27 June 2000
Today in Paris, Carl Bildt, Jean Peyrelevade and Lothar Späth meet Antonio Rodotà, ESA Director General, to start deliberations on ESA's evolution and enlargement.
ESA is at the point of convergence between two trends: space is playing a progressively more influential role in everyday life, while Europe is developing its areas of competence and expanding its frontiers. Thanks to ESA's successes over the last thirty years, Europe's space systems are providing increasingly competitive solutions for implementing environmental, transport and communication policies. The European Union is evolving rapidly, extending its competence to the defence sector, regulating a Europe-wide knowledge-based economy, enlarging its membership and reforming its operating procedures. In the light of these converging developments, a first step was taken towards a closer relationship between ESA and the EU when the Councils of both organisations asked for a European space strategy to be prepared jointly by the end of 2000.
ESA is an "open" organisation that has grown and will keep growing: with the accession of Portugal later this year, the original membership of 11 States in 1975 will have expanded to 15. In the early 1990s Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic, aiming to develop their space programmes, concluded cooperation agreements with ESA, as did Greece in 1994.
The enlargement of ESA is different from that of the EU. ESA is an R&D organisation, pooling its Member States' resources, scientific communities and industrial capabilities. The Central and East European countries have yet to consolidate such capabilities. Criteria for admissibility of new applicants have recently been established by ESA and a specific status of "European Cooperating State" will be created to accommodate the interests of new States not having the same objectives or capabilities as the existing Member States.
This is the right time for ESA to reflect on the links between its potential enlargement and the directions in which it needs to evolve in order to respond to the expectations of European citizens. To help with these reflections and provide him with independent advice, the ESA Director General has set up a committee of three "wise men" chaired by Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister and UN envoy to the Balkans, the other two members being Jean Peyrelevade, President of Crédit Lyonnais, and Lothar Späth, CEO of Jenoptik. The three represent a combination of high-level political, economic and industrial expertise. The first meeting of this committee takes place today at ESA headquarters in Paris.
The Committee is expected to make it recommendations to the Director General by October this year, in line with the calendar for the European space strategy being prepared jointly by ESA and the European Union. "I warmly welcome Carl Bildt, Jean Peyrelevade and Lothar Späth to this first meeting", said Antonio Rodotà. "Together we will study opportunities for ESA to expand its frontiers and find ways for it to evolve into an agency which exploits all the potential of space for the benefit of all the people of Europe", he added.
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