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Mon, May 22, 2000
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EU to Study Millennium
Bug During Dec. 31 Holiday

BRUSSELS — 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 finance ministers.

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 millennium-compliant.

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.

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