"EU closer to making Dec 31 millennium bug holiday"

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EU closer to making Dec 31 ``millennium bug'' holiday

04:04 p.m Apr 16, 1999 Eastern

DRESDEN, Germany, April 16 (Reuters) - Most European Union finance ministers agreed on Friday that financial markets should close on December 31 to minimise the risks posed by the ``millennium bug.''

However, opposition on legal grounds from Finland and Denmark delayed a statement on the subject.

``We discussed the issue of whether or not to close financial markets on December 31 this year. The Danes and the Finns are against it, everybody else supports the idea,'' Swedish Finance Minister Bosse Ringholm told a news conference.

``In Denmark and Finland there is a special situation...and they want to be exempt from a regulation for this year's December 31,'' Ringholm said.


The European Central Bank has already decided to close its TARGET payments system covering the euro zone that day to give banks time to prepare their systems ahead of the date change.

ECB President Wim Duisenberg, speaking as he arrived at the meeting of EU finance ministers, said he wanted the whole day to be declared a holiday to give banks time to copy data.

But Finnish Finance Minister Sauli Niinisto said that could pose problems in his country.

``There is a problem with legislation in Finland because we cannot talk about force majeure that day and may need some national legislation (to enforce the proposal),'' Niinisto said.

``The European Central Bank has already decided that the markets will be closed,'' Niinisto said. ``But it does not mean in Finland that the banks will be closed. They can still give services, but not all of them because TARGET is not available. For this reason I would not use the word bank holiday.''

Luxembourg Budget Minister Luc Frieden said there was widespread agreement that December 31 should be considered a bank holiday, but that lawyers would look into the issues raised by Finland and Denmark.

The ministers were speaking at the end of the first day of a two-day meeting of European Union finance ministers in Dresden, Germany.

((Ecofin newsroom, Dresden, tel +00 49 351 862 1095))

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), April 19, 1999


It will be a world bank hpliday.

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), April 19, 1999.

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