On 8 September 2003, top-level EC and European Space Agency (ESA) officials met at Arenberg Castle in Belgium to discuss key issues in the run-up to the White Paper on Space Policy. The third in a series of ‘European Space Policy Workshops’, the meeting focussed on specific challenges in the areas of global monitoring (GMES), satellite navigation (GALILEO) and human spaceflight. Speakers included EC Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain.

According to Busquin, “The Green Paper process demonstrated a high level of interest in space, raising awareness among all EU institutions of the importance of a solid European Space Policy. The overall message is the following: the European Union has a number of ambitions. It wants to foster sustainable development, it wants to excel in science and technology, it wants to ensure the security of its citizens and it wants to conduct a credible foreign policy. In order to realise these ambitions, it needs an independent and state-of-the-art space capacity.”

This capacity, says Busquin, includes several elements:

  • An independent and competitive launching capability;
  • A strong and competitive space industry;
  • The development of new applications that meet real needs;
  • Strong international partnerships; and
  • A strong space science programme.

About the space industry, he said, “We know that our industry is now suffering due to a lack of institutional demand, compared to our American competitors. That is why we need to explore new public-private initiatives. GALILEO is a prime example and will be a good test case.”

On space science: “Space science must remain an integral part of our effort to better understand the universe, our planet and life. It is a discipline that continues to attract young people to scientific careers.”

Space a fundamental tool

For ESA head Jean-Jacques Dordain, space activities are an integral part of today’s political, social and economic environment. “However,” he said, “European space systems are far from being commensurate with Europe’s position in the world. In contrast, the role of space systems is fully integrated within the US political agenda, which treats space infrastructures as instruments of US leadership.

“Europe, whether she likes it or not, holds a prominent position in the world, representing a full third of global GNP. With this position come duties, first vis-à-vis our own citizens and then the citizens of the world.” Dordain says space systems are unique in allowing Europe to meet its responsibilities, which include:

  • Ensuring the progress of knowledge;
  • Peacekeeping;
  • Protecting the planet and its environment;
  • Increasing wealth;
  • Ensuring social progress. EU and ESA must work together

For Dordain, a comprehensive European Space Policy will be based on close co-operation between the European Union and ESA, with the Space White Paper serving as a guide to future activities. “In seeking to achieve our objectives, the EU and ESA are entirely complementary,” he said. “The EU is concerned with issues facing European citizens and it is empowered to define and implement the corresponding sector policies. ESA, for its part, is a resource-based agency, equipped to coordinate the supply of space systems. It has developed robust relations with industry, the R&D world and research centres. Clearly, the EU and ESA have a shared interest, meaning the development by ESA of space infrastructures designed to meet the needs of the sector policies defined by the European Union.

Busquin also referred specifically to EU/ESA co-operation. “We are fortunate,” he said, “that ESA, together with national agencies, has placed Europe in a leading position in the field of space. The EU needs ESA, but I believe ESA needs the EU as well. The Commission and ESA have just recently concluded a framework agreement that sets out the basic rules and procedures for co-operation on many of the areas we have been discussing.”

Busquin also welcomed the inclusion of an article on space policy in the new EU Treaty. “Through the Treaty,” he said, “space policy can become a horizontal policy, serving all other EU policies, including foreign and security policies.”

Lively debate

Following Busquin and Dordain, Stephan Hobe, director of Cologne University’s Institute for Air and Space Law, addressed key institutional legal issues. Then, in a lively second panel, Luc Tytgat of the European Commission and Dave Williams of Eumetsat discussed the GMES initiative, while Jörn Tjaden of the newly formed GALILEO Joint Undertaking focussed on the enormous potential of that project.

European Astronaut Frank de Winne discussed how Europe could make up for lost time and become a strong player and partner in the area of human spaceflight. Finally, Joachim Majus, of the German telecommunications group T-Mobile, described a market-based model for assessing and carrying out space programmes.

The workshops

The European Space Policy Workshops aim to accompany the formation of a genuine space policy for Europe by bringing together relevant high-level actors in an atmosphere of academic detachment and free debate. The series began in September 2002 with a workshop on fundamental issues, followed by a workshop in January 2003 on stakeholders and their interests. The series was suspended to allow workshop organisers to take part in the Green Paper consultation process. Future workshops are to take place within the framework of a European Space Policy Forum.

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