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Media Watch 2003

23 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Elias Hazou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 23 September 2003.
EU inspectors face uphill struggle over trade with north

E.U. EXPERTS due on the island later this month to assess whether farmers in the north can export citrus fruits face an uphill struggle against a string of obstacles.
For one thing, the EU experts may not even be allowed by the breakaway regime to carry out the necessary quality and health controls.

Second, the goods would need to be transported to the south, where they will receive certification from the government and then be approved for export to the EU. That could be the largest stumbling block; certification of Turkish Cypriot goods has never been attempted before, and would involve complex legal considerations.

So far, there has been no trade between the two communities, but not because of lack of opportunity or interest. Recently a shipment of wheat from the north was prevented at the last hour by the Turkish Cypriot authorities from being delivered to the south. And a quarrying company in the north secured approval for trade to the free areas, only to be told by the government it needed an official quarrying licence and on-site approval by Greek Cypriot inspectors.

And there was another aspect to the wheat incident: Greek-Cypriot trade unionists opposed to the delivery had argued the product was grown on land owned by Greeks before 1974, therefore the transaction would be tantamount to theft.

The caution is not entirely unexpected, given the abrupt partial lifting of restrictions on movement came after 29 years of zero communication between the two sides. Neither side wants to make a move that could be interpreted as the slightest recognition of the other.

“This is a sensitive issue, and no decisions have yet been reached,” was the only comment a senior administrative official at the Agriculture Ministry could offer.
He added that recently a Memorandum of Understanding on trade between the EU and the north had been signed, but was not positive EU experts would be allowed into the breakaway regime.

Each side has been putting the blame squarely on the other for failure to do business. The government faults Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for his intransigence; for their part, Turkish Cypriots say Greeks are only paying lip service to their desire for trade but then hide behind legalistic arguments.

The UN embargo on the occupied area has been in force for 20 years, but is regarded by Turkish Cypriots as the major factor for the poor state of their economy."