PARIS — Ministers from eight European governments have written the European Commission urging that the GMES satellite-based environment-monitoring project be reintegrated into the seven-year funding package the commission is preparing for 2014-2020.

Dated Nov. 9, the letter’s signatories include the four biggest financial contributors to the European Commission — Germany, France, Britain and Italy. Ministers from Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland also signed the document, which is addressed to three senior European Union (EU) commissioners, including Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski.

In addition to saying that GMES, or Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, is a key program “under the management and responsibility” of the 27-nation European Union, the letter argues that removing selected items from the multiannual budget ultimately poses a risk to the entire package.

The commission, which is the executive arm of the EU, has proposed that both GMES and ITER, a Europe-led international experimental nuclear-fusion project, be removed from the multiyear spending program and funded separately. The most recent iteration of the commission’s proposal would see GMES’s 5.8 billion euros ($8 billion) in estimated costs between 2014 and 2020 financed by the 27 EU member states through mandatory contributions based on each nation’s gross domestic product.

Under the commission’s proposed scenario, the programs would therefore not be European Union endeavors in the legal sense, but rather “intergovernmental” projects subject to different rules.

“The proposal contradicts the current practice and the principle of transparency,” the letter says. “Furthermore, it can only be interpreted as a sign of disengagement by the European Union towards major strategic sectors.

“To hide certain expenditure items instead of examining the whole range of [European] Community expenditure is not acceptable. It is even less appropriate at a time when Member States are focusing on unprecedented budgetary efforts. By removing from the financial framework projects of this kind, it leaves other existing expenditures within the EU budget open to similar pressure.

“This is why we are asking for ITER and GMES to be part of the Union’s budget for the 2014-2020 period, both being embedded in European law. At the same time, we are also calling for a strengthening of cost-control measures on these projects; we need to ensure they can be delivered to budget and timescale and that the programme managers can be held to account,” the letter concludes.



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