EU Commission seeks to boost trade across the Cyprus divide

NICOSIA (Reuters) – The European Commission is trying to broaden trade between the divided sides of Cyprus to foster closer business links, Commission officials said yesterday. A review now in progress would include the possibility of permitting trade in goods such as citrus fruit and fish products, now excluded from cross-island trade, they said. «We hope that by the end of this year we can extend the scope of the Green Line regulation to foster closer business links,» said EU Cyprus representative Adrian van der Meer. «In the past two months, we have gained some experience and the review is aimed at broadening the scope of the products traded across the Green Line,» he told Reuters. EU-sanctioned trade between Cyprus’s ethnically divided Greeks and Turks is governed by the so-called «Green Line Regulation» started in August. But the first attempt at trade fell foul of EU rules because it was a truckload of fish. No animal products are currently allowed to cross the line, etched out in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a Greek-Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece. Cyprus joined the European Union last May but effective membership is restricted only to the Greek-Cypriot south. The Turkish-Cypriot north is a breakaway state recognized only by Ankara and hobbled economically by its inability to freely trade with the outside world. In the week before EU membership, Greek Cypriots rejected a UN plan to reunite Cyprus, angering the international community. The plan was approved by a Turkish-Cypriot referendum. The restrictive nature of the present trade regulations has drawn complaints from Turkish-Cypriot businesses, which say they are not enough to lift the economic isolation of northern Cyprus. In the past two months, trade has been valued at 120,000 euros ($152,400). A broader scope for trade would still have to comply with EU requirements, Commission official Leopold Maurer told a trade conference. «It is not 100 percent sure that we would include fish and honey, we only provide the possibilities to include them, but it has to be discussed because it has to fulfill all the veterinary requirements in the field of animal products. «We are very strict with our rules in those fields. We will foresee a special regime for animal products that are now excluded,» he said.