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2. 10.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 304/31

(98/C 304/43) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0106/98

by Marjo Matikainen-Kallström (PPE) to the Commission
(30 January 1998)

Subject: Computer problems caused by the change of the millennium

Many computer experts have estimated that the change of the millennium will cause serious computer problems
throughout the world as a result of defective programming.

How has the Commission prepared itself to deal with the problems caused by the change of the millennium in its
own computers, e.g. to prevent the spread of new viruses?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission

(25 March 1998)

The Honourable Member is quite right to identify the seriousness of the problem in terms of its potential impact
and its scale. Both of these have been the subject of much professional analysis and media exposure over the last
two years.

Expert analysis identifies the roots of the problem in the reasonable desire of early users of computer systems and
their suppliers to minimise what was then the very high cost of magnetic storage and processing time, by the use
of just two digits to represent the date. From that point onwards and in order to maintain compatibility between
old and new systems and to protect user data and programme assets, the practice has been propagated through
generations of systems. Further expert evidence has suggested that the cost savings that have been made in
adopting this approach outstrip even the massive costs that we are all now facing in revising this practice.
However, now that the time has come to pay the bill it is, as usual, the costs rather than the savings that are in the
forefront of our attention.

A further point that also needs to be recognised is that the users of information technology (IT) equipment do
much more programming than the IT industry itself. As a consequence both users and suppliers are involved
together in making the corrections that must be applied to ensure the continuing and proper functioning of their
systems. An approach to addressing this major problem is one that must involve close collaboration and a degree
of trust between users and suppliers.

The Commission is concerned about the vulnerability of enterprises, infrastructures, and public administrations
to the year 2000 computer problem as well as about the possible consequences for consumers. The Commission
adopted a communication (1), on 25 February 1998, in order to raise awareness and set out steps to address year
2000 issues. To complement the activities being undertaken by the private sector and the Member States, the
Commission has begun implementing a number of activities on this issue, in close co-ordination with activities
concerning the IT impact of the euro.

An inter-service task force has been established inside the Commission to address the impact on internal systems
of both the year 2000 and the changeover to the euro, and work is in progress. Given the importance of the issue,
the task force will be steered by a working group chaired at the highest level in the Commission.

To assist general awareness and mobilisation, extensive consultations were organised with public and private
sectors in 1997, in order to identify the main priorities for action and the roles for enterprises, associations,
administrations, and the Community itself.

The Commission will encourage and facilitate the exchange of information and experience on year 2000
initiatives undertaken by Member States and European associations, to identify how synergies can be established
to reduce duplication of efforts and increase the overall impact.

The Commission will liaise with the European and international organisations that are responsible for regulating
or supervising infrastructure sectors with significant cross-border effects (finance, telecommunications, energy,
transport) in order to exchange information about the respective activities and identify where co-operation may
be required.

The Commission maintains a World Wide Web site on the year 2000 computer problem and the IT impact of the
euro ( This site provides access to information about activities in different
economic sectors and Member States, points to sources of advice on specific aspects of the problem, and links to
other sites as well as to all documents and reports produced by the Commission on the subject.
C 304/32 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 2. 10. 98

The Commission will discuss the year 2000 and its implications through all the relevant contacts available in
industry and Member States. In particular, attention will be paid to the impact on and preparation of
infrastructure sectors, the impact on consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the
potential impact on the functioning of the internal market, including economic and monetary union.

The Commission will, together with Member States, monitor progress, exchange information, and benchmark
best practice while reporting regularly to the Council on the Community’s progress towards year 2000 readiness
and its related issues.

The Commission will examine, in the context of its policies such as those on industry, SMEs, consumers, and
training, whether a further contribution could be made towards helping raise awareness and address year 2000
related problems.

Within the Commission itself, the so-called millennium bug is handled by the Informatics directorate for the
central aspects and by each directorate general for their information systems.

Since mid 1996 awareness of the year 2000 problem is promoted continuously by the Informatics directorate
inside the Commission. Working groups were established at the beginning of 1997 to support analysis and
solutions to identified problems, and at the end of 1997 a contact group between the Informatics services of the
different institutions was initiated.

The project scope was established in 1997 and necessary resources were allocated. 1998 will be the year to fix
and solve possible problems and 1999 will be the critical year to test and implement the solutions. The project
year 2000 inside the Commission is following the phased approach, applied widely in the private and public
sectors including risk management measures.

As for the prevention of new viruses spreading, the Commission is constantly upgrading the anti-viruses
software used after virus attacks. Protection against computer viruses requires a constant effort to raise the
awareness of IT professionals and users. It also requires a constant updating of the technology for detection and
destruction of computer viruses. Within the Commission, the Security office and the Informatics directorate
regularly organise awareness raising campaigns in co-operation with all other directorates general. Anti-virus
software is in constant evolution, and is continuously assessed, updated and upgraded. The necessary guidelines
for use are developed for all IT systems.

(1) COM(98) 102.

(98/C 304/44) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0114/98

by Anita Pollack (PSE) to the Commission
(30 January 1998)

Subject: Urban policy

What plans has the Commission made to date for the Urban Forum planned for November 1998? Is there a date,
venue and participation list agreed yet and will the European Parliament be invited to participate?

Answer given by Mme Wulf-Mathies on behalf of the Commission

(26 February 1998)

The Commission intends to organise the Urban forum in Vienna on 26-27 November 1998 with the support of the
city of Vienna. The participation list will be decided in the near future. The Commission hopes that the
Parliament will be a major participant.