Europe's IT Agency kicks off in Estonia

The agency, dedicated to running large EU-wide IT systems, has officially begun work in Estonia, and will initially focus on databases related to visas and fingerprints, with other systems likely to follow
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The European Union has opened the doors on a new agency in charge of managing large database systems with an EU-wide scope.

Tallinn, Estonia

The European Union's new IT Agency will be based in Tallinn, Estonia.

The IT Agency, inaugurated on Thursday, will manage three of the biggest official databases in Europe, largely dealing with travel and law enforcement information, although there are loose plans to have it take on further tasks in future. Based in Tallinn, Estonia, its full name is the 'European Agency for managing large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice'.

"The expectations are high, and the tasks are many," home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström said in a statement on Wednesday. "This agency must quickly become the centre of excellence that we all want it to be: tracking the most promising technological developments, identifying ways of applying them and ensuring close co-operation with major stakeholders."

The agency has begun work now, and the aim is for it to be fully up and running by December. It will begin by taking over the management of the Visa Information System (VIS) and the EURODAC fingerprint-comparison system, which is used to keep checks on illegal migrants.

From next year, the IT Agency will also be in charge of running the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), which EU member states use to share data on people and lost or stolen items.

Beyond 2013, the agency "may also be invited to develop and manage other IT systems" in its core areas of "freedom, security and justice", the Commission added, but did not specify the systems. The Stork project, which deals with cross-border authentication among other areas, is a possible candidate.

While the IT Agency itself is located in Tallinn, some of its back-office operations will take place in Strasbourg, and there will also be a back-up site in Sankt Johann im Pongau, an Austrian ski resort.

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