EU moves toward protecting Cyprus's halloumi cheese

TAGS: Business, Economy

A Cypriot cheese, known as halloumi in Greek and hellim in Turkish, moved closer to winning EU legal protection Tuesday when the European Commission published an application to register the names.

The salty white cheese, usually made from goat and sheep milk and popular hot off the grill, is made on both sides of the island, and the move was said to symbolise efforts to end Cyprus's 41-year division.

A commission statement said the application to register the names as Protected Designations of Origin is a key step in the process that would grant EU-wide protection for them.

It would mean that only cheese made in Cyprus under specified conditions can be called halloumi, or hellim.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Mustafa Akinci, are engaged in peace talks. The country was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third after a coup seeking to join the island with Greece.

A divided Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 following failed peace efforts.

In order to facilitate trade, the commission also adopted Tuesday a proposal to modify the Green Line Regulation on the movement of goods and persons across the UN-controlled ceasefire line in force since 2004.

“These are the necessary measures to apply the common understanding on a temporary solution for Halloumi/Hellim, to be implemented pending the reunification of Cyprus,” a commission statement said.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said all this “demonstrates the commitment of both communities of Cyprus to work together on projects unifying the whole island”.

Juncker, who visited Cyprus last week, said the cheese, a major export, symbolises the shared heritage of the island.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said: “Geographical indications have demonstrated their potential for creating jobs and boosting farm income... I am confident that the successful registration will do the same in Cyprus.”