Brussels, 31 March 2004
OPINION of the European Economic and Social Committee on the White Paper Space: a new European frontier for an expanding Union An action plan for implementing the European Space policy COM(2003) 673 final _________________
Full text of Opinion in MS Word file on ESC website
The White Paper is, above all, a policy document the primary objective of which is to define a space policy for Europe. In this respect, it represents an important step forward in a field where Europe has been very active and scored major successes, but without ever having really made a coherent expression of political will. In addition, the White Paper outlines areas for specific action in the main sectors, where mastery of space-based resources involves strategic, economic and industrial challenges. The way that the document is structured according to the various challenges to be met is interesting in that it highlights the scale and urgency of the commitments that need to be made if Europe wishes to retain its position as a major space power, its scientific and technological strength, its community of scientists and engineers, its cutting-edge industry and a competitive market presence.
The initiatives, measures and proposals put forward by the Commission seem to be consistent with the ideas aired in the consultations on the Green Paper. As such, the White Paper represents a solid platform for the implementation of a European space project that is embedded in a political vision of the future. But clearly the crucial factor here is the real political and financial will of the Member States and the Union to support and develop an independent European space sector.
Finally, with the failure of the Intergovernmental Conference a problem has arisen regarding a solid legal basis for the European Union in the space field in that Article 13(3) of the Treaty will remain unchanged until the draft treaty establishing a constitution for Europe has been ratified. The European Economic and Social Committee therefore recommends that the framework agreement signed between ESA and the Commission be used to the full in a pro-active way because action in the space field cannot wait for the ratification of the future treaty at some indefinite point in time. The adverse repercussions that this would have for Europe's strategic autonomy, space industry and its partners, and research teams and capacities could open up an unbridgeable gap between Europe and its competitors in this field.
3.3.1 In fact, Member States have reached unanimous agreement on providing the EU with shared competence in space policy, an agreement which no-one has called into question.
3.3.2 Consequently, the EESC stresses the need to consider ways and means of supporting this clearly stated political will, pending the creation of a solid legal basis.
Firstly, the ESA-EU Space Council provided for in the framework agreement between the Commission and ESA must be set up immediately. Secondly, consideration could be given to appointing a high official for Space (along the lines of the high official for the CFSP), or to including space policy in the portfolio of the President of the European Commission, without ruling out the possibility of creating the post of Commissioner for Space in the future. All three options imply a strong endorsement of the importance of space policy.