All is quiet on the Y2K front across the European Union, with no major or minor disturbances noted, a senior European Commission official said this morning.
"The good news for us is that there is very little to report. The hard work done by companies and individuals in preparation for the millennium has paid off," Patricia MacConaill, Y2K Task Force leader, told journalists.
Although some mobile phone networks experienced congestion problems around the roll-over period last night, all major infrastructures and services in the EU are functioning normally, the Commission said in a statement. Even in France, where the country is just completing repairs to its electricity grid after two violent storms swept threw the country last weekend, there were no Y2K incidences.
MacConaill and her team of four other EU officials, however, stressed that although this first millennium step had been uneventful, the Commission's Y2K Communications Center (Y2KCC) has to remain vigilant throughout next week when Europe and the rest of the world return to normal economic and business activity.
"The risk next week is not zero, but will probably involve an accumulation of small problems rather than any major breakdown," MacConaill explained. She added that to avoid frustration she plans to throw away her five year-old computer rather than face the small irritations that could erupt if she were to upgrade the machine.
The centre started operations yesterday to monitor events across the EU and the rest of the world and relay them to Y2K crisis centres set up in all 15 EU countries. Prior to talking with the press, MacConaill had participated in a conference call with regional centres in the US and Asia, which also reported no significant problems.
The centre will remain operational until Jan. 5. It is staffed around the clock in shifts of eight hours by three teams of Commission officials who have access to back-up teams of sector specialists if problems arise, and direct access to the 20 EU Commissioners.
Information Technology and Enterprise Commissioner Erkii Liikanen, who has responsibility for the centre, called the staff last night when his home town in Finland entered the millennium, one hour before midnight in Brussels.
Commission President Romano Prodi also called the centre to wish the staff happy new year, MacConaill said.
From the virus point of view as well, it has been a normal new year, MacConaill said, explaining that virus activity was, as usual, very low. The Y2K Center experienced no virus activity itself.
The centre is connected to the outside world by cable and satellite television; 25 phone lines (fixed and mobile); the Commission's private intranet; a conventional email system; a specially created Internet account; and a trusty, old fax machine.
Satellite phone systems are not part of the communications centre in the belief that "the more technically advanced a product, the more likelihood of a problem," said Philippe Caussin, the official in charge of the centre.
A diesel power generator is also ready for back-up if the worst case scenario, a total electricity failure, materializes, Caussin said.
The centre, however, will not be in the first line of action if anything does go wrong, because the problems that may arise are the responsibility of the individual EU countries.
The centre, located next door to the principal office of the EC, takes up four rooms, normally allocated to the budget division. It has a modest, functional appearance, where the most luxurious equipment in the four rooms is undoubtedly the espresso machine.
Even the food catering seems a bit functional. The shifts from today through Tuesday will have a menu of salmon, a gourmet salad of foie gras and lobster, duck's breast, and a vegetarian platter. But each employee will have to heat up his own gourmet meal on the microwave, and wash it down with a can of coke, ice tea or water since officially no alcohol will be served on the premises.