The Green Line Regulation is currently being assessed so that it is made more effective and problems faced are tackled, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.
He was briefing the House foreign and European affairs committee on the 15th EU report on the application of the Green Line Regulation.
Cyprus, he said, is also raising the issue of reverse trade for the transfer of goods from the government-controlled areas to the north.
According to government statistics, there was a 1.4 per cent increase last year in the value of merchandise that crossed the green line from the north, reaching €4.85m compared to €4.79m in 2016.
The foreign ministry is now assessing all the information concerning the regulation in question, while issues such as food safety and security are a top priority, Christodoulides said.
The committee heard that the European Commission has sounded out Cyprus about the transport of processed products from the north such as juices and tahini, which is, however, treated with great reluctance, caution and reservation. Such a debate will take place if the political conditions allow, the foreign ministry said.
Christodoulides also said the issue of halloumi is not related to the rest of the discussions since the question on this occasion was which organisation would carry out checks in the north. He was referring to Cyprus’ application to the EU to register halloumi as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product. The island’s two leaders agreed in 2016 that inspection and certification would be carried out by an international bureau of testing, inspection and certification.
Farmers’ associations that also attended the House committee meeting raised the issue of unfair competition due to the smuggling of Turkish products to the south that are presented as products produced in the north. They said that the smuggling mostly takes place through ‘holes’ along the buffer zone and not through crossings.
Officials of the Customs department gave reassurances that checks are being carried out round the clock to make sure products coming through the north bear the necessary documents issued by the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce.
On one occasion carrots produced in Turkey were discovered, seized and destroyed while the transporter was fined, the officials said.
The report on the Green Line Regulation also mentions that there has been a significant increase in irregular migration through the buffer zone. In 2018, 4,451 irregular migrants crossed compared to 1,686 in 2017 with most migrants coming from Syria, Cameroon, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq.
Christodoulides said there are many processes underway as regards individuals who do not need to stay, for example an agreement has been signed with Georgia, while checks as regards university students have been enhanced.
He added that another problem is that Turkey does not implement the readmission agreement with the EU as regards Cyprus since it does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.
Moreover, he said that efforts are made to step up the procedures for asylum applicants so that Cyprus will not be an attractive country for immigrants.