Europeans say 'Yes' to a strong Europe in space
ESA PR 41-2003. The four-month consultation on the Green Paper on European Space Policy came to a close in Paris today, with EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, European Space Agency Director General Antonio Rodotà and other leading players in the space sector calling for a significant increase in European efforts in space research and an upgraded institutional framework.
Claudie Haigneré, French Minister for Research and New Technologies, and Letizia Moratti, Italian Minister for Education, Universities and Scientific Research, also attended to propose key measures to drive forward the space ambitions of Europe. Other priorities outlined at the conference included better co-ordination between all sectors at EU and international levels, guaranteed independent access to space for Europe and a flexible system of programme funding.
Participants stressed the need to develop space technology, such as Internet by satellite and security applications. The Conference provided important input for the forthcoming EU White Paper on Space Policy, due to be published by the European Commission in October this year.
Philippe Busquin said: “The consultation was a successful exercise in democracy and collective creativity. People expect the EU to play a greater role in space, and we must be ready to meet those expectations. We will build on the lessons learnt from the consultation to devise an ambitious action plan for European space policy. With strong political commitment from all key space stakeholders and sustained interest among the public, we can turn Europe into the space leader of the 21st century.”
Claudie Haigneré declared: “I welcome the remarkable work undertaken by the European Commission and ESA. Thanks to this wide-ranging debate on our future ambitions, we have established shared views on the current situation and a mutual recognition of the strategic importance of space for Europe. This exercise comes at the same time as the Convention’s work on a new treaty for the European Union, and provides us with the opportunity of proposing a space competence for the EU. We wholeheartedly support this initiative, which should contribute significantly to developing Europe’s future in space. Our ambition is considerable: we must collectively reaffirm the strategic role of space in building a Europe that is strong, respected and ever closer to its citizens."
Antonio Rodotà added: “We are pleased with the quality and quantity of the contributions to the consultation: this shows there is real interest in an upgraded role for Europe in space, not only within the scientific and business communities, but also in the public at large. ESA will therefore work with the Commission and other space sector players to raise the profile of space in Europe and help set a true agenda for the future of space policy.”
The Paris Conference was also attended by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director-General elect of ESA, who takes office on 1 July, Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden, and by Herbert Diehl, Director General of the German Ministry of Education and Research. Some European astronauts were also present.
The participants included over 400 representatives of government, industry, research and civil society. The Conference provided an opportunity to draw key lessons from the several thousand contributions to the consultation process. It also helped to define priorities for action, and determine specific measures needed to reinforce Europe’s role in the space sector and maximise the use of space for the benefit of European citizens. These will be the subject of an EU White Paper to be published by the end of 2003.
The economic picture
The economic implications of space activities cannot be ignored. According to the US Department of Defense, by 2010 more than 2000 satellites will be orbiting the Earth compared to 600 today. Over the period until then, US investment will total some 500 billion dollars. In Europe, it is estimated that by 2010 the space industry and its related activities could represent around 10% of GDP. However, European funding for space research and development is only a sixth of the figure for the US, the bulk of which is accounted for by NASA and the Department for Defense.
A new era for Europe in space
The Green Paper on European Space Policy, adopted by the European Commission on 21 January, is a strategic document developed in co-operation with the European Space Agency, which opens a new era for Europe in space. Its aim was to initiate a broad debate on the medium- and long-term future use of space for the benefit of Europe.
On 13 May the EU Competitiveness Ministers adopted a resolution calling for rapid conclusion of a framework agreement between ESA and the European Commission and for urgent action to be taken at EU level to answer the challenges faced by Europe’s space sector. On 15 May the European Parliament adopted a similar resolution, insisting that space be a shared competence in the new EU Treaty.
On 27 May the ESA ministerial meeting, addressing a series of key issues including the future of the Ariane launcher and the Galileo satellite positioning system, also adopted a resolution reaffirming the commitment of ESA to enhanced co-operation with the EU, taking into account the distinct missions and institutional bases of the two organisations and with due regard to their complementarity. Earlier in June the draft EU Constitution confirmed that space would be one of the new competencies of the European Union.
From Brussels to Paris: giving Europeans a voice in space
The Green Paper consultation encompassed a series of events, workshops and meetings spanning the continent and attracting considerable public interest. Following the opening conference in Brussels, the Madrid meeting focused on the contribution of the industrial sector. The Berlin workshop brought the scientific community together.
Participants in Rome addressed challenging institutional issues, while London and Prague featured debates on applications and the role of international co-operation, respectively.
Additional events were held in Lisbon, Athens and Vienna. High-level bilateral consultations also took place and many organisations responded directly to the Commission. Finally, individual citizens were invited to post their views via the Internet.
What are space stakeholders calling for?
The consultation drew wide-ranging contributions from across Europe. Through an open, transparent and democratic debate, a broad consensus on a number of key actions is taking shape. During the consultation, space sector players addressed a series of options, including:
- Upgrading the space policy institutional framework, possibly by creating a Council of Space Ministers;
- Using the same satellite systems for both civil and defence/security purposes (multiple-use systems);
- An institutional market which recognises space potential in addressing civil policy objectives such as communication and navigation;
- Independent, reliable and affordable access to space through the European Guaranteed Access to Space (EGAS) programme;
- The need for a European Security and Defence Agency;
- Improved career prospects, training and development for people working in space research and technology;
- A doubling of funding for European research;
- Harmonising data collection and processing at European level, with the Commission supporting a powerful data processing system for climate forecasts and global change monitoring;
- Establishing the International Space Station as a base for microgravity research;
- Further support for ESA’s Aurora programme, which aims, inter alia, to put a human on Mars within the next 30 years;
- Developing space applications to underpin technological and scientific development and the security of citizens;
- Developing a programme to achieve seamless broadband communications for everyone in Europe; and
- Supporting the enlargement process and European integration through satellite technologies and shared policy objectives.
The following events will drive forward Europe’s space policy:
- July 2003: a summary report on the consultation process from the EU/ESA Joint Task Force will be published.
- September 2003: the European Parliament will contribute its views to the Green Paper process.
- October 2003: the Commission is expected to release the White Paper on European Space Policy, with subsequent submission to the Council and Parliament. The White Paper will include an action plan setting out a future strategy for space activities in the European Union. It will acknowledge the contributions received, and include proposals for the content, organisation and level of future European space activities.
- November 2003: the White Paper is on the agenda to be discussed by the Council of the European Union in the Competitiveness Council under the Italian Presidency.
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