SC Meeting in Larnaca

Geneva (21 October 2016): The 79th SC meeting took place in Larnaca (Cyprus) on 26 September 2016 and was attended by 49 officials representing 24 countries of which all 19 Contracting States, 2 Applicant States (Croatia, and Serbia) and guests from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Moldova.

The meeting was chaired by Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel). In her welcome address, the Chairperson thanked Cyprus for their warm welcome and the organisation of several events. The Chairperson also emphasised the importance of basing all decisions on the Convention's rules and showing goodwill during discussions.

Members reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.  Croatia and Serbia provided updates on the status of accession. In Croatia, new elections took place on 11 September which may further delay the ratification process. In Serbia, a new government has been recently formed and the ratification process requires parliamentary approval.

Regarding the Czech objection to Italy's accession, the Chairperson has written to the Czech Government to reconsider its position and remove its objection to the accession of Italy. However, the Czech Government has maintained its objection. During the meeting, the Czech Republic provided information on its exchanges with Italy including its intention to conduct a visit to the Italian laboratory in Vicenza. The SC agreed to wait for the outcome of the visit.

Switzerland has been in contact with Ukraine on behalf of the Convention and has received information from the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance that Ukraine is preparing a draft law to recognise international marks. It would be only after the draft law is accepted that Ukraine could take part in SC meetings. Switzerland agreed to continue to exchange with Ukraine and communicate progress to the SC.

Sri Lanka informed the SC that it was ready to be re-inspected. Sri Lanka's results from the previous Round Robins (RR) have been improving, particularly for gold.  The Chairperson called on volunteers to conduct the re-inspection noting that a high level of technical expertise would be needed.

On the recommendation of the Standing Technical Group (STG), the SC discussed the revision of the Convention's Annexes and related Compilation of Technical Decisions. Four issues were discussed in depth by the SC: (1) the number of minimum marks and the shape of the Common Control Mark (CCM); (2) XRF testing; (3) intermediate base metal layers in silver articles; and (4) equivalence to accreditation.

The SC accepted introducing a dual system for the CCM, which would include the existing system in parallel with a new system. The existing system would be modified to make the fineness mark optional (this mark is already comprised in the CCM). The new system would consist of a single and unique "conformity" mark thus reducing the number of punches necessary to apply the CCM. This could be particularly useful for smaller Assay Offices as well as for laser marking. Members noted the importance of having some indication of the metal under the new system. The design option for such a mark will be further discussed by the STG.

On XRF, the SC asked the STG to draft a SOP for XRF testing and review the conditions under which XRF testing can be used under the Convention.

For intermediate base metal layers in silver articles, the STG will circulate a questionnaire to better understand the demand and concerns amongst stakeholders.

The SC also agreed on a consultation on accreditation via a questionnaire so that variations in costs and other barriers to accreditation can be better understood before any decisions are made regarding possible alternatives to accreditation.

The SC discussed the compliance of authorised Assay Offices to the Convention's requirements.  It expressed satisfaction with the steps taken to ensure the independence of the Irish Assay Office and welcomed the steps taken by the Norwegian Assay Office to stop subcontracting chemical testing now that it can test silver articles.

The SC reviewed the draft results of this year's Round Robin, the inter-laboratory proficiency testing scheme, which was on gold and silver.

Ms. Valentina Valestany (Sweden) provided an update from the 2nd meeting of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy. The Group's activities are continuing and the results will be presented at the next SC meeting.

Statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in the first quarter of 2016 show a 26% increase. The Chairperson welcomed this change in trend compared to previous statistics which had shown a decline. 

The Secretariat reported on the financial situation of the Convention.  Members noted that the membership fees for 2017 would remain the same as in 2016.

The Netherlands reported on the new legal entity for its Assay Office in Gouda, called WaarborgHolland B.V., which uses the same marks and is accredited to 17025 and 17020. The Netherlands will inform the Depositary of these changes.

The UK reported on the merger the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) and the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) into a single Directorate under the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Chairperson bid farewell to Mr Peter Edwards (NMRO) who attended the SC Meeting for the last time.

The SC agreed to reconvene in Geneva (Switzerland) on 30 March 2017.