Greek Cypriot opposition slams gov’t over ‘halloumi fiasco’
Ömer Bilge - NICOSIA
Greek Cypriots have lost a case to register the production method and brand name of the “halloumi” cheese because of a late plea in a U.K court, which angered the opposition and sparked a political crisis in the Greek administration.
Despite being a cultural symbol for the whole island, including Turks, Greek Cypriots have been trying to register the halloumi cheese’s trademark rights on their own account in the U.K. The “battle for the halloumi” has created tension between the Turkish and Greek sides for some time. The cheese is called "hellim" in Turkish.
But continuous efforts of the Greek Cypriots failed on Nov. 28 due to the Commerce Ministry’s failure to respond on time to applications filed by a British company, John & Pascalis L.t.d., to invalidate the trademark.
Court letter ‘gets lost in hallway’
A U.K. court ruled in favor of the company because the Greek Cypriot side took more than a reasonable length of time and failed to present its plea case on time, as the call letter of the British court got lost in bureaucracy.
The U.K. is the biggest market for the popular squeaky cheese, absorbing 40 percent of halloumi exports generating around 80 million euros a year. Greek Cyprus expects to yield 300 million euros in halloumi exports by 2023.
The failure sparked a political crisis within Greek Cyprus. Opposition parties such as center-right DIKO and communist AKEL have demanded sacking Commerce Minister George Lakkotrypis.
The government has admitted it was culpable in losing the British legal battle, but rejected demands to fire the commerce minister.
“For the president, it is not a question of trust in the minister, but there is an issue of serious responsibility within the ministry, and there is an investigation to attribute where those responsibilities lie,” Greek Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said.
An internal investigation was launched in the ministry while the matter will also be discussed in parliament.
Meanwhile, Greek Cypriot officials have already reapplied to register the halloumi in the U.K.