Commission launches debate on a space policy for the EU

January 22, 2003

Brussels, 21 January 2003

Today in Brussels, European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin introduced the Green Paper on EU Space Policy. The Paper, prepared by the Commission in co-operation with the European Space Agency (ESA), looks into Europe's assets and weaknesses in this sector. As a basis for a broad consultation, the report tackles key issues such as the EU's independent access to space, scientific excellence in this field, the industrial and technological base, relevant markets, human resources, the legal and institutional framework, international co-operation, and environmental and security aspects. It aims to launch a debate with all players - national and international organisations, the EU space industry and users, scientific community and citizens. The consultation will help shape an EU response to competitiveness and security challenges related to space, to be detailed in a forthcoming White Paper. ESA Director General Antonio Rodotà will join Commissioner Philippe Busquin for a formal press presentation of the Green Paper on Monday January at 11 am in Brussels.

"Europe's economic and scientific success is closely linked to its presence in space," said Commissioner Busquin. "Thanks to the European Space Agency, Europe is already a space power. Space is now part of our everyday life and represents a strategic tool for the EU to implement some of its broader goals, such as the March 2000 Lisbon Council call to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. Another aim for the EU is to be equipped to ensure the safety of its citizens. The time has come to define a global EU space policy to be reflected in the forthcoming EU Treaty. Being a space power requires technological and industrial excellence, but also political will. I invite the Members of the Convention on the future of Europe to debate this issue, and all space players to make sure that their voice is heard. "

European Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen added: "EU-wide action is needed to create a coherent policy for space activities. Space is important for European citizens, because it forms one of the fundamental elements of the information society. The European Space sector, currently employing 30.000 people, has made several innovations used in other fields and is thus a significant source of new technologies."

Europe: a leader in space

Building on decades of space research and thanks in great part to ESA's efforts, Europe has largely achieved self-sufficiency in space technology, and has become a leading commercial player, particularly in launchers and space platforms. It leads the market in innovative satellite monitoring applications.

Put into orbit by European launchers, European satellites provide businesses, public authorities and individuals with services such as television broadcasting, improved telecommunications, more sustainable transport and mobility, short and medium term weather forecasting, monitoring of climate change and faster response to natural disasters.

A breeding ground for cutting-edge research and innovation in the knowledge society, space applications provide a growth and competitiveness boost for European companies. They provide new markets for European businesses, as well as benefits for European citizens, in areas such as land use planning, agriculture and fisheries management, sustainable transport, civil security and response to emergencies.

At the same time, Europe's space industry is facing considerable challenges. Global competitive pressures are leading to significant restructuring of the space sector in Europe and worldwide. The delicate balance in Europe between space commercial and public services is coming under acute pressure. The present organisation and financing arrangements are also experiencing difficulties. In particular, Europe faces a rapidly widening investment gap between what it spends on research in comparison to the US. The US spends nearly six times as much as Europe on research and accounts for nearly 80% of world spending in this area (civil and military applications).

Turnover in the space field in recent years has essentially remained constant - ranging between €5.5 to €6.0 billion for Europe, and at around €35 billion for the United States. The whole value chain for the global space commercial service market (communications and navigation satellite systems) for the 1998-2007 period amounts to more than €400 billion.

Citizens benefit from space applications. Aside from satellite data support to weather forecasts, over 1250 television channels are distributed via satellite to some 100 million homes in the European Union. Some 30,000 people work, directly or indirectly, in the space sector in Europe. The Galileo satellite positioning and navigation project alone could create up to 145,000 jobs.

Galileo has experienced some delays, but the Commission is confident pending issues can be resolved so as to allow the initiative to take off by 2008 as planned. A more cohesive and consistent space policy at EU level should help avoid such delays.

A new role for the European Union

Over the last few decades, space policy has been managed at national and intergovernmental level. The European Space Agency, with its unique knowledge base, has played a leading co-ordination role in Europe's successful efforts to consolidate its industrial base and achieve technological independence. It has provided Europe with its present capacities in the area of launchers and platforms, turning it into a leading world player in a highly competitive commercial field.

Space has become a crucial component for implementing European objectives and policies, notably sustainable development, environmental protection, transport and mobility and the information society. Space applications also provide answers to emerging security needs, with both civilian and defence aspects encompassed by the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

The Galileo project and the GMES (Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security) initiative illustrate this new approach and underline the need for an enhanced role for the Union in space matters. They show how industrial and technological successes achieved by ESA can be maximised through joint space initiatives. This is especially the case when the European Commission has gradually developed solid expertise through its research programmes notably, applications for sustainable development and, more recently, the security of citizens, in addition to its political initiative and regulatory and negotiating functions.

For instance, the Commission has developed effective satellite-based environmental monitoring systems, to detect and help prevent offshore oil spills and other hazards. Another example of EU-sponsored space projects concerns satellite mapping of remote regions, such as in Afghanistan, where EU aid and rescue teams have been able to reach isolated villages in the aftermath of the 2001 earthquake thanks to accurate satellite positioning and mapping services.

Space technology can also offer cost effective infrastructure solutions for large geographical areas; all European citizens, including those from the new Member States, will be able to enjoy high quality services should the EU implement new broad-band space-based systems.

It is therefore logical to raise the possibility of integrating space into Union competence. This would open up the elaboration of a Space Programme enabling an efficient EU action in the space domain, including a vast range of new applications for industry and citizens. The Programme could also make the most of available resources from the public and private sectors. This would also help clarify a number of pending organisational and institutional issues, and add strong focus and clear political backing to space activities.

The consultation

While it is clear that no single Member State has the ability to support an independent national space policy, integrating space policy into Union competence poses a number of complex and sensitive questions. The role of the Green Paper is therefore to launch an in-depth debate involving all parties. Its objective is to increase general awareness of the strategic importance of space and space policy for the Union and its citizens, to define areas of consensus, and to find concrete answers to questions concerning access, funding, and institutional arrangements.

The consultation will run from 22 January to 30 May 2003. It will be managed by the Commission/ESA Joint Task Force on space, which will organise a series of seminars, workshops and hearings throughout Europe to foster the debate. Contributions can also be presented online through a dedicated Web Forum. On the basis of responses received from all interested parties, a White Paper will be drafted by the Commission and published later in the year, putting forward concrete proposals in an Action Plan.

The Green Paper on Space and prospects for further co-operation between the European Commission and the European Space Agency will be discussed in a forthcoming joint press conference with the participation of European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and of ESA Director-General, Mr Antonio Rodotà.

For further information please visit:

The European Space Agency (ESA):

DN: IP/03/82 Date: 21/01/2003

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