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N° 9–2000: Europe prepares for a common space strategy

7 February 2000

Ms Loyola de Palacio, EC Vice-President and Commissioner responsible for Relations with the European Parliament, Transport and Energy, and Mr Philippe Busquin, Commissioner responsible for Research, today visited ESTEC, the European Space Agency's Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Their discussions with ESA's Director General Antonio Rodotà and senior management touched on matters of common interest such as a European space strategy and the Galileo satellite navigation programme, and on monitoring hazardous cargo movements at sea.

The Commission and ESA have already started elaborating a joint European space strategy following Ministerial Resolutions adopted by their respective Councils last year calling for them to complete this by end-2000. Close consultation with all interested parties in Europe will take place over the coming months to provide input. Mr Busquin emphasised the importance of coordination and concertation in European research, as stated in his latest communication "Towards a European Research Area".

Galileo is a joint EU/ESA initiative to develop a European global satellite navigation system. The programme is currently in the detailed definition phase. Once completed, Galileo will provide autonomous European traffic management and telematics infrastructure, generating valuable economic benefits for European equipment manufacturers and service industry and creating jobs. Under current plans, the system will comprise at least 21 satellites (in medium earth orbit at 24 000 km, possibly supplemented by geostationary satellites at 36 000 km) and the associated ground infrastructure. Ms de Palacio highlighted the importance of this programme, which is an essential contribution to developing an integrated European transport policy, to be confirmed by the EU Council by end-2000.

The Commissioners also showed interest in a new initiative proposed by Mr Rodotà involving harnessing space technology to monitor hazardous cargo movements at sea and research on oil spill detection to improve management of the environment. Positioning equipment is to be installed on cargo for operational tracking of oil tankers and other vessels carrying hazardous materials. This will be included as a testbed activity under Galileo. This initiative will also serve to draw up and enforce European legislation in this area and increase transport safety. It will also assist decision-making on ship routing/planning and help prepare/update coastal zone sensitivity maps.

For further information, please contact :

Géraldine Naja

ESA, Directorate for Strategy and Technical Assessment

Tel: + 33.1.5369.7532

Fax: + 33.1.5369.7690

Michel Praet

ESA Brussels Office

Tel: +32.2. 743.3072

Fax: +32.2. 743.3071