The ESA Ministerial Council 2008 takes place in an unprecedented favourable environment within the European space sector.
First there was the unanimous support of the 29 space Ministers of the ESA and EU Member States for the European Space Policy (ESP) during the Space Council on 22 May 2007, which established clear strategic objectives for space. Then the most recent meeting on 26 September identified further priority areas for implementation of this policy, including in particular the contribution of space to monitoring and mitigating global change, security, Lisbon strategy and exploration.
ESA has confirmed its position as a leading global player and a reliable partner in international cooperation. It has become a concrete partner of the International Space Station (ISS) with the launches of Columbus and the ATV, driven forward the scientific frontier in space and re-established Ariane as the leader of the world-wide commercial launch market, overcoming the main programme uncertainties which existed at the time of the previous ESA Ministerial Council in 2005.
National programmes, in particular in Science and Earth Observation, are increasingly planned so as to complement ESA and maximise benefits to Europe as a whole.
Last but not least, the European Union, together with ESA and its Member States, has become a key actor in strengthening Europe as a space power, creating public space services to meet the needs of European citizens through the funding of the Galileo programme and piloting, with the support of ESA Member States, the GMES programme, thus providing a leading contribution to the GEOSS (Global Earth Observing System of Systems).