European Union finance
ministers will examine a request from the European Central Bank
to close EU financial markets on Dec. 31 because of fears
about potential disruption from the so-called millennium
computer bug, a German EU presidency spokesman said on Monday.
Karl Diller, a state secretary in Germany's finance
ministry, said the request was raised by ECB President Wim
Duisenberg at talks on Monday, but no decision was taken because
of legal doubts.
"The European Commission saw a few legal problems and this
is why the issue needs to be looked at more closely," Diller
told a news conference at the end of a one-day meeting of EU
A spokesman for the German presidency said no deadline had
been set for the deliberations.
In a letter to the finance ministers, Duisenberg said the
European System of Central Banks envisaged closing its systems
on Dec. 31, 1999 because "it is not possible to give a 100
percent guarantee" that they, and those of suppliers of
electricity and other services, will be fully
It said, however, it would be best if, for legal reasons,
the EU would declare a blanket "bank holiday" in the 15 nation
bloc "since standard market agreements provide for the
consequences of being unable to settle on a bank holiday."
The letter noted two EU countries already have a bank
holiday on Dec. 31 every year, whereas another had called
one due to millennium risks.
The ESCB includes central banks in Britain, Denmark, Sweden
and Greece as well as the 11 nation euro area.