Responding to the growing interest within Europe in space matters, ESA has invited 10 more countries to participate in meetings of its governing Council.
Delegations from 10 EU member states that are not members of ESA will have the opportunity to sit as observers on the Council as the future of European space programmes is debated and defined.
ESA’s Council decided in June to grant observer status to the 10 states that are members of the EU but not of ESA: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.
These states are invited to attend ESA Council and its subordinate bodies’ meetings for those matters of common interest between ESA and the EU.
These countries’ status as observers allows them to follow discussions within an ESA context on ESA–EU matters and to learn first-hand about the processes involved in ESA decision-making.
The new observers attended their first Council meeting on 12–13 October at ESA Headquarters in Paris. Eight of these states had already established formal cooperation with ESA, either as part of the European Cooperating State Agreements or general Cooperation Agreements.
At the same meeting, the ESA Council decided to authorise the ESA Director General to conduct negotiations with Poland for that country to accede to the ESA Convention by March 2012 and thus become the 20th Member State of ESA. In addition, Bulgaria and Malta are discussing Cooperation Agreements with ESA.
The increased number of delegations in ESA’s Council indicates a growing willingness among European states to invest in space programmes and Council’s key role in European space matters.
In ESA Council, the 29 Member States of ESA and the EU are also joined by Canada, which attends thanks to its long-standing cooperation agreement with ESA.
The Council is ESA's main governing body and provides the basic policy guidelines within which ESA develops the European space programme. Each of the 18 current Member States is represented on the Council and has one vote, regardless of its size or financial contribution.