02 December 2004

Günter Verheugen is the new European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry. Taking over responsibilities for competitiveness and space matters, he has presented a personal message to the space community.

Günter Verheugen:

I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments on the importance of space for the European Union, on the new organisation of the Commission and on my personal view of the challenges that lie ahead in the coming years.

Four weeks ago, the new Constitutional Treaty was signed in Rome, defining ‘space’ for the first time as a shared competence of the Union. A few months earlier, a new Framework Agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency entered into force.

As such, space has acquired a new European dimension, which is also vividly expressed by the fact that 10 new Member States are joining the ongoing space effort.

Space technologies are unique in their capabilities such as their capacity to collect and distribute information at any time and any place. It is this unique capability that led space to be included in the Constitutional Treaty. It has been clearly recognised that ‘space technologies’ represent a critical issue for the European Union, both for its society and its global role in the world.

The new Commission has already responded by transferring space matters into my field of responsibility, ‘Enterprise and Industry’. With this reorganisation, the new Commission emphasises that space:

  • is an area that goes far beyond research;
  • is to become an integral part of the Lisbon-strategy;
  • has an important industrial dimension and will be a key contributor to increasing the competitiveness of European industry.

Thus, the European Space Policy to be drawn up by the Union, will constitute a new step forward, where the main public demand for space solutions will be generated by key Union policies like Transport, Environment, Information Society and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), as demonstrated, for example, by GALILEO and GMES.

In order to make this policy work, we will need an implementing tool, and this is one of the major roles I see for the new European Space Programme, which should set a coherent framework for European space activities and bring new synergies and added value to the efforts already underway at a national and ESA level.

Europe and Space – the ‘Verheugen vision’

I would also like to share my personal vision of what we have to achieve over the next years:

  • As clearly set out in the Space White Paper, the level of resources Europe currently invests in space remains quite limited, certainly when compared to the US. We should be working towards a significant increase over the next few years.
  • The Union, as the main beneficiary and user of space-based services and solutions, should contribute to this increase in order to further strengthen its scientific and technological base and adequately exploit the commercial opportunities offered by space. The precise level of the Union’s contribution will obviously depend upon ongoing discussions on the financial perspectives and the work that will need to be carried out to develop the European Space Programme.
  • However, it is my firm belief that, in addition to continuing and further extending the type of research activities we have already seen under the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, our space activities should also be extended to cover non-research activities, a necessity in particular with respect to GALILEO and GMES.
  • It is also my belief that the EU will need to broaden its focus beyond the current relatively narrow focus on applications, in order to maintain and further develop our capability to act independently in the space sector.
  • Finally, we will have to ensure that our industrial space sector emerges strengthened from the next phase of restructuring and consolidation. This is likely to require a new and more comprehensive industrial policy.

Space is still a relatively untapped resource for Europe. The positive potential that space holds for our industry, our knowledge base, our security and our quality of life is without limit. Our task now is to help realise this potential for all the citizens of Europe.

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