Don’t Embargo Turkish Cypriot Hellim
Turkish Cypriot dairy farmers producing our much loved ‘Hellim’ are under serious threat. The Greek Cypriots are trying again to secure an unfair ‘Protected Designated Origin’ status for Halloumi, which would effectively kill our hellim producing sector, which accounts for 24% of all exports coming out of North Cyprus. This is a rallying call to our community to help us protect what is undoubtedly one of our most vital economic organs in North Cyprus. The EU needs to do the right thing and make this application fair to Turkish Cypriot hellim producers otherwise the fallout of this will be that they will never ever be trusted again by Turkish Cypriots again. We have suffered enough and 50 years of embargoes have taken a terrible toll. Our people MUST write on mass, to make their voices heard to support KIBSO’s campaign to protect this vital Turkish Cypriot product. You should write to Commission Johannes Hahn at the address shown below. Thank you for your support.
3 December 2014
OPEN LETTER TO:
Mr. Johannes Hahn
European Commissioner for Enlargement and European & Neighbourhood Policy
Rue de lo Loi / Wetstroot 200
Subject: Application by the Greek Cypriot Ministry of Agriculture to register Hellim/Halloumi as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in the European Commission (ARES2014: 3371924)
Dear Mr. Hahn,
2014 has seen 50 years of embargoes now being faced by Turkish Cypriots. Despite the best efforts of Turkish Cypriot negotiators both in recent times and in the past, we are still faced with a deadlock in respect of the Cyprus problem. At Embargoed! we are clear that the diplomatic impasse, in no small measure, falls at the feet of the Greek Cypriot leadership. Our people delivered on the Annan referendum in 2004 only to see their neighbours deliver an overwhelming ‘OXI’ vote. Now most recently the leader of the Greek Cypriots has simply walked away from the negotiating table, again effectively holding our people to hostage, in a status quo which has no benefit whatsoever for the Turkish Cypriot people, instead leaving all the aces held firmly up the sleeves of the Greek Cypriot administration. It is against this backdrop that we write to you on the unacceptable developments linked with the PDO application made on the 9th July 2014 by the Greek Cypriot Ministry of Agriculture, to register a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for the cheese Halloumi/Hellim.
This application is nothing more than an attempt to hijack what is one of our most traditional and significant economic products. Hellim exports amount to 24% of total exported goods from North Cyprus and it is estimated that 16.5% of Turkish Cypriot’s are in some way reliant on Hellim production by means of employment etc.
As you are aware, this is the second time such an attempt has been made. Again, there is no provision in the application for inspection and approval of Turkish Cypriot Hellim producers. lf this Greek Cypriot application were to be approved at EU level, this would have the effect that Hellim producers in North Cyprus would be excluded from the PDO protection due to the lack of any authorised inspection and approval mechanism.
Turkish Cypriot producers have not been properly consulted during the national registration process. The Turkish Cypriot side proposed that the Halloumi/Hellim PDO application be dealt with together as a confidence building measure helping towards a Cyprus solution, but this was rejected and meetings under UN auspices were discontinued by the Greek Cypriot side. Turkish Cypriot objections in the domestic process were also rejected by the Greek Cypriot ‘Minister of Agriculture’, who stated that, due to the prevailing political circumstances, he cannot confirm the legitimate interests of Turkish Cypriot producers in North Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriot Hellim producers registered both names Hellim and Halloumi as a PDO in North Cyprus in 2008 (and in Turkey in 2009) and the Hellim lnspection Board, which was established under the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of lndustry, has been conducting inspections and approvals for this PDO since then. Despite the Greek Cypriot application being for the whole island of Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot authorities have refused to include in their PDO application this or any other control body in the Turkish Cypriot Community. This is not acceptable.
Similar control mechanisms have already been established in North Cyprus for EU trade across the Green Line. Nevertheless, despite the Greek Cypriot side’s assurance during your recent visit to Cyprus, that all would be done to ensure that Turkish Cypriots also benefit from the PDO application, in fact nothing of the sort has been done. On the contrary, the lack of provision for a Turkish Cypriot control body during the domestic registration procedure confirms the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots from the scope of the protection. This is discrimination and a systematic attempt to destroy a thriving and vital industrial sector in North Cyprus.
Given the now repeated refusal of the Greek Cypriot authorities to make provision for Turkish Cypriot Hellim producers, it is vital that the European Commission intervene in this matter by insisting that this application must GENUINELY be for the whole island and MUST also include a control body in North Cyprus to undertake the necessary inspections and approvals of Turkish Cypriot Hellim producers. Otherwise, by approving a PDO that will be unworkable for Turkish Cypriot producers, the European Commission will be complicit in the hijacking of our traditional product and the consequent destruction of one of our most important and most vibrant economic sectors.
As you will appreciate both the importance and the urgency of this matter for us Turkish Cypriots, we trust that the European Commission will communicate to us as soon as possible the measures it intends to take in order to resolve this issue.
We thank you in advance and look forward to hearing from you soon.