Press Release

European Union Competitiveness Council debates Space Policy

By SpaceRef Editor
March 25, 2004
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European Union Competitiveness Council debates Space Policy

The Competitiveness Council of the European Union, meeting on 11 March 2004,
discussed European Space Policy – not only the long-term vision but also
shorter-term possibilities for co-operative initiatives with the European Space
Agency (ESA).

The Space White Paper published in November 2003 lays out an ambitious action
plan for European Space Policy, reflecting the growing importance of space
activities to the lives of all European citizens. Today, weather forecasting,
telecommunications and navigation depend heavily on satellite technologies;
and the potential applications are even greater, supporting European policies
and bringing new services into many areas of daily life. To unlock this potential,
build synergies and avoid duplication demands close co-operation between the
Community, the European Space Agency and national space programmes.

With this in mind, the Competitiveness Council, composed of national government
ministers, discussed the coordination of space-related activities for 2004.

A working agreement
A major step in the drive towards closer coordination is the recent Framework
Agreement between the European Community and ESA. This agreement lays the groundwork
for common management structures and joint projects, thereby developing a solid
platform for space initiatives that will support EU policies and respond to
societal demands.

The real advantages of EU/ESA co-operation are already being seen in the GALILEO
programme for satellite radionavigation – first proposed by the European
Commission in 1999 and jointly funded with ESA. GALILEO will provide the first
independent European space-based facility for navigation, timing and positioning
with a multitude of applications in transport, health and public services.
GALILEO shows the real synergies that can be found between ESA, coordinating
the supply-side access to space, and the EU consolidating the widespread, demand-side

Space for Growth- Growth for Space
The ministers discussed where co-operative actions could start during 2004;
in particular they considered the space projects included in the European Initiative
for Growth. The Growth Initiative aims to pull Europe out of the recent economic
downturn by speeding up the rollout of transport, energy and broadband communication
networks as well as increasing investment in training. It does this by coordinating
existing private, national and European funding, refocusing investment into
areas that will strengthen structural reform and stimulate economic growth
and employment.

The Quick Start programme, a component of the Growth Initiative, covers concrete
projects within the priority areas that are ready to go – and it includes three
space-related actions.

  • The digital divide project focuses on providing broadband
    communications in remote and rural areas – using several technologies
    including satellites. This is a key part of supporting EU regional and
    cohesion policies.

  • Extending Europe’s launch capabilities by building
    a facility to launch Russian Soyuz rockets from the European site in Guyana.
    rockets carry
    different types and sizes of payload and thus their use will increase
    the launch options available.
  • The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) project
    will use satellite, ground and ocean-based monitoring technologies to form
    a global information network with many beneficial applications. Continuous
    observation will allow early warning of flood and fire risk as well as
    humanitarian crises, both within and without Europe’s borders. Coordinated
    responses to disasters such as forest fires and man-made oils spills will
    be based on
    more complete and current information. Accurate tracking of pollution and
    climate change phenomena will contribute to sustainable development targets
    such as
    the Kyoto commitments.

These three projects were discussed with ESA as possible joint initiatives
when the EU/ESA framework agreement was formulated. The GMES project in particular
has a potentially large impact across a range of EU policy areas such as security,
regional policies and humanitarian aid.

Space policy development
As well as practical programmes
the ministers also looked at how Space Policy could be further developed
in the short term. In the road map presented in
the Space White Paper, ESA is seen as the coordinator of Europe’s
capacity for launching and maintaining systems in space. The EU, within
the framework
of wider European policies, defines the demand-led applications, such as
Galileo and GMES, that support these policies.

In the longer term, these roles as well as those of national space organisations,
need to be brought into a new governance structure; particularly in view of
the new constitutional treaty that assigns competences on space policy to the
EU institutions.

The Competitiveness Council focused on possible short-term actions on policy
development that can be discussed and undertaken, together with ESA, possibly
through an informal ‘Space Council’, before the end of 2004.

SpaceRef staff editor.