Brussels, 22 Apr 2003
French President Jacques Chirac has called for a restructuring of the national space sector, particularly in the field of launchers, as part of a wider objective to preserve Europe's autonomy in space.
Speaking at a meeting of the French cabinet on 15 April, President Chirac described the domination of space as 'a strategic challenge' and argued that France should 'play a driving role in ensuring Europe maintains its autonomy of access to space.'
'That is why the reorganisation of our space sector is absolutely necessary. It has been put off for too long and that has done us no favours,' Mr Chirac told ministers.
France's Minister for Research, Claudie Haigneré, said that she hoped to see the relaunch of the enhanced 10 tonne version of Ariane 5 soon, and highlighted the strategic importance of the rockets to France and the European Union.
'The launch sector is the first aim we must set ourselves, since we need a reliable, competitive launcher in order to be present on the institutional launch market and the commercial market,' the minister said.
To this end, Ms Haigneré is expected to propose that more responsibilities be entrusted to the manufacturers of launchers at an upcoming European Space Agency (ESA) conference to be attended by Member State space ministers.
Furthermore, the French government would like to see a clarification of the division of roles and responsibilities of the various institutions concerned with launchers, namely ESA, the French national space studies centre (CNES), and private enterprises.
'I give all my support to the action undertaken by the space minister,' said Mr Chirac.