Franco-German relationships key for strong Europe in space

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BREMEN, Germany — The relationships between France and Germany are key for the success of Europe in the increasingly competitive global space sector, Jean Pascal Le Franc, the French space agency CNES’s director of programming, international and quality, said Oct. 24.

According to Le Franc, the two countries, which have been cooperating on space projects for the past 40 years and together provide 50 percent of the ESA budget, have the responsibility to ensure that Europe remains a leading space player amid the arrival of new countries as well as commercial space entities.

With ESA being a separate entity from the European Union, the two European powers have to ensure that space policies of the two institutions align.

“French-German cooperation is a basis of all success of the European space,” Le Franc said during a presentation at the Space Tech Expo Europe conference here. “We have been working with the European Commission to encourage and consolidate new ideas.”

The idea of strong “united” space in Europe resonates with ESA Director-General Jan Woerner.

“You have to be strong if you want to be considered a good partner on international level,” Woerner said. “That’s why Europe needs autonomy in accessing and using space. That’s why we need our own launcher program.”

Woerner, who frequently speaks about the “united space of Europe” – the idea that the European space sector should transcend national interests of individual ESA member states and work towards a common goal — said ESA had been working for a year with the EU to achieve a shared position on the space matters. That includes plans integrating space more tightly into the European economy and society, as well as support of industry and academia to enable them to be fully competitive on a global level, Woerner said.

“It’s not about being independent on the world,” Woerner said. “It’s about being a strong partner.”