A policy paper on “Space: A New European Frontier for an Expanding Union” has been presented by the European Commission in Brussels today. Space technologies are set to play a key role in helping the Union achieve its main objectives: faster economic growth, job creation and industrial competitiveness, enlargement and cohesion, sustainable development and security and defence. The policy paper was developed in close co-operation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and calls for substantial additional spending on space. It also recommends action to ensure Europe’s independent access to space, to enhance space technology, promote space exploration, attract more young people into careers in science and strengthen European excellence in space science. European Space Policy will be implemented through a new multi-annual European Space Programme. It will identify priorities, on a five-year basis, for research, infrastructure development, services and technology. Applications might include satellite broadband telecommunications to tackle the “digital divide”, and earth observation, communication and positioning systems.

“The development of Europe’s capabilities in satellite communications, global positioning, and Earth observation will boost applications and have important social, economic and commercial benefits for Europe,” said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. “This Action Plan is the result of one of the most extensive consultations ever conducted in the research and technology sector. The final result shows that policy-makers and citizens alike strongly support a more active role for the EU in space. This White Paper is a call for action to mobilise Europe towards new goals and to meet new challenges. It will help us move ahead and put Europe’s scientific talents, technologies and entrepreneurial skills to work for Europe and its citizens.”

Key recommendations

Space technologies and applications can bring essential support to the Union’s policies and objectives. They have vast social, economic, and commercial potential. Therefore the Commission recommends:

  • putting additional efforts into a variety of space infrastructures and applications, which will make a crucial contribution towards satisfying the needs of the citizens and in response to the Union’s political objectives
  • consolidating the existing scientific and technical basis of space activities
  • updating the institutional structure to give the Union new responsibilities for driving, funding and co-ordinating activities within an enlarged Space Policy.

The Commission argues that Europe faces two real risks if it does not adopt a new approach to space policy. It may run the risk of decline as a space power and space companies could also suffer because of weak commercial markets, and critical knowledge and skills could be permanently lost to Europe.

Space at work in Europe

Space is a key contributor to job creation and competitiveness in the EU in many crucial high-tech sectors, especially telecommunications. Today, the European space sector directly employs over 30,000 people in about 2,000 companies. Restructuring of the EU space industry is of critical importance for its future survival. To attract the necessary investment for the future, the EU space industry will need a steady flow of work, in particular from a strong public procurement market.

EU space policy: for a cleaner and safer Europe

The White Paper also presents solutions for the policy challenges that are facing the Union today. Space has substantial concrete contributions to make in a wide range of domains such as the environment, transportation, telecommunications and security. Europe already has cutting-edge technical capabilities in areas where services and applications are necessary to support the implementation of EU policies. In addition to operational communication systems, the EU has adopted ambitious programmes for satellite navigation, timing and positioning (GALILEO) and for global monitoring and earth observation (Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security: GMES).

Getting down to business

Space technologies support policies. Another important factor is that they can deliver large commercial benefits. For instance, the market for satellite navigation services and derived products around the world is growing by 25% a year and could reach €100 billion by 2010, creating 40,000 skilled jobs in Europe. Additionally, the worldwide market for space applications is rapidly expanding and could reach an estimated total €350 billion turnover by 2010. Each euro invested in space applications generates a turnover of €7-8 due to the development of added-value services.


The White Paper details specific concrete recommendations for guaranteeing independent access to space, enhancing space technology, promoting space exploration, attracting more young people into careers in science, strengthening European excellence in space science, and fostering competitive, entrepreneurial companies.

The Multi-Annual Space Programme

It is proposed that these activities will be implemented under the aegis of a multi-annual European Space Programme that would determine priorities, set objectives, allocate roles and responsibilities and define annual budgets. To be reviewed and updated every five years, the Programme would incorporate research and development, infrastructure development, and services and technology.

The first Multi-Annual Space Programme would cover the 2004-2007 period and would implement the activities covered by the recent Framework Agreement between the European Community and the ESA. A second phase will start in 2007 with the coming into force of the European Constitutional Treaty, providing it establishes space as a shared competence between the Union and the Member States.

How much?

The Commission proposes three main budget scenarios to support the Action Plan. A first option would be to support the needs identified during the consultation on the European Commission’s space policy (see IP/03/82 and IP/03/880) and would involve an annual expenditure growth rate of 4.6%, with respect to the overall public level of funding in 2003 (€5,380 billion). The second scenario presents an annual growth rate of 3.4%, a higher rate than the global growth rate of the EU economy. The third is more modest and is based on the current level of EU expenditures with a growth rate of 2.3 %, which, it is argued, would not be sufficient to guarantee EU independence with respect to technology and access to space.