Global tensions highlight need for advanced security research at EU level

March 20, 2003

Brussels, 19 March 2003

Current global tensions and threats to security reinforce the need for genuine political commitment to a European space programme, capable of safeguarding European interests and bringing extra security to European citizens, said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin today at a conference on "European Security and Space".

He stressed the importance of including a security component in any future European space policy. On 21 January the Commission adopted the Green Paper on Space (1) , calling for a global EU space policy also to be included in the forthcoming EU Treaty. Data released this week (2) shows that uncoordinated and scattered research and development efforts hamper EU research efficiency in the defence sector. Following the Communication on a European defence equipment policy (3) presented on 11 March 2003, the Commission will invite Member States, industry and the scientific community to help identify common needs in the area of research linked to global security. It will also undertake initiatives to co-ordinate such research at the EU level, focusing on a limited number of key technologies possibly including space applications.

"Security must be a key element of a European Space policy", said Commissioner Busquin. "The global tensions that we face today are an irrefutable argument for investing in an effective space programme to meet our security needs, be they civil or military. If China is able to send astronauts into space by the end of this year, there should be no reason why Europe cannot develop the space assets that are fundamental to any credible security policy. We have the technological know-how in Europe, but we need to better organise ourselves to define our ambitions and realise them."

The security dimension of EU space policy

On 21 January 2003 the European Commission, in co-operation with the European Space Agency, published a Green Paper and launched an extensive consultation on European Space Policy. This will lead to the publication of a White Paper and Action Plan later this year, forming the basis of a consistent EU space policy.

The Green Paper addresses the security dimension. The European Security and Defence Policy aims to give the Union the ability to decide and act autonomously, with a view to a global approach to crisis management, including conflict prevention, by means of various instruments, civil and/or military. Space systems are the main tool for collecting, transmitting and disseminating information at a global level.

The Green Paper is also promoting a debate on how to better define and clarify the nature and scale of the space capacities required to achieve the political objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The security dimension of space is necessary for Europe to be able to carry out the Petersberg tasks and to fulfil its role as an international power. The Strategic Aerospace Review for the 21 st Century (STAR 21) report, presented in July 2002 by industry executives, European Commissioners, the Council's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Members of the European Parliament, also calls on the EU to develop a satellite-based defence and security capability on an entirely European basis.

In 2001 the Commission launched the GMES initiative, a first step in this direction. It aims to set up an autonomous European capacity for Earth observation and monitoring, based in the first instance on pooling in a European framework space assets that exist on a national or bilateral basis. Applications will include information gathering, monitoring and observation for a range of policies, including those linked to global security.

Different observation satellites exist or are being developed in Europe for military purposes, such as Hélios, Sar-Lupe, Cosmo-Skymed or Pléiades. But there is as yet no operational system for military use at the European level. By the end of this year, the Commission, with the support of ESA, will propose to the Council of Ministers scenarios for building a GMES architecture by 2008.

EU advanced security research

The EU is lagging behind the United States in security-related research. EU Member States' budgets for R&D in the defence sector are five times lower than in U.S. (€10 vs. €54 billion a year). The ratio between civil and military expenditure is 1:5 in Europe, whereas in the U.S. they are equal. In the U.S. three quarters of space industry funding comes from NASA and Defence Department orders, while in Europe only half comes from institutional orders. In all EU Member States, with the exception of Spain, defence R&D expenditure has remained unchanged or declined over the last ten years (49% in France and % in UK).

To reverse this trend, Europe must develop a more coherent approach to advanced security research. The Commission is committed to supporting initiatives to promote co-operation on advanced research in the field of global security.

To this end, later this year the Commission will set up a high-level group with representatives from Member States, industry and research organisations. The group will prepare a European advanced research agenda focussing on global security and the most appropriate ways to address it. The Commission intends to launch a preparatory action to implement specific and concrete elements of this advanced research agenda, in order to gain experience on the modalities and the fields to address in priority for an efficient European co-operation in this research area.

To further underline the importance of this topic, the Greek Presidency will host a special workshop on Space Security to be held in Athens, Greece, on 8 and 9 May 2003.

For more information, please visit:
(1) COM (2003) 17/5
(2) Third European Report on Science and Technology Indicators 2003
(3) COM (2003) 113 final

DN: IP/03/411 Date: 19/03/2003

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