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A step closer to a European Space Policy

Space is a strategic asset which Europe must exploit more effectively. Europe cannot afford to lose out when it comes to securing the economic and societal benefits of space for its citizens. The European Space Policy will soon give Europe a comprehensive tool with which to widen its dimension vis-à-vis space activities.

Today, the College of European Commissioners in Brussels adopted a document, a Communication (as it is called in EU circles) on the European Space Policy which has been jointly drafted by the European Commission and the European Space Agency’s Director General. Over the past two years, the two organisations have been working on establishing a comprehensive political framework for the development and exploitation of space technologies and systems, on the basis of which individual investment decisions can be taken to maximise the benefits to be derived from space. As a next step, the European Space Policy will be presented by ESA’s Director General as a proposal at the next delegate-level meeting of ESA’s ruling Council on 9 May. Finally, it will be tabled for endorsement by Ministers on 22 May in Brussels at the 4th Space Council (*).

Commenting on the adoption of the Communication, Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “Space is strategic for our future. It gives us the tools to address many challenges of the 21st Century. Space systems and satellites are key assets in assessing global problems and helping us overcome them. Space also contributes significantly to our daily life.”

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said: “For over thirty years, the European Space Agency has been successfully developing space systems and infrastructures. We are eager to consolidate this success story in responding to the new challenges of the European Space Policy and in working with the European Commission to develop the application of space systems in support of Europe’s policies.”

Europe is a global actor and is increasingly being called on to play a leading role as regards global policies. Space will increasingly serve Europe’s domestic and global policy needs and it can also help to achieve further important European policy objectives. Environmental policy and in particular the European response to global climate change is one striking example. Others are security, transport, research, agriculture, fisheries and development aid.

The Communication on the European Space Policy aims to:

- foster better coordination of civil space programmes between the EU, ESA and their respective Member States to ensure value for money and eliminate unnecessary duplication, thus meeting shared European needs,

- increase synergy between civil and defence space programmes and technologies, and in particular interoperability of civil/defence systems,

- ensure sustainable funding for space applications, in particular the flagship initiative Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES**),

- ensure that space policy is consistent with, and supports, the EU's external relations. The EU, ESA and their Member States will put in place a coordination mechanism to develop a joint strategy for international relations.

Space is also a high value-adding sector, a driver for growth and employment and a valuable opportunity provider for European industry.

Franco Bonacina | alfa
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