Conference 'A new Space Policy for Europe', Brussels, 26-27 October 2010
(Translated from French)
Speech by Jean-Jacques Dordain
Director General of the European Space Agency
I am very pleased to be here today at the European Parliament, following on from a conference on exploration in Brussels last week under the aegis of the Belgian EU Presidency and the Italian Presidency of ESA, and then, yesterday and today, an interparliamentary conference on space in Bucharest. So, as you can see, there are many meetings taking place at present on topics relating to space and Europe.
Today, if I have understood the title correctly, the focus of discussions is a new space policy. I suppose what is really new is the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, as has been mentioned, giving the European Union explicit competence with regard to space, alongside the competence of the Member States, and thus creating a triangle of players: European Union, ESA and Member States.
I would like to start by saying clearly that this explicit competence is good news for space, good news for Europe and good news for ESA. I even take this explicit competence given to the European Union to be a reward for what ESA has been doing in the last thirty years, since what it demonstrates is that space has become so important to Europe that the European Union could no longer continue without a space dimension.
I should also point out that since 1 December 2009, a milestone date, as I have said, there have been other events which have been just as important to Europe’s role in space. In February we launched Node-3 and Cupola, 30 tonnes of hardware made in Europe which are now attached to the International Space Station with the result that 50% of the Station’s pressurised modules are now European. The next pressurised element, supplied by our Italian colleagues, will lift off for the Space Station at the end of this week, on 1 November.
We will then have Paolo Nespoli’s space flight in December, the launch of ATV-2 in February, followed by the mission of Roberto Vittori, also in February. December saw the finalisation of the ExoMars programme, which will comprise two missions, to be launched in 2016 and 2018, in cooperation with NASA on a Mars robotic exploration programme.
There was then the launch of CryoSat, the third satellite launched by ESA in one year entirely dedicated to the environment and to climate change. No other space agency in the world has such a substantial programme focussing on the environment and climate change. We also received, in June, the first results back from the Herschel and Planck telescopes and I hope you all saw the all-sky image that appeared in all of Europe’s newspapers, including on the front page of the Financial Times. On 25 November, we are going to launch Hylas, the first public-private partnership that ESA has entered into with a private investor, Avanti. This is the first in a series of public-private partnerships, the next being Alphasat, due for launch in 2012, followed by Small GEO in 2013 and, I hope, after that, the data relay system. We are working with the operators Avanti, Inmarsat (on Alphasat) and Hispasat (on Small GEO).
Speaking of launches, Ariane 5, having accomplished 38 successful launches in a row, is currently the world’s most reliable launcher. It is due to be complemented next year by two other launchers: Soyuz and Vega. Lastly, we celebrated an important event last week: the tenth anniversary of the International Charter 'Space and Major Disasters', whose ten members, all space organisations, make their Earth observation and telecommunications satellite data available to emergency services the world over as soon as a natural disaster strikes.
If I mention these events it is because they too are important in the context of space in Europe. The Lisbon Treaty would be nothing without such events, and these events would be less important without the Lisbon Treaty. These elements form a single whole. Now, turning to the Lisbon Treaty: this Treaty must surely make an important contribution to the development of Europe. Today the discussions, on this morning’s evidence, are focussing mainly on governance and industrial policy. Admittedly, two very important aspects. However, they are aspects which are internal to Europe and, to my mind, we need to move beyond this essentially local debate because the world is changing, and it is changing fast.
Consequently, in my view, what is at stake today with the Lisbon Treaty is not so much the role of each individual actor within Europe but rather Europe’s role in the world and for me that is an important element of the Treaty. Let us consider for a moment Europe’s place in the world. As I have always maintained, the Treaty is not about doing the same things but in a different way. The Treaty is about doing more, much more, with the resources and competences of each individual organisation rather than seeking to redistribute those resources and competences within Europe. After all, we already have the objectives and priorities of the European Space Policy. Indeed, each time the Space Council meets I have a list of objectives and priorities. There was the 4th Space Council under the German Presidency which defined five objectives — I won’t list them for you now. Those objectives were extended under the French Presidency to include climate change and exploration. So objectives and priorities we already have. The problem, today, is how we go about meeting those objectives and addressing those priorities, given that the overriding priorities, as Vice-President Tajani already stated, are Galileo and GMES exploitation and the preservation of our space infrastructures. So we already have objectives and priorities.
We also have a space sector which is not bad at all. As a result of investments over some thirty years, we are leaders in space science and space technology. In technology one can never assume that such a lead will always be maintained. So continuous investment is required. Today, we can be justifiably proud of our scientific sector and our technological prowess and we have developed a number of services which are now competitive, whether in weather forecasting, telecommunications, or in navigation, with EGNOS.
Today, there is no equivalent anywhere else in the world to EGNOS and the 'Major Disasters' Charter so we already have quite a few important achievements to our name. Not only that but our space industry is competitive — I was reading on the train this morning that the contract for the 81 Iridium NEXT satellites has been finalised. That was a global competition which saw a European firm come out ahead of an American rival. We in Europe have the largest operators in the world. Yesterday, in Bucharest, representatives of the Luxembourg Parliament took the opportunity to pay tribute to the Luxembourg-based operator which is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, satellite communications operator in the world.
So what is missing in all this? As I see it, Europe must now extend its leadership in space science, technology and services into leadership in policies using space: the environment, climate change, crisis management, air traffic management, maritime surveillance, development, and so on. And that, typically, is the kind of thing that ESA is not equipped to do. Could and should the European Union perform that role? The answer, for me, was given at the breakfast organised by Vice-President Tajani a fortnight ago to which he had invited his fellow Commissioners to talk about GMES services. Eight responded to the invitation, none of whom had been especially interested in space up until that point, and they discovered what contribution space could make to the policies for which they were responsible. I must say that, for me, as far as space is concerned, that breakfast was one of the most important events of the last few months: persuading a group of Commissioners, who are by no means specialists in space, that space could be of importance. And I must say, for that reason alone, though there are so many other reasons besides, Vice-President Tajani is performing an extremely valuable role.
So, as far as I am concerned, today’s 'new space policy' is about seeing how the Union’s policies can make use of space and how, later on, those policies can guide space policy. What I envisage is an implementation of the space policy that is guided by European Union policies. So I believe that must be our goal: working together to ensure that Europe achieves global leadership in a number of domains thanks to space.