Brussels, 24 Jan 2003
France's Minister for Research and New Technologies, Claudie Haigneré has announced that her ministry will present an action plan in two months aimed at redefining the role that the national space agency, CNES (Centres Nationales d'Ètudes Spatiales), plays in European space activities.
The announcement came on 17January, following the publication of a strategy plan by a working group on French space policy. The report makes a series of recommendations on what needs to be done to ensure CNES participation in space matters in Europe.
'With the ongoing Convention on the Future of Europe and the ESA ministerial council meet taking place in Spring 2003, it is time for us to take action,' said Ms Haigneré.
Former Director of science at ESA and current Director for research at CNES, Roger-Maurice Bonnet called for a 'stronger CNES for an ambitious European Space policy.'
However, the space industry has considerably changed in Europe since the national agency's inception in 1961. The European Commission and ESA are playing a leading role in space activities in Europe while the US continues to hold a predominant position in the world. Coupled with increasing competition and the recent failure of flight 157, CNES has decided to rethink its position in the space industry.
The report looks to the US as a model. The US space policy is part of a wider group of strategies covering security, science, telecommunications, navigation, agriculture, environment and technology activities. The report calls on France and Europe to consider these strategies and consolidate their space policies while at the same time, ensuring a strong, competitive and respectful partnership.
According to the strategic plan, CNES must ensure its place at the centre of national and European space policy, 'without CNES, there is no European Space activity.' This can be achieved by: focusing on innovative activities; continuing to develop technological and scientific programmes; collaborating with the government to support industry and by taking a more active role in the GMES (Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security) project.
The working group also recommends that CNES organise, in collaboration with ESA and the European Commission, a European policy conference before 2005. Following the conference, CNES could again work with key actors to bring about a European space council where different sectors of European policy could be addressed within a space context.
The French space agency was created in 1961 in order to develop French space activities and has played a major role in developing a national and European space industry. Its activities and products cover all aspects in the field of innovation and research of new applications, in particular: access to space; earth observation telecommunications and localisation; study and exploration of the Universe; manned space flights and experiments in microgravity. CNES is also a major participant in the European Space Agency (ESA).