PARIS — The European Union (EU) on May 29 declined to make a decision on whether the multibillion-dollar GMES Earth observation satellite program should be included in Europe’s next multiyear funding package or find support elsewhere.

Meeting in Brussels, the EU General Affairs Council limited its discussion to the broad lines of its Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) package, which covers EU spending between 2014 and 2020.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program, on which the EU and the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA) have already spent more than 3 billion euros ($4 billion), was left hanging — half inside and half outside the MFF package.

Denmark, which holds the current rotating EU presidency until July 1 — Cyprus comes next for six months — said that nothing definitive about what is in or out of the MFF will be decided until there is full agreement on the entire package.

The proposal adopted by the General Affairs Council identifies several possible scenarios for GMES. In one of them, it is funded inside the MFF. In another, it is funded by all EU nations, by mandatory contributions, but outside the multiyear package.

The European Commission had set GMES funding at 5.8 billion euros between 2014 and 2020 before removing the program from the MFF in June 2011 as a budget-saving gesture.

Since then, several EU governments and senior ESA officials have protested the move, saying GMES’s survival would be threatened if the program were left outside the MFF funding mechanism.

ESA officials had said that they would suspend preparations for the launch of the first GMES satellites, called Sentinels, until the EU Commission sent a clear signal that the program would be funded beyond 2014.

ESA officials had said that to assure a launch of the first Sentinel satellite in mid-2013, ESA would need to contract for the launch in June of this year. ESA officials are under stronger pressure to launch the first Sentinel satellite since Europe’s large Envisat environmental satellite stopped functioning in April.

The EU official said the commission is unlikely to make any decision on GMES until next fall at the earliest.



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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.