Foreign Minister Emine Çolak stated that if the issue of the production and monitoring of Hellim is resolved with the understanding within the framework of confidence building measures and concluded in a way which has an economic benefit on both sides, this will reflect positively on the negotiation process. Çolak stated: “any approach, behaviour or strategy contrary to this could have a negative impact on the negotiations which are currently progressing positively”.
Çolak, who spoke at the “The economic importance of Hellim PDO registration” panel organized by the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Industry, mentioned that a quarter of the TRNC’s export depends on hellim and that the hellim industry provides job opportunities to 17% of the population.
Çolak expressed that hellim holds significance both for the economy and for drawing attention to the Turkish Cypriot presence on the Island.
Stating that hellim has an important global reputation, Çolak expressed “this product plays a large role in the search for a solution and peace”.
Çolak pointed to the suspension of the EU acquis in the TRNC as opposed to the recognition of Southern Cyprus, stating that the TRNC is fighting for the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) registration of hellim on a different level.
Çolak recalled that the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus applied to the EU for the PDO of hellim and spoke as follows regarding the process: “The Greek Cypriot administration requested that the production and monitoring of hellim be defined under the term ‘areas under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus’.
At this point, we informed the Commission that it was not possible for the monitoring in the North to be conducted by the Greek Cypriot Ministry. Our position was deemed noteworthy and alternatives began to be sought.
In this connection, a mutual agreement document regarding the production and registration of hellim as an ‘exceptional situation’ was developed following the meeting on 16 July 2015 between the two Leaders and President of the European Commission Juncker.
Çolak stated “Hellim has vital importance for our future and the future of our Island and has become a topic of discussion at the negotiation table which will lead us to a final solution”.
Minister Çolak recalled the following regarding the content of the agreement:
“As a result of the agreement it was accepted that an independent institution would be approved and assigned by the commission for the monitoring in the North. In this framework, the Commission prepared a draft amendment to the Green Line Regulation and it was foreseen that the registration of hellim and the amendment to the Green Line Regulation would be taken up simultaneously. After this phase, the Greek Cypriot administration claimed that the negotiations conducted with the European commission on this agreement document was having a negative effect on its sovereignty rights and made various different requests”.
“We were quite happy with the said agreement and viewed it as progress”, stated Çolak, further adding:
“After having reached an agreement, we were disappointed by the amendment requests of the Greek Cypriot side who viewed the agreement as a threat to their sovereignty claims. The Commission has taken into account the objections of the Greek Cypriot side and prepared another document. It then preferred to transfer the issue to the Council so that it could not be disputed any further and a conclusion could be reached”.
On this small Island, this important products holds a place much greater than the total population of the two sides which does not exceed 1 million, and also has significance on the search for a settlement and peace. The understanding of mutual benefit and sharing between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides on the issue of Hellim is an important aspect of economic growth. At the same time, it is a significant component of the ongoing negotiations and the environment which will lead us to a final settlement. When you look at a pack of hellim, we are talking about something which has much greater weight.
Therefore, any decision to be taken at this stage by the Commission in in with the request of the Greek Cypriot side pertaining to the PDO registration of hellim will not contribute to the positive atmosphere which currently exists in the negotiations. Since the Greek Cypriot side is not nearing cooperation with the Turkish Cypriot side regarding the production and monitoring of hellim, the EU Commission should consider the Green Line Regulation implementations throughout this process. The best approach would be to establish a control mechanism which will include the relevant Chambers in Northern Cyprus, our Ministry of Agriculture, and the EU, which monitors the financial assistance to the North”.
Çolak stated “it is our expectation that the EU Commission adopts an approach which realizes the equal rights of the Turkish Cypriots as the Greek Cypriots at this point in the negotiation process. I also believe that all of the relevant parties in Northern Cyprus who have rightful objections should be able to defend their positions on all levels”.