Cypriot cheese helps Cypriot peace

The European Union has solved a long dispute over a special cheese from Cyprus by deciding to recognize it by both its Greek and Turkish name.

The famous Greek-Cypriot halloumi cheese — or hellim for Turkish-Cypriots — is now officially a protected designation of origin (PDO) product with two names, courtesy of the EU. Halloumi is Cyprus’s second biggest export to overseas markets. In 2013, exports were of halloumi were worth €76.4 million. Hellim is mainly exported to Turkey and the Middle East—25% of Northern Cyprus’ economy worth about $30 million annually.
The step is being as seen as a positive move towards the eventual reunification of the divided island of Cyprus. “Halloumi-Hellim cheese symbolizes the shared heritage of the island of Cyprus. It is a tradition that has linked the communities living here for centuries,” the official statement said. This special Cypriot cheese is a significant source of income for the local economy. It is semi-hard, unripened brined cheese traditionally made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes also cow's milk.

In July 2015, the EU announced that the Turkish and Greek sides were in agreement over the “protected designation of origin” issue. The year before, the Cypriot government applied to the EU to recognize halloumi as a PDO. The Turkish side reacted, worried that the recognition of the halloumi name could affect hellim exports.

In May 2015, peace talks between the two sides resumed after the newly elected Turkish-Cypriot leader of the Turkish part of the island, Mustafa Akinci, met with his Cypriot counterpart President Nicos Anastasiades. The agreement over the island’s famous cheese can be considered a concession and a positive sign. Now there remains the question about water to resolve.

But wait, all is not well on the divided island, because inspectors from the government of the Republic of Cyprus are unable to enter the Turkish north to inspect hellim producers—a requirement of the PDO to ensure the recipe is adhered to.

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