On 3 February 2004, the European Commission presented a Communication to the
European Parliament and the Council on the Global Monitoring for Environment
and Security’ (GMES) initiative. Its focus is a new Action Plan, aimed
at establishing a working GMES capacity by 2008.

GMES represents a concerted attempt to produce better policy relevant information,
bringing together data and information from a wide variety of sources and making
it available to those who need it most.

Speaking at the presentation in Brussels, European Research Commissioner Philippe
Busquin said, “The goal of GMES is to bring together, process and deliver
rapidly to users all data and information collected by observation satellites,
airborne monitoring devices and ground- and ocean-based sensors.”

GMES is meant to provide independent, cost-effective, and user-friendly services
for anticipating and responding to crises ranging from natural disasters such
as floods and forest fires to organised crime and tides of illegal immigration.

Citing a concrete example, Busquin referred to the Prestige oil tanker disaster. “While
we knew, at that time,” he said, “where the ship was and how much
oil was being spilled, we did not have the ability to quickly combine data
on tides, weather forecasts, and characteristics of the ocean floor, which
would have allowed us to limit the amount of damage that was done. GMES will
give us that ability.”

The GMES Action Plan (2004-2008)
The GMES Communication outlines the lessons learned during the GMES initial
period (2001-2003), and sets out an Action Plan for a working GMES capacity
by 2008. This includes a structure for its management and funding arrangements.

The first priority is to bring data and information together to create useful
services. To do this, two key elements are required. First, the main sources
of data need to be identified and integrated. Next, a means of effectively
distributing the information to users needs to be developed.

The Action Plan outlines the tasks required to accomplish this in the next
four years, including:

  • Developing the right tools, in space, in the air, in the oceans and
    on the ground, for collecting the required information;
  • Designing the appropriate data integration and information management
    infrastructures that will allow users to easily access and share the information;
  • Providing regular and reliable services tailored to the specific needs
    of users; and
  • Establishing a structure for effectively funding and managing the new
    GMES capacity.

The bottom line
The development of services from 2004-2006 will be paid for by a combination
of existing funds from the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for Research
(2002-2006) and European Space Agency ‘GMES Services Element’ funds.
It is estimated that ?80 million will be required in 2007, with an increase
to ?150 million in subsequent years for service provision alone.

As is the case with the GALILEO satellite navigation system, a funding mechanism
will need to be developed by a new ‘GMES Programme Office’ involving
the European Commission, ESA, EU Member States and private parties, to ensure
that users of GMES services contribute to the operating costs through an appropriate
business model.

However, far from being a costly public programme, GMES is eventually expected
to be a genuine money maker. As Busquin explained, “GMES has a great
potential to stimulate economic growth by fostering the creation of new innovative
services – so much so that it has been selected as one of the ‘Quick-start’ projects
under the Commission’s new Growth Initiative.”

Next steps
The EU expects to implement the GMES Action Plan in close co-operation with
ESA, EU and ESA Member States, other international organisations and the
private sector. In early 2005, the Commission will make formal proposals
for the management scheme and funding resources needed for an operational
GMES capacity by 2008.

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