President Nicos Anastasiades has written to the European Commission president over the delays in registering halloumi cheese as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) more than three years after the application was submitted.
Deputy government spokesperson Klelia Vasiliou confirmed the correspondence.
“There is communication because the file concerning the PDO, the halloumi file, must progress and the government is undertaking all necessary actions,” she said.
The European Commission published Cyprus’ official application to designate halloumi as a PDO at the end of July, 2015 but there has been little progress since.
“Halloumi is considered traditional to Cyprus … it has played a very important role in the life and diet of the island’s inhabitants, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, since ancient times and knowledge of the production process has been handed down from one generation to the next,” the application published in the official journal of the European Union said.
It added: “the proportion of sheep or goat’s milk or the mixture thereof must always be greater than the proportion of cow’s milk.”
Called halloumi / hellim, the two names can be used together or separately and will fall under the administrative boundaries of the Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Famagusta, Paphos, and Kyrenia districts.
On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis blamed the lack of progress on political reasons, adding that the application had been linked with the Green Line Regulation and the Cyprus problem.
A Commission spokesman said Wednesday the case was at the stage of examining objections but he could not say whether procedures would be expedited.
The island’s bid received a boost in 2015 following the visit of Commission President Jean Claude Juncker to Cyprus during which the two divided communities came to an understanding over the issue.
Until that time, Turkish Cypriot producers were concerned about inspections falling under the sole responsibility of the Republic of Cyprus leading to months of negotiations.
It was also announced that the Green Line regulation would be amended to allow Turkish Cypriot producers to trade hellim through Cyprus’ legal ports.
The halloumi woes however, do not end there. Last year, Cyprus shot itself on the back foot after losing the trademark in the UK because it had failed to respond to a challenge from a company with Cypriot roots.
In its decision, the UK court stated that “evidence simply demonstrates that the [commerce] ministry was the author of its own misfortune”
The ministry’s internal procedures were so disorganised that the letter enclosing the application was passed from official to official after receipt on February 9, 2018, but no action was taken, the court said.
The ministry launched a probe into the debacle but its findings were deemed inadequate by the attorney-general who sent them back.
A new investigating officer was appointed by the ministry to look into the additional issues raised by the AG.