SC Meeting in Lisbon

Geneva (21 March 2016): The SC meeting took place in Lisbon (Portugal) on 9 March 2016 and was attended by 51 officials representing 24 countries of which all 19 Contracting States, 3 Applicant States (Croatia, Italy, and Serbia) and guests from Mauritius and Mongolia.

This was the first meeting chaired by Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel). In her welcome address, the Chairperson emphasized the importance of the Convention for facilitating trade of precious metal articles between countries. For the Convention to continue to be relevant into the future and facilitate trade globally, solutions had to be found and innovation to be embraced in order to see the Convention's global membership expand beyond Europe.

Members reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.  Representatives from Italy introduced the amended law on the rules concerning fineness and marks identifying precious metals (Presidential Decree n.168/2015), which is essentially based on the Convention's technical requirements. A letter will be sent to the Czech Ministry to provide information on the amended Italian Law and request a response on the implications of the new regulations on the potential accession of Italy. Croatia and Serbia provided updates on the status of accession. In both countries a change in government has delayed the ratification process. Switzerland has contacted the Ukraine on behalf of the Convention and a reply is expected from the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance.

The SC also discussed a revision of the Convention's Annexes and related Compilation of Technical Decisions, including rules on the compliance of authorised Assay Offices and on a proposal to have a single CCM possibly combined with the Assay Office mark. The Chairperson called on the STG to prepare several papers for the next SC including on: (1) a single conformity mark for the benefit of both Assay Offices and consumers; (2) how to ensure that laboratories, which are not accredited to ISO 17025, demonstrate and maintain an equivalent level of competence; (3) the technical justification for base metal layers in silver articles; and (4) the review and clarification of the conditions for XRF to be used as a testing method.

The SC discussed the compliance of authorised Assay Offices to the Convention's requirements.  It reviewed the independence of the Irish Assay Office and expressed concern that currently the Norwegian Assay Office does not fulfil the requirements of the Convention. A letter will be sent to Norway to emphasize that the ability to subcontract chemical testing to the Swedish Assay Office can be for a limited time only and that the outsourcing of a core competence such as chemical testing is not possible.  The SC noted that this year's Round Robin inter-laboratory proficiency tests on gold and silver had been launched.

Ms. Valentina Valestany (Sweden) provided an update from the 1st meeting of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy. The SC approved the mandate and working methods of the Group. Highlights of the preliminary strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities of the Convention were presented. The Group has been expanded to include the SC Chairperson.

Statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in 2015 show that the UK continues to mark the most articles with CCM (3.248 million articles) followed by Switzerland (1.918 million articles) . The total number of articles marked in 2015 with the CCM was 5,302,143 articles. This represents an 11% decrease compared to 2014.  

The SC discussed the finances of the Convention and expressed its satisfaction with the quality of service provided by the Secretariat.

During updates from Members, Hungary reported new national hallmarks were introduced on 1 January 2016. Finland has appointed Labtium Oy as its authorised Assay Office under Article 5 of the Convention. Portugal now recognizes palladium as a precious metal.

Members bid farewell to Mr. Gaspar Lloret, formerly of the KRISOS Spanish Association of Assay Offices and of the Instituto Tecnologico Metal-Mecanico (AIMME), for his long history of support to the Convention. The Chairperson also presented certificates of appreciation for retired SC Members including former Chairman Mr. Ronald W. A. Le Bas (Irish Assay Office), Mr. Eimantas Mitkus (Lithuanian Assay Office), Mr. Arend-Willem Niehof (Waarborg Holland), Ms. Otylia Trzaskalska-StroiÅ„ska (Ministry of Development, Poland)  and Mr. Jan-Erik Gardehall (SP Technical Research Institute, Sweden).  

The SC agreed to reconvene in Larnaca (Cyprus) on 26 September 2016.