ESA-PR No. 74-2000

Today ministers representing the 15 Member States of the European Space Agency, gathered in Brussels at an extraordinary meeting of the ESA Council, have adopted a resolution that accompanies a joint ESA/EC document on a European Strategy for Space. A parallel resolution, based on the same document, has been endorsed by the European Research Council, also meeting today in Brussels.

This is the very first time that the Councils of ESA and the EU have met on the same date and in the same place to adopt resolutions that will constitute a common framework within which all European players involved in space activities will develop their respective plans of action.

“Through these resolutions, European space policy takes a first step into a new phase in which space systems become an integral part of the overall political and economic efforts of European states – whether members of ESA or the EU – to promote the interests of European citizens”, said ESA’s Director General, Antonio Rodotý.

The European Strategy for Space identifies three lines of action:
a. strengthening the foundations for space activities
b. enhancing scientific knowledge
c. reaping the benefits for society and markets.

The first line encompasses broadening space technology and guaranteeing access to space through a family of launch vehicles. The second sees Europe continuing to pursue cutting-edge themes of space science and space contributions to the understanding of our planet’s climate. It includes human spaceflight and optimisation of the use of the International Space Station as an infrastructure for European research in all disciplines of space science.

The third line of action has the objectives of seizing market opportunities and meeting the new demands of our society. It bears on satellite communications and the information technology sector, satellite navigation and positioning (Galileo), and systems monitoring the Earth for environment and security. This is where close cooperation between ESA and the EC will be most instrumental in putting space systems at the service of European policies responding to citizen’s expectations.

The European Space Strategy also covers industrial aspects and pays specific attention to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). In the document, public/private partnerships are seen as a model for committing the public sector along with the complete industrial chain to an operational project.

The two resolutions adopted today endorse the setting up of a cooperative structure that will bring together the ESA Executive and the European Commission. An interim high-level joint Task Force is being set up to make proposals for the continuing development of the European Space Strategy and its implementation.

In addition to being a partner in the setting up of joint programmes responding to political initiatives of the European Union, ESA will act as the implementing organisation for the development and procurement of the space and ground segments associated with such initiatives.

The ministers invited the ESA Director General to prepare programme proposals on the basis of this strategy and to submit them to the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level scheduled for November 2001.