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Another giant step towards EU space policy?

One of the French EU Presidency’s priorities is to boost the EU’s role as a major player in space policy. Sarkozy has an extremely ambitious plan, such as use of space for security and defence purposes and exploration of Mars and the moon. Europe presently does not possess the capability to monitor space and its space assets – it depends on external information mostly from the USA.

French plans entail setting up a system for space situational awareness which has been considered as a key requirement to guarantee Europe access to space. According to France’s new White Book on defense, France wants to develop early warning satellite systems and it’s hoping to do it with the support of other EU Member States.

It should be recalled that the European space activities are carried out within the Framework Agreement between the Community and the European Space Agency (ESA) which came into operation in May 2004. Last year the EU unveiled its space policy which is a joint policy document drafted by the European Commission and ESA’s Director General. The European Space Policy defines the strategic guidelines for Europe’s future activities in space.

France put out its vision on the European Space Policy at an informal meeting of the European ministers for space affairs which was held at the European Space Agency's Spaceport in Kourou on 21 and 22 July. Valérie Pécresse, French Minister for Higher Education and Research, has said “(…) Our slogan is “Destination Earth, space at the service of Earth and the European citizen.”

According to the French Presidency, the EU Member States are now willing to politically commit themselves to the development of the EU space policy. On 26 September, there was a session of the Space Council (joint meeting of the Competitiveness Council and the Ministerial Council of the European Space Agency). A joint resolution was adopted by the Competitiveness Council and representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA) which follows the outcome of the discussions from the informal meeting of the European space ministers on 21 and 22 July. The resolution entitled “Taking forward the European Space Policy” stressed the progress made in the implementation of the European space policy and defines guidelines for the upcoming years. The resolution points out that the European Union, ESA and their respective Member States are the main actors of the European Space Policy, and stresses that the European Union is increasing its responsibilities on space matters. The aim is for Europe to become a leading space power on the international stage. The resolution reaffirms the EU role and obviously, the EU will take the lead in defining Europe’s political aspirations in the field of space.

The EU Member States reaffirmed the priority to rapidly and successfully implement the two EU’s flagship programmes, GALILEO and GMES. The Council has stressed that data and service continuity is essential and that such continuity must be ensured by the European Union particularly through long-term funding, based on partnerships for the various GMES components. The Council has welcomed the Commission’s proposal for a new preparatory action in the Preliminary Draft Budget for 2009 which paves the way for a future funding of the operational phase of GMES.

The Space Council meeting has widened the scope of European space policy. The Space Council resolution puts forward four priority areas of space policy for the next years including: climate change, improving security, the contribution of space-related activities to the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment and space exploration.

Taking into account the challenges posed by climate change, the Council has stressed the need to expand European contributions such as the European space programmes. The Council has also stressed the important contribution of space to the CFSP/ESDP including the Petersberg tasks. The resolution has pointed out the need to ensure the security of space assets and for Europe “to develop a European capability for the monitoring and surveillance of its space infrastructure and of space debris.” Obviously, the European Union, liaising with the European Space Agency and the Member States, will be responsible for such capability in the implementation and organization.

The resolution reiterated the fact that GMES and Galileo are civilian systems under civil control – however it stressed the need to “define the way and means to improve the coordination between civilian and defence space programmes in long-term arrangements.” Hence, the military use of Galileo or GMES is not excluded.

The Council reiterated “that space exploration is a political and global endeavour and that Europe should undertake its action within a worldwide programme, without any monopoly or appropriation by one country.” The Commission is set to organize an international political conference on Europe’s role on space exploration. The resolution has stressed that Europe is committed to play an important role in the international enterprise to explore the Solar system.

The Council believes that the European space policy should have its own EU budget line from 2013 onwards. Obviously, the EU needs fund for its space deliriums, therefore, the ministers believe that future EU budgets should include a specific line to space affairs. It seems that at the next EU financial budget, we will see an increased budget for the EU activities in space. The EU Member States agreed on the creation of Community financial instruments and a financial blueprint for European space policy within the framework of the next financial budget in order to find long term funding for space infrastructures. Some Member States have been defending the European Space Policy which should be funded from national budgets.

This resolution would be transformed into concrete proposals at the European Space Agency ministerial council on 25-26 November.

To further the issue, the European Parliament has recently adopted, by a large majority, an own-initiative report by Karl von Wogau, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, which stresses the significance of the space dimension to the EU security and calls for the EU to adopt a common approach to defend its interest in space. The measures proposed by the European Parliament are in line with the French presidency priorities in this area. The European Parliament has called for the conclusion of agreements between the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) and the EU Member States in order imagery to be available to European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) operation and force commanders. The European Parliament has urged the EU Member States that have access to the several “types of radar, optical and weather observation satellites and reconnaissance systems to make them compatible and to make the imagery available to the EU Satellite Centre and for ESDP operations.”

The report has stressed the importance of GMES for security and defence policies of the European Union as well as “the necessity of Galileo for autonomous European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) operations, for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), for Europe’s own security and for the Union’s strategic autonomy.” It has become clearer that GALILEO will have a military use.

It should be recalled that the UK Government has always said that Galileo is a civilian system and that will not have military uses. The European Parliament has also pointed out that the EU needs a space surveillance system and wants to fund the future European space situational awareness system from the EU budget. Furthermore, the European Parliament called on the EU to establish “an operational budget for space assets that serve to support the ESDP and European security interests.”

An EU common space policy is taking shape even without a specific legal base under the existing EU Treaties. Space is one of the areas that the Lisbon Treaty envisages turning into a European policy. The UK will be obliged to orient its space programmes towards European aims and share and pool its space technology.


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It is interesting that there is so little political recognition (perhaps aside from Sarkozy) of the generalized support for space policy. Even the USA, which you would think would be one of the countries where it has the highest profile, spends .6% of its budget on it - by contrast the EU's 2%+ seems quite high.

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Bill Cash has been the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stone since 1997 and an MP since 1984.

He is currently the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and the founder member of the European Foundation...

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