Europe to open Y2K communications centre

The European Commission will operate a Year 2000 Communications Centre from December 31 until January 5, 2000, as a forum for exchanging information about possible incidents related to computers and the date rollover.

The EU Y2K Communications Centre will be open 24 hours from 10am Brussels time on December 31, which coincides with midnight in New Zealand, one of the first areas to move into the new year and, therefore, one of the first to potentially experience problems. The centre will stay open until at least 3am on January 5, but could remain open longer.

"It will work until it is clear that there is a stable situation," Per Haugaard, European Commission spokesman for the Information Society, said.

The year 2000 computer problem is occurring because most old software was written with a two-digit date field that could interpret the "00" in 2000 as "1900" and therefore fail.

At the request of the 15 EU member states, the centre will oversee information exchanges among the crisis centres set up by EU members. Information on possible year 2000 incidents and what is being done to deal with them will be handled by the centre, Haugaard said.

The centre will also monitor the international scene and keep member states aware of any significant developments. It will be staffed by Commission employees who understand the year 2000 problem. Additional staff members will be on call in case of a crisis.

Although there had been concerns earlier this year that key energy infrastructures might not be year 2000 compatible, those worries have been allayed, according to a brief status report given to EU telecom ministers Tuesday by Erkii Liikanen, Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner, Haugaard said.