Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Coffeeshop: The politics of halloumification

What a pity that our foreign minister failed to persuade his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whom he met in Moscow on Friday, to extend Russia’ stand on principle on the Cyprob to halloumi as well

IF ANYONE was wondering why the European Commission has left our application for the registration of halloumi/hellim as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) to gather dust in its offices for three-and-a-half years they should not look outside Kyproulla to find who is to blame.

The “delay and inaction” by the Commission, which Prez Nik complained about in a letter to his former drinking and smoking buddy, President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, was not the result of a sinister plot by perfidious Albion to claim halloumi as a Yorkshire cheese; nor was it caused by Turkish intransigence.

In fact it was another triumph of Kyproulla’s diplomatic assertiveness, achieved by our resourceful foreign ministry officials that specialise in preventing anything that could be regarded as progress in relations with the other side from happening. The custodians of bad faith at the ministry were never going to allow an agreement on halloumi to ruin the negative climate that is their raison d’être.

That the foreign ministry demolition mob would wreck the “common understanding” on the PDO reached in July 2015 by Nik, Mustafa and Juncker during a visit to the island by the latter was no surprise. Foreign ministry officials slammed the deal soon after a beaming Juncker hailed it as “highly symbolic” and confirming “the willingness of the two parties to work together with the Commission to build confidence.”

One of the deal’s fiercest critics at the time was the foreign ministry official in charge of the halloumi diplomacy Mrs Philippa Christodoulides, the better half of our FM Nicos, who is now the acting director of the president’s diplomatic office. Perhaps her promotion to this position, which is much higher than her ministry rank justified, was reward for her principled stand on halloumi that ensured it remained ethnically Greek.

 

THE HALLOUMI application was put on hold by the Commission because of four new demands made by our foreign ministry after the common understanding was reached in Nicosia. The demands were the product of the charmingly, twisted negativity that reigns at the foreign ministry and were reproduced in Friday’s Phil.

First, if the hellim produced in the north, was not exported through the legal ports of the Republic and left the island, certified and approved from the pseudo-state, it would “put into practice direct trade, as desired by the Commission, leading to the Taiwanification of the pseudo-state.” The danger of Taiwanification – the pseudo-state having links with the outside world, without being recognised, like Taiwan – is the reason most foreign ministry officials never get a good night’s sleep.

Second, the PDO for hellim could lead to PDOs for a host of other products from the north, forcing our government into entering a “bicommunal decision framework.” We demanded that the agreement would be restricted only to hellim.

The third demand is just too tediously boring to repeat. My personal favourite is the fourth. We demanded that the six-monthly report by the foreign company that would certify the standards of hellim produced in the north should be submitted to the Cyprus government which would then send these to the Commission, because this was the sovereign right of the Republic.

“What particularly irked Nicosia was that Brussels was attempting to secure the six-monthly reports simultaneously with the Cyprus Republic and directly from the company,” wrote Phil. This would not lead to Taiwanification, or upgrading of the pseudo state, but receiving the halloumi report at the same time as the Commission, presumably, would lead to the downgrading of the Republic.

 

HOW COULD Prez Nik have reached such a halloumi deal with Juncker that would open the way to Taiwanification of the north, the halloumification of bicommunal relations and the downgrading of the Republic? It was 2015, a year-and-a-half before his rebirth as a rabid rejectionist, when he was still, superficially at least, embracing the folly of reunification.

The Kathimerini Politics Blog, which appears to have access to the corridors of the presidential palace, had an alternative explanation. Nik had been waiting to get his own back on Juncker, feeling that the Commission president had stitched him, having “secured the common understanding on halloumi, between wine and hiccups, when he came to Nicosia in 2015.”

This theory is not without merit. The deal was secured at a working lunch and announced immediately after by a rather flushed Juncker. It could well have been a liquid lunch that Nik is said to be quite fond of. When you have a glass or four, the dangers of Taiwanification of the north could slip the mind.

The Politics Blog gave another reason for Nik’s halloumi hard line. Some at the presidential palace and Disy “link the success of the euro-elections and the future of the government, but also the legacy of Healthy (nickname for Nik) with the rescue of halloumi.”

