“Peacebuilding” halloumi cheese now protected EU product

Halloumi is a a semi-hard, unripened cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk. It's often grilled or fried. Image: goodmoments (Canva) CC0

On 12 April, the European Commission granted halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese, the protected designation of origins status (PDO). This means that the white cheese can be made only in Cyprus under specific circumstances. Halloumi forms an integral part of Cyprus heritage and an important export product.

The battle for halloumi’s protection has been underway for seven years. Because of the island’s complex political situation, as it is divided between Turkish and Greek communities, progression has been slow. Since the application included the term “hellim”, the Turkish name for the cheese, producers in both communities are now protected, reported European news network EURACTIV. Authorities hope this new status can also contribute to the island’s peacebuilding process in the future.

Legal protection

Halloumi is now included in the EU’s PDO system of intellectual property rights, the European Commission mentioned in a press release. This status gives Cypriot cheese producers legal protection against imitation and misuse of the name by other producers. Before the EU’s decision, halloumi was only a registered trademark. That way, non-Cypriot producers could still make the cheese elsewhere, sometimes under a different name.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades hoped the newly gained protection will benefit all Cypriot halloumi producers, EURACTIV reported. In a tweet, he called the decision a “milestone day for #Halloumi/ #Hellim and our country.” In 2020, halloumi exports were worth a record €224M, according to Cyprus’ agriculture minister, Costas Kadis.

Peace cheese

Apart from being an essential economic sector, politicians hope the halloumi industry can contribute to Cyprus’ peacebuilding process. Because the protection scheme will be equally available to producers from both communities, the PDO product can cross the “green line”, the 120-mile United Nations buffer zone separating the two sides of the island. 

“The two communities in Cyprus can now reap the economic benefits of this decision. said Cypriot EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. “Pending the reunification of the country while ensuring that our stringent food safety standards are upheld.”

A UN Buffer Zone warning sign on the south (Greek) side of the Ledra Crossing of the Green Line in Nicosia. The other side of the fence is the Turkish side. Image: Jpatokal (Wikimedia) CC BY-SA 3.0

To learn more about the difficult PDO process halloumi faced, you can read the full article via EURACTIV.

Source: EURACTIV (15 April), EURACTIV (31 March) and European Commission

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