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European Space Policy: experts get down to business


The implementation of European Space Policy is moving forward this week as experts from Member States and international organisations meet to flesh out the main lines of a European Space Programme. Experts are meeting today to assess the EU’s space and security capabilities and future needs. Discussions on the security dimension of Space Policy address satellite border control, conflict prevention, humanitarian missions, and fighting organised crime and terrorism. On 4 June, Member State experts gathered with European Commission and ESA officials to discuss the various elements of a European Space Programme. These elements include space science and technology, Earth observation, space navigation, satellite communication, space exploration, micro-gravity, launchers and spectrum policy related to space. Last Friday’s meeting launched the implementation of the new Framework Agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency. The Commission and ESA are due to propose, in early 2005, a comprehensive European Space Programme, which is meant to act as a coherent reference agenda for Europe’s efforts in the space sector.

“Space assets and capabilities increasingly become indispensable for realising the EU’s objectives,” said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. “But the investments are too costly if we do not get more coherence and more cooperation at the European level and for different uses, be it for civil or security purposes. With the different groups representing national and European interests, we are undertaking a truly collective effort to define the EU’s priority objectives for space investment and future use.”

The Security aspect of Space policy

The White Paper on European Space Policy highlights the strategic importance of Space in implementing the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). It is now widely agreed that space-based technologies have a major role to play in ensuring the security of European citizens. This includes better enforcement of border control and conflict prevention as well as improving humanitarian missions and fighting crime and terrorism.

With Europe now moving towards a comprehensive Security Research programme - its groundwork being laid by the Preparatory Action on Security Research (PASR2004) - the EU and ESA have attached a great deal of importance to security-related space activities.

Following the Report on ‘Research for a Secure Europe’ , prepared by the Security ‘Group of Personalities’, the European Commission agreed to establish a ‘Panel of Experts on Space and Security’. The panel is chaired by Commissioner Busquin and composed of experts from EU Member States, ESA, national space agencies, the EU’s Satellite Centre at Torrejon (Spain), EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and representatives of a range of players in the space and security sector. The panel, which meets for the first time on 7 June, aims to provide the Commission with an assessment by the end of 2004 on security and defence-related issues raised in the White Paper. It will present recommendations on the necessary capabilities required for a future European Space Programme.

A common European vision

The White Paper on Space proposes that Space Policy be implemented through a European Space Programme that would identify priorities, set objectives, define roles and responsibilities and allocate budgets. The first multi-Annual Space Programme would cover the 2005-2007 period and would implement activities covered by the recent Framework Agreement between the European Community and ESA, which officially entered into force on 28 May 2004.

A key element of the Agreement is to convene an EU/ESA ‘High-Level Space Policy Group’. The purpose of the Group is to reach a common understanding on the implementation of European Space Policy, in particular the preparation of the future Space Programme. The Group will also help to prepare for meetings between the EU and ESA Council of Ministers (the ‘Space Council’), the first of which is proposed for 26 November 2004.

The High-level Space Policy Group, jointly chaired by senior EU and ESA officials, is composed of representatives from all EU and ESA Member States (25 EU members plus Switzerland and Norway). The Group met for the first time on 4 June and will continue to meet on a regular basis.

Fabio Fabbi | European Commission
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