Brussels, 16 Oct 2003
The European Commission has published a communication, responding to the STAR 21 report on creating a coherent framework for aerospace in the EU, and pledging to strengthen European research, particularly in the field of defence.
The Commission believes that the highly skilled and dual use nature of the aerospace sector makes it essential for meeting a number of EU targets - making Europe the most competitive economy in the world by 2010, increasing research spending to three per cent of GDP by the same date, and developing an EU defence strategy.
The STAR 21 report was published in 2002, following an advisory group's analysis of Europe's deficiencies in aerospace. The report concluded that both the political and regulatory framework needed to be much improved in order to bridge the gap between the EU's political and economic ambitions. Some of the key areas for action are research, space and defence.
'There is a large consensus among all interested parties that the coordination of European aerospace must be improved,' states the communication. 'However, experience has shown that recognition of the need for greater coordination is not in itself sufficient to bring about the required changes to Europe's complex system of aerospace technology acquisition.' The Commission therefore comes to the conclusion that new mechanisms will have to be developed in order to attain this common goal.
The problem is not so much with civil aeronautics research, where the STAR 21 report found that important progress has been made through the work of the advisory council for aeronautical research in Europe (ACARE). It is predominantly aeronautics defence research about which the STAR 21 report was concerned. Coordination is vital in order for European companies to compete successfully with their US counterparts, which receive much more in terms of financial support from their government.
The Commission therefore welcomes the decision of the Thessaloniki European Council to call for the creation of an intergovernmental agency responsible for defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments. Further steps have been taken by the Commission itself, which recently launched a preparatory action on a security research strategy.
The communication indicates that Member States may have to consider adapting their national priorities in order to ensure a sufficient level of commitment and independent resources, which the Commission claims are prerequisites for success.
In terms of space, the Commission gives the assurance that it will 'take the steps required to create the most favourable environment possible for industry to preserve and further develop its capabilities.' This is interpreted as setting out a comprehensive European space policy that 'takes account of the strategic character of this industry and provides a common framework under which the European industry and the different national and intergovernmental agencies involved can optimise their activities.'
The communication calls for more coordination of space programmes for defence, which have traditionally been conducted nationally or bilaterally in Europe, and with limited budgets.
The fear is that the downturn in the commercial space market may not only lead to Europe losing its market share to the US, but may also affect its ability to retain the technological excellence which has been developed over recent years. 'Europe needs to develop a consolidated industrial and institutional approach to further integrate its space-related activities,' concludes the communication.
To read the communication in full, please