Brussels, 19 Mar 2003
Loyola de Palacio, EU Commissioner for Energy and Transport, has said that discussions between the EU and United States on the interoperability of the Galileo and GPS satellite navigation systems are at an advanced stage, and that an agreement is very close.
The Commissioner also warned Member States that if they could not settle their differences over the financing of the project, they would jeopardise the planned operational launch date of 2008.
'The ongoing difficulties that exist within the European Space Agency [ESA] between certain Member States do not give a good impression of the progress of the [Galileo] programme,' she said.
Ms de Palacio expressed her frustration at the negative attitude of EU countries when it came to finding solutions to their differences, especially when all were agreed on the importance of the Galileo programme and the need to proceed quickly with it.
The Commissioner stated, however, that she believes such obstacles will be overcome. To back up this assertion, she highlighted the fact that, even in a period of economic downturn and shrinking budgets, the sticking point was not a lack of financing for the project, but a surplus: '[...] a testament, if one were needed, of the importance that Member States attach to the project.'
Ms de Palacio was speaking at a Galileo information day on 18 March in Brussels for representatives of those industries with a stake in the project. She said the event represented 'the first time a dialogue could take place between all of the actors concerned.'
Ms de Palacio outlined the progress that the Commission has made in recent weeks, and said that it was evidence of the political will that exists to make the EU one of the major players in satellite navigation for the 21st century.
But she had a further message for the audience: 'Political will is not enough. It must be backed up by the drive of European enterprises, particularly those which you are representing today and which, alone, posses the capabilities to build this system, make it work and, above all, develop the necessary services that will accompany it.'
A Commission communication on the Galileo project had allowed the Council of Ministers to define those services that would be included in the first calls for tender, which Ms Palacio said would be published shortly by both ESA and the Galileo joint undertaking.
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