The Council of the European Space Agency met at ministerial level in Paris on 4 March 1997 under the chairmanship of Mr Yvan Ylieff, Belgian Minister for Science Policy.
The main subjects discussed by the ministers and senior officials representing the Agency's fourteen Member States (plus Canada as a Cooperating State and the European Commission with observer status) were the adaptation of industrial policy and the system for calculating the scale of contributions to ESA's mandatory activities.
Mr Hugo Parr, Chairman of the Council at delegate level, opened the discussion by recapitulating the background and context. Mr Jean-Marie Luton, Director General, having emphasised ESA's successes and the mobilisation of all the teams involved in the second Ariane-5 launch, stressed the importance of industrial policy reform in the general context of the Agency's evolution. Endorsing the main objectives assigned at its last meeting in Toulouse on 20 October 1995, namely:
* to make more cost-effective use of ESA's resources;
* to increase European industry's shares of world markets;
* to mobilise the technical skills and stimulate the innovative capacity of European industry, with special attention to small and medium-size businesses;
* to achieve balance between the interests of main contractors and those of subcontractors,
Council at ministerial level decided:
* to streamline the Agency's decision-making procedures by maintaining continuity between its preparatory and its development programmes,
* to implement partnership agreements with European industry in all areas affecting its competitiveness on world markets,
* to apply measures designed to derive maximum benefit from the existing industrial fabric,
* to introduce the necessary flexibility into Member States' financial contributions to ESA programmes, thus benefiting from competition between industrial suppliers while at the same time maintaining a fair distribution of returns.
The new policy will be introduced gradually over the period 1997 to 1999, and special measures will be taken to compensate for the past deficits accumulated by certain Member States.
Finally, Council at ministerial level decided to meet again in 1998 to take decisions on the Agency's future programmes from the perspective of an overall strategy encompassing the roles of other European bodies involved in the space sector.
At the end of the meeting, Mr Ylieff said: "I am especially pleased that we have adopted a resolution marking a major step towards even better use of public investment in the space sector of Europe's industrial fabric and capacity for innovation, while strengthening our competitiveness on world markets."