In a follow-up to the recent European Council (25 March), Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (6 April), in Ankara, in the hope of giving the EU-Turkey relationship “new momentum”.
Michel said he discussed the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and other areas of dispute. He said that although differences between the two sides remain, there were also new opportunities for peace and stability, especially in Libya. The EU's key message in this regard was that all foreign fighters and troops must leave Libyan territory.
On Cyprus, the EU remains committed to the relaunch of the UN-led process, which will restart in a few weeks’ time with an informal meeting.
‘Progressive, proportional, and reversible’
The key phrase in Michel’s statement following the meeting is that engagement will be “progressive, proportional, and reversible”. Von der Leyen underlined this point, saying that while the EU has seen the beginning of a road together, it would have to see where the road leads and would depend on a “clear commitment from Turkey to maintain positive momentum, the sustainability of what we’ve seen over the last weeks has to be proven”.
The Commission president summed up the discussions on four main areas of co-operation: The prospect of closer trade ties; high-level dialogues on climate and health issues, especially the use of the Digital Green Certificate, important to Turkey’s tourism sector and the mobility of Turkish citizens; enhanced people-to-people co-operation through Erasmus+ in particular; and, on refugees and migration, where von der Leyen underlined that the EU-Turkey statement of 2016 “remains valid and has brought positive results”.
On future funding for refugees, von der Leyen said that this should increasingly power better opportunities for refugees to earn their own livelihood. Von der Leyen will also be meeting with the Jordanian king today (7 April) to discuss a proposal on Syrian refugees that covers Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
‘Human rights are non-negotiable’
Von der Leyen described the discussion as “very frank” on what divides the EU and Turkey, with both EU leaders raising their concern about human rights and the rule of law.
Von der Leyen said she was deeply worried by Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on protecting women and children from violence, especially since Turkey was a founding member of the Council of Europe. When asked about the convention by a journalist, von der Leyen said that they did not convince Erdogan.
Turkey says not picking a side in Ukraine-Russia conflict - Turkish formin
Turkey is not picking a side in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday (15 April) in an interview on broadcaster NTV, writes Tuvan Gumrukcu.
President Tayyip Erdogan called at the weekend for an end to “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov subsequently said Turkey and other nations should not feed “belligerent sentiment” in Ukraine.
European Commission registers Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
Today (13 April), the European Commission adopted a package of two measures regarding an important Cypriot heritage: Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim. First, the Commission registered Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim as a protected designation of origin (PDO), protecting the valuable name against imitation and misuse across the EU. Only Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim produced in Cyprus according to the product specification is now allowed to use the registered name, bringing clear economic benefits to the island.
The registration allows producers of this iconic Cypriot cheese, famous around the world for its characteristic texture, folded appearance, and suitability for serving grilled or pan-fried, based anywhere on the island of Cyprus to benefit from the PDO status.
Secondly, to facilitate that producers in the Turkish Cypriot community draw full benefits from the protection, the Commission has adopted a measure allowing the PDO product to cross the Green Line, provided that the cheese and milk from which it was made has met all EU animal and public health standards.
This historic package that gives effect to the Common Understanding for Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim reached in 2015, to be implemented pending the reunification of Cyprus.
The measure accompanying the registration of Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim as a PDO aims at ensuring that the animal and public health situation in the EU as well as food safety are not compromised. It also establishes the conditions for trade to take place including provisions on controls. In addition, the milk processing establishments will have to be in compliance with the relevant public health rules.
The main features of the package are:
- The name “Χαλλούμι (Halloumi)/Hellim” is now in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications. Only Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim produced on the island of Cyprus and according to the traditional recipe can now be marketed in the European Union under that name.
- An internationally accredited inspection body will be appointed to conduct PDO inspections throughout Cyprus. The inspection body will be responsible for ensuring that producers respect the traditional recipe.
- A workable arrangement will be set up to ensure efficient PDO controls throughout Cyprus, which will be closely monitored by the Commission.
