WASHINGTON — European officials adopted a resolution to increase the competitiveness of Europe’s space industry, but members of that industry say the measure falls far short of what is needed.

At the conclusion of a Space Council meeting May 23 in Brussels, members of the European Space Agency and European Union adopted a resolution on strengthening Europe’s competitiveness in space, including supporting companies working in the industry.

The resolution does not include any major new initiatives regarding space industry competitiveness, but instead highlights and emphasizes ongoing efforts. That includes efforts like the EU’s Cassini program to stimulate investment in space companies and increased use of procurements of services.

“Our conclusions reiterate the importance of the space program for Europe’s strategic policies and actions and for strengthening the competitiveness and resilience of our space industry,” said Thomas Dermine, federal state secretary for research for Belgium, which holds the current EU presidency, at a briefing after the meeting. “They call for public and private investment to support innovation, and the essential role of SMEs,” or small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The European space sector is already a world leader. To keep it that way, the EU and ESA, as well as the responsible ministers of the member states, are committed to increasing the innovation and competitiveness of the European space sector,” said Anna Christmann, German federal aerospace coordination and ESA ministerial council chair.

She cited as an example of the ESA’s commercial cargo program, which awarded contracts for initial studies to Thales Alenia Space and The Exploration Company May 22, a little more than six months after ESA announced it would formally begin that program. “I think that is the pace that we need to see more and more in Europe, when it comes to competitiveness.”

However, the resolution falls short of what some in Europe’s space industry wanted. “The time has come for decisive action to equip Europe with the necessary tools to ascend as a true ‘space power’, commensurate with its envisioned global stature,” said Eurospace, a European space industry group, in a statement after the council meeting.

Eurospace cited several concerns, such as low volume of European institutional demand for space services particularly when compared to the United States and China, as well as diminished demand from traditional commercial markets served by European companies. “In parallel,” it added, “SpaceX is now currently completely disrupting the satellite industry, after having contributed to disrupt the launch service market.”

The organization called on the development of a “coherent, European-wide, industrial strategy for space” that would address issues like space industrial supply chains in Europe and leveraging “the complementarity between defence and civil capabilities to develop new technologies to be used for both commercial and defence needs.”

European said that strategy should also include better coordination among the EU, ESA and their member states, and called for them to “promote European standards and rules of behaviour, in particular for sustainability and environmental impact mitigation.”

Space law limbo

The briefing after the Space Council meeting also confirmed that it is unlikely that a proposed EU space law, expected to be released earlier this year, will not be formally introduced until after European Parliament elections in June. In April, Theirry Breton, the EU commissioner whose responsibilities include space, told a parliamentary committee that the proposed law was “not yet mature” and that work on it would resume later in the summer.

“We heard from the member states that there is a strong appetite for the commission to table a proposal for an EU-wide space law,” said Timo Pesonen, head of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space, at the briefing. “We are working now in the coming weeks intensively to make the proposal available.”

The commission has not released a draft of the law, although the proposed legislation is expected to address a desire to create a single EU market for space and introduce space sustainability rules.

“We wanted to take the time to be sure that what we are preparing corresponds, first of all, the aspirations and ambitions of the industry and our member states, expectation of the citizens, and then the legal basis is solid enough for years to come,” Pesonen said.

While Belgium had made an EU space law a priority for its six-month EU presidency, Dermine said he was not surprised it was delayed.

“It would of course, have been tremendous if we could have landed on a final version of the space law, but it’s by far better to have a more, I would say, major and aligned version with the industry and with all the experts, than to have a half-baked version coming into this presidency,” he said.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...