A dairy in the north is the first Turkish Cypriot business found to be compliant with PDO requirements for halloumi, the cheese that grills, meaning "hellim" can now compete with its Greek Cypriot twin in the EU market.
According to local media, Turkish Cypriot producer Gulgun Sut Mamulleri is the first business in the north of the divided island to have been awarded a Protected Designation of Origin certificate for halloumi/hellim, following a statement on Tuesday by the European Commission.
“The first producer from the Turkish Cypriot community was assessed to be compliant with the requirements set out in the ‘Χαλλουμι’ (Halloumi)/‘Hellim’ PDO product specification,” the announcement said.
'We remain committed to working with both Cypriot communities, contributing to rebuilding of trust between them and paving the way to the reunification of the island'
Last month Bureau Veritas, an internationally accredited body delegated to perform the related official controls throughout the divided island, carried out the first control in the north.
Greek Cypriot halloumi producers in the south, which functions as the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus, have already received the PDO certification under this system.
But there have been technical and political delays, including the two communities arguing back and forth over which branch of Bureau Veritas -Greek or Turkish- ought to carry out inspections.
The Turkish Cypriot industry now has to catch up and implement measures related to EU sanitary and phytosanitary standards, before Hellim PDO cheese can be allowed to be marketed in the EU next year. The Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that the process of compliance was still ongoing.
Mini-reunification test lab
According to Mario Nava, Director General for Structural Reform Support in the European Commission, the PDO decision was an “important step [that] demonstrates that concrete benefits of a full EU membership are available to the Turkish Cypriot community.”
Nava described “halloumi/hellim” as a shared heritage on the island and a “mini-reunification laboratory” while adding the decision “encourages the Turkish Cypriots to proceed towards achieving compliance with EU standards.”
“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,” Nava said.
The squeaky cheese is also known as “haloumi” in Greece and “helim” in Turkey, while islanders have always used the colloquial spelling and pronunciation, with Greek Cypriots saying “halloumi” and Turkish Cypriots saying “hellim.”