Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström Photo: EC

A new agency for managing large-scale EU information systems will be inaugurated today in Tallinn, Estonia.

The agency, headquartered Tallinn, will have responsibility for three of the European Commission’s IT systems associated with the Schengen passport-free travel area as well, as visa applications and asylum cases. Membership of Schengen extends to 22 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The agency will have an operational base in Strasbourg and a back-up facility Sankt Johann im Pongau, Austria.

Its remit will include the Visa Information System – created last year to enable national border control authorities to update and consult data, including biometrics such as fingerprints and digital facial images, related to short-stay visa applications to enter the Schengen area. It will also be in charge of EURODAC, a database used to compare and share the fingerprints of asylum seekers. In a statement, the commission said the agency’s main duty would be to maintain these systems “24 hours a day, seven days a week”.

“The expectations are high and the tasks are many”, said Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. “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.”

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