 

WHAT A PITY, that our foreign minister failed to persuade his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whom he met in Moscow on Friday, to extend Russia’ stand on principle on the Cyprob to halloumi as well. We need all the international support we can get and it would have significantly boosted our cause if Moscow called for an international conference on halloumi.

In the event, our national cheese did not get even a mention from Lavrov, who preferred to focus on the anachronistic system of external guarantees that did not reflect realities. He also supported the continuation of the bi-communal talks based on the existing resolutions of the UN Security Council and backed the continuation of Unficyp’s mission in its current form.

The sole objective of Mother Russia’s principled stand is the preservation of the status quo, but Lavrov also came up with an idea – the independence and territorial integrity of Kyproulla being guaranteed by the UN Security Council. And I thought external guarantees were anachronistic.

 

IF HE HAD a tail, Nicos Christodoulides would have been wagging it with joy after hearing all these wonderfully principled views from Lavrov, who hailed Kyproulla as an important partner in Europe. They also discussed Russia-EU relations, Lavrov expressing Moscow’s appreciation on the stand taken by Kyproulla on this matter.

Moscow’s praise could not have gone down well in Brussels, and could have adverse consequences for our halloumi rescue mission. Christodoulides did not identify this danger. He did however ask for Lavrov’s backing for the “only and non-negotiable target of a settlement based on the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, European law, the principles and values of the EU.”

Lavrov is a great champion of European law and the principles and values of the EU, especially if these will prevent a settlement from ever happening.

 

OUR PRIESTS, who finally decided to meet and take a stand on the Orthodox Church dispute caused by the rift between the Russian Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos over the latter’s recognition of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church. The Holy Synod met on Monday and chose to sit on the fence lest it offended the Russian Church. Some bishops felt the wishy-washy announcement, which avoided backing Bartholomeos and did not recognise the Ukrainian Church, was directed against the Moscow Patriarchate. It just goes to show that it is not just politicians that act as Moscow’s salesmen. The priests are worse, ready to turn their back on the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch to keep their Russian brothers happy. Could this have anything to do with the fact that Russians have donated millions of bucks to Cyprus churches and monasteries, in contrast to the impecunious Patriarchate of Constantinople, which offers only worthless spiritual guidance?

 

THE TURKISH occupation troops violated the military status quo in Strovilia, reportedly advancing its position and taking control of a rural road leading to farmland, with the pretext of stopping smugglers. Everyone protested and condemned the unacceptable and provocative action of the Turkish army and called for action – not military.

Elam called on the government to “immediately stop negotiations and report to all international forums, including the EU and the UN, the aggressive actions of Turkey.” The Lillikas Alliance urged the government to “immediately make strong representations to the UN and in parallel the president of the Republic must report events to international and European organs.”

The Perdikis party called on the “foreign ministry to make representations to the UN, at a time when more than ever before the President of the Republic must report the events to European and international organs.”

It makes you wonder if the parties employ the same person to write their announcements for them. Another explanation is that they all have the Cyprob Manual for the Condemnation of Provocative Actions by the Turkish Army and copy-paste the relevant part.

Edek, which operates in political fantasy land, told the government to “take all necessary steps to secure the continuation of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, so that we do not have the threat every six months of its mandate being changed.”

 

YOU CAN always trust Phil to turn a violation of the buffer zone by the Turks into an impending full-blown crisis, which it said in its Saturday edition was scheduled for the summer. The “clear objective” was “to debunk the role of Unficyp as it is today and upgrade the occupation regime to an equal partner of the Cyprus Republic.”

The plan was to create a new fait accompli along the length of the dividing line. Apart from Strovilia, the Turkish army had move forward a guard post in Astromeritis, set up machine-gun positions Dherynia and had army officers visit Pyla. I hope Prez Nik will remember to mention the moving forward of the Astromeritis guard post when he is reporting Turkey’s provocations to European and international forums.

The Astromeritis guard post would also be a compelling argument for the presence of Unficyp for another 50 years.

There is another theory circulating in our establishment about the Strovilia provocation. It is a Turkish reprisal for Prez Nik going back on the halloumi agreement of July 2015.

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