Estonia to host EU IT agency after deal with France

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Tech-savvy Estonia is to host a new European Union IT agency, after a deal with France which was the only other nation in the race, Estonia's Interior Minister Marko Pomerants told AFP on Friday.

"It has been agreed between Estonian and French officials that the headquarters of the EU's future IT agency will be located in Tallinn," Pomerants said.

The 27-nation European Union's decision to set up a specific agency was made last year when member states decided that the bloc's IT systems needed some form of central management.

Under the accord with Paris, Pomerants explained, the French city of Strasbourg is to remain home to the servers of the Schengen Information System, via which countries share information on police and judicial cooperation, and EU border controls.

The new agency is expected to become operational in 2012.

The host country still has to be named officially by the EU, a move Pomerants said could come by the end of the year.

An EU member since 2004 and with a population of just 1.3 million people, Estonia is one of the world's most wired nations, earning it the nickname "E-Stonia".

After breaking free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia adopted a policy of rapid online development in the government and private sectors.

Most Estonians' day-to-day dealings with the authorities take place in cyberspace, and the country has also pioneered online voting.

"Estonia is known for its innovative society and use of IT, and will be a perfect environment for the agency," said Pomerants.

"It is an important political commitment that ensures balance all over the Union," between long-established west European member states and newcomers like Estonia, he added.

Estonia also joined NATO in 2004, and hosts the trans-Atlantic alliance's cyber-defence facility.

© 2010 AFP

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