Giscard d’Estaing Convention Chairman and former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing presented the latest draft of a new EU constitution at the European Council in Thessaloniki on 20 June 2003. The document, which forms the basis of a new Treaty re-shaping the EU before the admission of 10 new members in 2004, includes, for the first time, specific references to Space. In doing so it opens the door to the extension of European space activities into a number of critical policy areas, including European defence.

A field of endeavour that is inherently extraterritorial, space presents key opportunities for the development of a broad range of highly beneficial civil and public services, including communications, environmental monitoring, satellite-based navigation and earth observation as well as defence- and security-related services.

Speaking in Brussels in March 2003, former Belgian Prime Minister and European Convention Vice-Chairman Jean-Luc Dehaene said, “It is very important that space be recognised at the highest political levels, and that it be included explicitly in the next European Treaty.” His opinion has evidently been shared. The draft Treaty presented by Giscard d’Estaing mentions space explicitly in two separate sections.

From the draft text

First, under Article I-13: ‘Areas of shared competence’, space is mentioned along with research and technological development (RTD):

“In the areas of research, technological development and space, the Union shall have competence to carry out actions, in particular to define and implement programmes; however, the exercise of that competence may not result in Member States being prevented from exercising theirs.”

According to Giscard d’Estaing, the allocation of competencies among the Union and Member States makes it clear “who does what in Europe”. The definition of space as a shared competence essentially gives the Union the authority to implement space programmes, as long as it does not interfere with Member States’ activities.

Further along in the document, under Section 9, RTD and Space are dealt with at greater length. Article III-150 states:

“To promote scientific and technical progress, industrial competitiveness and the implementation of its policies, the Union shall draw up a European space policy. To this end, it may promote joint initiatives, support research and technological development and coordinate the efforts needed for the exploration and exploitation of space.”


“To contribute to attaining the objectives referred to [above], a European law or framework law shall establish the necessary measures, which may take the form of a European space programme.”

While perhaps not terribly impressive to the uninitiated, to space insiders these references represent a true milestone. For EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin , the simple fact that space is mentioned for the first time in a European Treaty means the beginning of a new chapter for Europe in space. Speaking at the Space Green Paper Closing Conference in Paris in June 2003, he said, “This is a major development. It is only a first step, of course, but it opens the door to a new phase in European space activities.”

A new European defence agency?

In addition to its specific references to space, the draft Treaty also makes provisions for the creation of a ‘European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency’. While it does not mention space specifically in this context, recent discussions within the Space Green Paper consultation process, for example at the special workshop on security and defence aspects in Athens in May 2003, have made it clear that any credible defence policy will have to encompass a major space component.

The European Convention

The European Convention is charged with proposing ways of adapting and improving the Union’s institutional and political framework, paving the way to the adoption of a new Constitutional Treaty.

The Convention includes representatives of the Heads of State and Parliaments of Member States and Candidate Countries, as well as members of the European Parliament and the European Commission. Its meetings, which are open to the public, are held once a month at the European Parliament in Brussels. The Convention submits its proposals to the European Council, made up of the Heads of State or Government of Member States.

Next steps

Pending amendments, EU Member States are expected to begin debating the Treaty later this year. Final recommendations will then be made to the Intergovernmental Conference of the EU Member States, leading to adoption of the new Treaty before EU enlargement in 2004.