By Jean Christou
EUROPEAN Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday he had, with the leaders of the two sides over a working lunch, resolved the long-standing issue of the halloumi/hellim protected designation of origin (PDO) that the two sides could not agree on.
Speaking after a working lunch with President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Juncker said: “I am able, after tough discussions, I have to say, with the two leaders… I am happy to announce we found a common understanding as far as the geographical protection of halloumi-hellim cheese under EU law is concerned.” He said he would not enter into details, however.
“This common understanding, which is not a small thing… which is not a thing you can joke about because it’s important for the two communities… is highly symbolic and confirms the willingness of the two parties to work together with the Commission to build confidence,” Juncker added.
Cyprus applied to the EU for a PDO for halloumi last year for the entire island, upsetting Turkish Cypriot producers of hellim.
Hellim makes up 25 per cent of the north’s exports and there were fears that these would be affected if it was registered as a PDO, without an input from the north.
The Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce was also concerned about inspections coming under the sole purview of the Republic of Cyprus, even though the government said the inspections would be carried out by independent organisations. The issue had been dragging on for months.
The Turkish Cypriot Chamber even filed five cases at the Supreme Court, challenging Cyprus’ application to the EU to register halloumi as a PDO.
It said the “cases were filed because Turkish Cypriot producers were not involved in the registration process, were not consulted, were not given information and as a result the whole process is not fair for Turkish Cypriot producers.”
In April this year the Chamber said the whole PDO process had been postponed until an inspection mechanism providing for the establishment of a separate inspection mechanism was found for the north that was not dependant on the Republic of Cyprus.