Ireland in EU hallmark dispute


IRELAND'S refusal automatically to accept the hallmarks of all its fellow EU members looks likely to end up in the European Court of Justice, Patrick Smyth reports from Brussels.

The European Commission yesterday decided to invoke the second stage in infringement proceedings against Ireland and Portugal by sending "reasoned opinions" to both countries over what it regards as a breach of free movement of goods rules. The Government has 40 days to respond satisfactorily or face proceedings in the court.

Ireland, insisting on its right to attest to the purity of all articles made from precious metals, requires separate Irish hallmarking of such items (except where there are special bilateral recognition agreements). Such procedures are the only guarantee for the customer of quality, the Government maintains.

The Commission argues that Ireland's rules constitute a technical barrier to trade, it contends.