakers say they have been squeezed out, as the island’s iconic cheese halloumi comes under the shield of the European Union as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

Cheesemakers in the north claim they are caught up in the Cyprus problem web, arguing the Greek Cypriot side aims to “gain complete control over Halloumi/Hellim exports” playing the recognition card.

They argue, while the Green Line agreement regarding Halloumi foresees that an independent agency, in this case, Bureau Veritas, would verify that Cyprus Halloumi/Hellim meets criteria, powers are being transferred to the Republic’s Agriculture Ministry.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar requested from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen the immediate mediation of the EU to solve the problem.

The Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) called Tatar to step in.

It said Bureau Veritas has already launched checks on Greek Cypriot producers and has handed out PDO certificates; this has not happened in the north.

He told the Commission that the Turkish Cypriot side “will not accept initiatives that could lead to injustice towards Turkish Cypriots”.

Ursula von der Leyen was asked to reconsider the arrangements as a matter of equal rights for the Turkish Cypriot side.

Tatar said the PDO arrangements aim to bring the Turkish Cypriot producers under “Greek Cypriot authority”, which serves to achieve the “dream” of Greek Cypriot sovereignty throughout the island by extending its power to the Turkish occupied north.

The head of the Hellim coordination committee set up by the ruling coalition, Huseyin Amcaoglu, said the EU had not kept its promise to be impartial and treat both communities equally.

“The Greek Cypriot side is attempting to bring Turkish Cypriot producers under their control, and they have involved the auditing agency in this.

“There is clearly a political game. They have not even contacted us (Bureau Veritas),” said Amcaoglu.

He added that Turkish Cypriot dairy producers would be fighting for their right to take to the streets in Cyprus while also staging protests in Brussels.

“We demand a hearing with the European Commission.”

He argued that verification of Turkish Cypriot products should be carried out in the north.

“We have been told that we can start exporting Halloumi, but only with certificates issued by the Greek Cypriot Agriculture Ministry.

“This will only further deepen the mistrust the Turkish Cypriot community has towards to European Union.”

Tatar, stating that discrimination against Turkish Cypriots is not acceptable, asked Brussels to reconsider the regulations applied by the EU in violation of the basic principle that one side cannot exercise power over the other.

Amcaoglu said that Tatar had asked the European Commission to carry out its commitment to provide a workable mechanism for the whole island in terms of registration and requested the Commission appoint a quality and safety inspection body in both communities to ensure the quality of food on both sides.

Sources close to the procedure of monitoring progress made with the PDO file told the Financial Mirror that Turkish Cypriot producers have their share of difficulties in complying with the criteria.

“One issue they are facing is common with their Greek Cypriot counterparts, and that is the scarcity of goats of the specific breed mentioned in the file.

“The goat milk, which by the end of 2025 has to exceed 50%, has to be produced by a Cypriot breed of goats.

“Furthermore, Turkish Cypriot breeders have problems with certain animal diseases, which if they do not solve, they will not be able to pass EU quality checks”.

However, Turkish Cypriot dairy producers are pressuring authorities in the north to intervene with new initiatives, fearing that Greek Cypriot producers are getting a head start with promoting their products abroad.

Producers want to take advantage of the early elections in January to get Turkish Cypriot Halloumi on cargo ships headed for EU markets.

Bureau Veritas reserved its right to reply for a later date.

Turkish Cypriots currently export €30 mln worth of Hellim mainly to Turkey and the UAE; the Republic generates ten times that amount.