- A measure lifting the prohibitions of movements of certain animal products on the island of Cyprus, pending its reunification, and laying down certain conditions for the movement of those products to allow the production of ‘Χαλλούμι' (Halloumi)/‘Hellim' (PDO) across all Cyprus.
- A private inspection body will be appointed to conduct inspections of farms and dairies in the Turkish Cypriot community to ensure that they comply with all EU health and hygiene rules. Only Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim that meets all EU health standards can be traded across the Green Line.
Remarks by Members of the College
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, who is also responsible for the Cyprus Settlement Support, said: “This is a major achievement with political and economic significance for the entire island of Cyprus. It shows that mutually beneficial solutions are possible, as well as the important role of the Commission in bringing them about. The implementation of these arrangements, in a spirit of cooperation, should contribute to bolster trust and confidence between the two Cypriot communities. The Commission will continue to play an active role with a view to achieve a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem”.
Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, said: “I am delighted that Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim has entered the register of PDOs and PGIs, joining the finest products of Europe's high quality agriculture and food. The application to all producers on Cyprus willing to adhere to the scheme is the fruit of many years of patient and careful work on all sides. This PDO registration arrangement ensures equal and fair treatment for all producers on each side of the Green Line, and will finally guarantee that consumers throughout the European Union can identify this authentic Cypriot product”.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: "Today, the Commission adopted an historic Decision after years of dedicated work. With the unanimous endorsement of all Member States, today we safeguard not only a unique national product of Cyprus, but also our Union's strict sanitary protections, which are paramount for food safety. The Commission has developed this framework in agreement with Cyprus competent authorities, and is fully committed to supporting its successful implementation and oversight. The two communities in Cyprus can now reap the economic benefits of this Decision, pending the reunification of the country, while ensuring that our stringent food safety standards are upheld”.
Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim is the most prominent animal product of Cyprus. Besides its cultural value, it is also a product of significant economic importance for the island.
The registration of Halloumi/Hellim as a PDO – equally available to producers from both Cypriot communities – is also a highly symbolic step to bring the two communities closer and working together to build confidence.
In order to protect animal and public health throughout Cyprus the Commission will assist the Turkish Cypriot dairy sector to reach compliance as soon as possible with EU animal and public health standards. The Commission envisages intensifying its support to the Turkish Cypriot dairy sector under the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community.
As part of the package, the decision foresees the possibility of setting up a Working Group on Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim. This Group will be chaired by the Commission and composed of representatives from the two Cypriot communities. The Working Group will review the implementation of the Regulation and Decision.
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Any relaunch of EU-Turkey relations must be based on a return to democratic values
Ahead of the visit to Ankara today (6 April) by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council , Charles Michel, Renew Europe calls for any new relationship with Turkey to be based on fundamental democratic values. No offer of improved economic relations is possible without clear commitments from Turkey on human rights, media freedom, the rule of law, and a reversal of the slide to autocracy and nationalist rhetoric witnessed in recent years.
Dacian Cioloș, President of Renew Europe commented ahead of the visit: "Co-operation between the European Union and Turkey is in our mutual interest, but any deepening of EU - Turkey relations must be based first and foremost on respect of fundamental democratic rights. While we welcome the de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean, if President Erdoğan wants to return to a fruitful partnership with the EU, he needs to build upon the first positive signals of re-engagement, in accordance with international law. ”
Renew Europe has raised grave concerns, in particular, over President Erdogan’s recent decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence: "The withdrawal of Turkey's signature from the Istanbul Convention is an unacceptable and shameful gesture. We call on President Erdoğan to reverse this shameful step,” Dacian Cioloș concluded.
MEP Hilde Vautmans (Open Vld, Belgium), Renew Europe Group’s coordinator in the AFET Committee and shadow rapporteur on Turkey, added: "The visit to Ankara by Michel and von der Leyen looks like another mission doomed to fail if our EU position is not strong and firm enough. While the EU accession process should align Turkey's policies, actions and values with those of the EU, we see quite the opposite today. In recent years, our relationship with Turkey has become problematic on many fronts. It therefore certainly is too soon for a positive agenda, but it might not be too late to review the current framework and explore new models for our relations."
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