The European Commission said on Tuesday it had awarded the first PDO certificate for halloumi (or hellim in Turkish) to a Turkish Cypriot producer.

The Commission said the first control of the product in the Turkish Cypriot community took place in February this year by Bureau Veritas, an internationally accredited body delegated to perform the related official controls throughout the island.

“The first producer from the Turkish Cypriot community was assessed to be compliant with the requirements set out in the Halloumi/Hellim PDO product specification,” the commission said.

“Halloumi/Hellim is a shared heritage of both communities of the island of Cyprus. Today’s important step demonstrates that concrete benefits of a full EU membership are available to the Turkish Cypriot community, and encourages the Turkish Cypriots to proceed towards achieving compliance with EU standards,” Director General for Structural Reform Support in the European Commission Mario Nava said.

“In this context, the Halloumi/Hellim PDO process is a mini-reunification laboratory. We remain committed to work with both Cypriot communities, contributing to rebuilding of trust between them and paving the way to the reunification of the island.”

The Turkish Cypriot community still needs to implement measures related to EU sanitary standards before the Halloumi/Hellim PDO cheese by Turkish Cypriot producers can be allowed to be marketed in the EU. This is expected by end of 2024.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has approved a scheme for financial assistance to traders and producers of halloumi, and the scheme will be forwarded to Brussels for approval, an official told MPs on Tuesday.

Commissioner for State Aid Control Stella Michaelidou said the scheme – drawn up by the agriculture ministry – has already got the nod from the cabinet. The ministry will next forward the scheme to her office for vetting.

The State Aid Commissioner will then relay the proposal to the European Commission. According to Michaelidou, a response from Brussels is expected within a couple of months.

She said Cyprus will base its request for the assistance scheme on the transitional framework regarding the production and trade of halloumi, in force since March 2023.

In 2021, the European Commission approved the registration of halloumi as a Protection Designation of Origin (PDO) product. The related application by the Republic of Cyprus had been initiated seven years earlier, in 2014.