Embargoed! calls on Brussels to suspend hellim/halloumi PDO after EU violates own rules

Turkish Cypriot pressure group Embargoed!, has written to EU Commissioners challenging the appointment of Bureau Veritas as controllers of the TRNC’s vital hellim trade.

The UK-based group says the PDO process should be suspended immediately because of the lack of consultation with Turkish Cypriots, which puts the EU in breach of its own rules.

Exact details of the hellim PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) proposed by Brussels as a product-protection scheme have yet to be announced. But manufacturers of the TRNC’s biggest export have already been told that the key quality inspection function will be undertaken by Bureau Veritas, a Marine Transport specialist which has strong commercial links with the Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus.

Embargoed! fears this relationship could prejudice the fair working of the PDO. The group’s chairman Fahri Zini has already expressed concern at the Bureau’s appointment, asking Commissioners whether the EU has followed its own rules in so doing.eu__flag_of_europe

He asked what other firms had also been considered, and why Commissioners did not think of appointing an agency which would also be acceptable to the Turkish Cypriot Community, such as the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Trade. The Chamber already carries out similar control and monitoring functions with regard to Green Line trade regulations.

Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, has sought to assure Embargoed! that, “in the unlikely case that Bureau Veritas would not carry out effective and efficient  controls, would lack impartiality or would be subject to a conflict of interest……the Commission will intervene.” 

Nevertheless, Zihni has written to ask whether the EU followed its own Public Sector Procurement Rules in appointing Bureau Veritas, and if any North Cyprus producers were involved in drawing up the Bureau Veritas contract, as stipulated in the EU’s standard PDO procedures, adding: “We are aware of companies who feel they have been excluded from this opportunity.”

EU has a duty to comply with own PDO regulations

In response to Embargoed!’s concerns, Commissioner Hogan said, “the Commission is not entitled to interfere with respect to pending judicial proceedings in front of Cyprus Courts, and therefore does not comment on your queries regarding the consultation process conducted in Cyprus.”

Embargoed!’s Fahri Zihni (2nd left) meets with Ali Çıralı (centre), President of the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Industry, in London to discuss the hellim PDO, 5 Oct. 2015

But in his latest letter, Zihni reminds the Commissioner that he has a duty to “satisfy himself that all appropriate steps have been taken to comply with PDO regulations…..in particular, those in relation to consultation with all Suppliers in the given Geographical Area and in their language.”

Embargoed!’s chair asserts that none of this happened – particularly in relation to the key question of  the proportions of cow, sheep and goat’s milk that constitute genuine hellim.

“The Republic of Cyprus is not in a position to refute this” adds Zihni. “As consultation with Turkish Cypriot producers did not occur, and the Turkish language was not used to communicate with them at any point, and can be proven to be the case, we would suggest that the PDO process be suspended until this important prerequisite is addressed.”