EU coordinates Y2K emergency information

The European Commission's year 2000 communications centre is gearing up to relay information among crisis centres set up by the 15 member states, a Commission official said Tuesday. But the Commission does not expect to take direct action itself.

"We are not in the first line of reaction," said Sandy Callagan, a Commission official who will head the centre during the crucial midnight shift on December 31. Any problems that may arise, whether they are maritime accidents, the breakdown of railroads or electricity blackouts, are the responsibility of the member states, she said.

"All these types of crises will be dealt with in the traditional manner, even though their root cause lies in Y2K," she said.

If a crisis does develop in one of the member states, the communications centre would act as an early warning coordinator to inform other member states and to seek help if necessary, she added.

Although the Commission does not expect any major crises, no one is taking any bets.

"Inevitably something will happen, but the question is in the magnitude of that something," Callagan said.

About 20 EU officials will staff the centre 24 hours per day in three shifts of eight hours. The centre is located right next to the Commission headquarters in Brussels, and has an electricity generator.

The officials will be monitoring press agencies and Web sites and reading reports from the EU's delegations across the globe. They will be equipped with two different mobile telephony systems: fax and multiple online computers.

The centre will communicate directly with the crisis centers in the 15 member states but will not be available to the public or the press.

The EU centre has its own Web site at http://www.ispo.cec.be/y2keuro/year2000.htm, but it will only be updated on January 3 to reveal whether any crises did materialise over the millennium weekend, according to a Commission spokesman.

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