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Benefits of space for all citizens


Over 40 nations and around 20 international organisations, including ESA, have come together in Brussels for two days, today and tomorrow, to exchange views on policies related to international cooperation in space.

Entitled ‘Winning through cooperation: sharing the benefits of space’, the conference provides a forum for discussion between States capable of providing space technology – the supply side – and those willing to make use of it – the demand side. The conference was jointly organised by the European Commission and ESA in response to a perceived need to set up a platform for dialogue between the two sides. The conference is also being attended by a strong contingent of representatives of the European space industry, which has become a key player on worldwide commercial markets in satellite manufacture, launch services and satellite operations.

Attending the conference, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain stated: “The successful launch of Ariane 5 a few days ago (Saturday 12 February) brought us ‘back to the future’, boosting Europe’s guaranteed access to space. And this outstanding achievement comes only a month after the discovery of a new world through the spectacular descent of ESA’s science probe Huygens onto Titan. These are just two concrete examples of international cooperation: Ariane shows what several European states have been able to accomplish together in 30 years of cooperation within ESA, while Huygens - reaching Titan after a 7-year journey on board NASA’s Cassini mothership - can be listed among the flagships of the longstanding ESA/NASA cooperation, which also extends to many more spacefaring countries”.

“Since 1975, the year of its foundation, ESA has been developing international cooperation, first within Europe and then beyond the boundaries of Europe. The US, Canada, Russia, Japan, China, India and most spacefaring countries are our partners, and we are ready to do more with our institutional partners worldwide and European space industry to further explore our Universe, and to better serve the needs of each citizen of the world in Earth Observation, Security, Telecommunications, Satellite Navigation, Meteorology and Space Science”, added Dordain.

In recent years ESA has been cooperating increasingly with a new partner, the European Union, through the European Commission. ESA, an independent European agency, is not part of the EU. Some countries that belong to the EU are not members of ESA and vice versa. There are, however, close ties between the two organisations and they share a common aim: to strengthen Europe and benefit its citizens.

Although ESA has had ties with the EU since the EU was formed, these have grown in recent years because of the increasing role of space in strengthening Europe’s political and economic role. Recent joint initiatives include the European global navigation system Galileo and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security suite of services, known as GMES. An upcoming initiative concerns satellite-based measures to overcome the digital divide within Europe.

The Commission has been involved in space for many years through its research programmes, but its role has recently been reinforced. Responsibility for space policy and space applications has been transferred from the Research Directorate-General to that for Enterprise and Industry, under the responsibility of Vice-President Günter Verheugen. “The Commission is currently working on a proposal for a genuine European Space Policy. Reaching for the stars brings very down to earth benefits to our citizens and industry, from radio navigation, communication by satellite or early warning of natural disasters. We need to step up cooperation, on an EU scale level and internationally. Nobody can go it alone. The Commission also wants to substantially increase R&D efforts for space under the new R&D Framework Programme and we are assessing how to combine this with investment in appropriate public-private partnerships” said Vice-President Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, in charge of competitiveness and space matters.

Franco Bonacina | alfa
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