Turks sour on sweet name

NICOSIA (AP) – As Turkey pursues its dream of joining the European Union, its most famous sweet is already set to win coveted EU recognition. But instead of causing Turkish delight, it has all left a bitter aftertaste. The reason is that the gooey, sugar-coated cubes the Turks call «lokum» will soon be granted EU trademark protection under the Greek-Cypriot name «loukoumi,» the result of a campaign by Cypriot confectioners to boost their version’s international profile. Cypriot Turkish delight looks and tastes like its more famous Turkish cousin. But Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, put in its bid for trademark protection before it occurred to Turkey to do so, and will therefore get the official recognition. A six-month period during which Turkey could have challenged Cyprus’s claim to the Loukoumi name has lapsed. «It’s a done deal,» said Michael Mann, a spokesman for the EU agriculture and rural development commissioner. «Basically, it’s just a formality.» Turks are mortified. «Turkish lokum has been known as Turkish delight in the world market for years,» Adnan Ozdogru, who runs a lokum firm in the southern Turkish city of Adana, told Turkish TV. «The Greek Cypriots don’t know anything about how lokum is made.» Nonsense, says George Gabriel, head of Aphrodite Delights, a leading Cypriot loukoumi maker. «No one can claim loukoumi as their own,» said Gabriel, arguing that the same core recipe is used by producers in Turkey, Cyprus, Greece and Lebanon. For Turks, the stakes are national pride rather than loukoumi lucre: Turkish producers will still be able to sell their sweets under the name Turkish delight or lokum. And Turkey could still seek an EU designation for the sweet under a different name, whether it joins the bloc or not. What rankles is that Cyprus will always be able to boast it got there first. Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines into a Greek-Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded after a short-lived coup aiming to unite the island with Greece. The rivalry remains intense. Gabriel’s company, founded in 1895 in the southwestern village of Yeroskipou, filed a Protected Geographical Indication application for loukoumi just before Cyprus entered the EU in May 2004. «My grandfather started this company and handed it down through the generations,» he said. «Our loukoumi quickly became a favorite with Cypriots and foreign visitors alike.» Gabriel said his company makes 400 tons of loukoumi each year, or about half the island’s annual production. His target is to double output in a year. The sweet’s primary ingredients are corn starch and sugar, boiled in vats at high heat to ensure gelatinous consistency and chewy texture. Yeroskipou plans to mark EU recognition by ramping up celebrations at its traditional loukoumi festival held each year in June, said Mayor Tasos Kouzoupos. Government officials see PGI designation as a seal of quality that would boost sales of the sweet on this tourism-reliant island. «Consumers trust products with these designations,» said senior Agriculture Ministry official Takis Fotiou.