Negotiations on a framework agreement for structured cooperation between ESA and the European Community have been concluded. Today the ESA Council adopted the agreement, which had already been endorsed by the EU Council on 20 October.

The origins of the agreement date from November 2001, when the ministers in charge of space activities gave ESA clear directions on the Agency’s evolution and policy. The ESA/EC agreement marks a milestone in their relationship: it gives recognition to both parties, emphasising that they have specific complementary and mutually reinforcing strengths, and commits them to working together while avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort.

The framework agreement has two main aims. The first is the coherent and progressive development of an overall European Space Policy, which will specifically seek to link demand for services and applications using space systems in support of EU policies with the supply through ESA of space systems and infrastructures necessary to meet that demand. The second aim of the agreement is to establish a common basis and appropriate practical arrangements for efficient and mutually beneficial cooperation between ESA and the European Union, fully respecting the institutional and operational frameworks of each.

“This agreement will facilitate the setting up of new joint projects and provide a stable framework for ESA-EU cooperation, and that will benefit the European citizens”, said ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. The agreement also opens up new possibilities for cooperation, such as EU participation in ESA optional programmes, or ESA management of EU space-related activities. “The framework agreement will be judged mainly according to its success in helping to generate valuable new programmes and activities responding to the demand of citizens expressed through the EC”, Dordain added.

Yesterday, the European Commission adopted its White Paper on space, drafted with the support of ESA. It presents an action plan for implementing an enlarged European space policy, including proposals for joint ESA-EU space programmes that will take the framework agreement as their basis.

Official signature of the framework agreement is envisaged on 27/28 November, on the occasion of the EU Council in Brussels.