On 10 March 2006, high-ranking officials met in Brussels to discuss boosting EU-Russian co-operation in key space areas. The Head of the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (Roscosmos) Anatoliy Perminov, and European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen signed a joint document aimed at enhancing the bilateral relationship. An implementing agreement was also signed by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director-General of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Areas of specific interest are space applications (satellite navigation, earth observation and satellite communications), access to space (launchers and future space transportation systems), space exploration and the use of the International Space Station (ISS) and space technologies development.

“This is a major step forward,” said Verheugen. “Today we have signed a political declaration and terms of reference that will allow us to continue to work together in the most constructive way. For the EU, this is a strategic partnership and we are convinced that both the EU and Russia will benefit.”

Anatoliy Perminov said, “We are very happy to note progress on your emerging European Space Policy. We have just adopted a new Russian Space Programme and this sets the stage for much future progress in space. Today we have discussed areas of mutual interest and experience and we have committed ourselves to enhancing our co-operative efforts in all of these areas.”

“Our agency has been working with the Russians for many years,” said ESA’s Jean-Jacques Dordain. “But this EU-Russia dialogue provides a new dimension. Here we have found common ground to develop and consolidate our mutual interests. The ties between ESA and the Commission are already real and strong. With this implementation agreement, the ties between Europe and Russia are growing stronger.” Real partnership for real benefits The meeting took place within the larger context of increasing economic co-operation between the two sides.

The EU/Russia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, signed at the Moscow summit in May 2005, establishes ‘common spaces’ for co-operation, including:

  • Economic;
  • Freedom, security and justice;
  • External security;
  • Research, education and culture.

Furthermore, within the Common Economic Space (CES), co-operation in space has been identified as a priority sector.

Under the new accord, joint space initiatives will comprise projects of mutual interest, to be implemented through established instruments, including ESA programmes, the space programme of the Russian Federation and the space work programme of the Seventh EU Framework Programme for Research and Development.

Space remains key element

Earlier in the day, Russian and Commission officials met in closed session to exchange views on specific areas of potential collaboration.

Speaking to the Russian delegation, Heinz Zourek, Director-General of the Commission’s Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General, said, “Space Policy is becoming much more a central issue for all EU Member States, going far beyond the intrinsic scientific interest. Space is now seen as an important means for enhancing our economic competitiveness. It is more and more instrumental in terms of our security policies, and, on top of that, we see that space-based instruments can help us to respond to major environmental concerns.

“But we cannot do it alone. Russia has been a key partner for the EU in space. We are well aware of your longstanding experience and success in this field and of your ambitious programme for the future. A common agreement to substantiate and speed up our common work will be good for all of our citizens.”

Perminov responded, “I can say that the Russian Federation is ready to move forward, opening the way for real and substantial co-operation this year.” He then outlined specific projects where Europe and Russia share common interests, including security and Earth Observation, the new Phobos probe to Mars, and satellite radionavigation.

He placed particular emphasis on future space transport vehicles, including the reusable Clipper. “We believe that access to space is one of the most promising areas for collaboration,” he said. “We are working with ESA on the Clipper project on a regular basis. We know that the US is working on similar spacecraft and we believe history has shown it is necessary to have two systems available for space exploration.”

Zourek also highlighted the timeliness of the new accord, citing ongoing EU budget negotiations, which will have a strong impact on European space activities in the coming years. “This is an important period for the EU space programme,” he said, “and we expect an increase in our budget to match our interests and our ambitions.”