Mitsos calls for inclusion of a space policy in the EU Treaty

May 30, 2002

Brussels, 29 May 2002

Director-General of the Commission's Research DG, Achilleas Mitsos, has called on Europe's Heads of State and Government to rethink the EU Treaty with a view to including a European space policy.

Speaking at the European air and space conference in Brussels on 28 May, Dr Mitsos claimed that a number of Community policies, such as information society, transport, environment, research and enlargement 'not only need space, but depend on it.'

'The concept of a European space policy is yet to be defined and needs to be discussed with all institutions. We need a European space policy that takes into account the needs of the citizens [...]. Now is maybe the time for the Heads of State and Government to rethink the Treaty to include a European space policy,' said the Director-General.

Asked whether such a European space policy would include defence issues, Dr Mitsos said that 'there is not a single possibility that we will have a European space policy without touching on defence. Let's be realistic and serious. Non-military purposes will remain the objective, but you can't have a space policy without focusing on defence and more general security issues.'

Aeronautics and space is to be one of the eight thematic priority areas under the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) for research and development (R&D), which Dr Mitsos hopes to see finalised within three weeks. EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen, who closed the first day of the conference, underlined the fact that EU programmes account for 30 per cent of aerospace R&D funding. 'Very few industries have achieved such a prominent position in the Framework programmes,' he said. Dr Mitsos claimed that some of his colleagues believed that prioritising space would lead to institutional problems. 'This didn't happen. Its time had come,' said Dr Mitsos.

This view was echoed by Ramon Marimon, the Spanish Secretary of State for science and technology. He declared that throughout the negotiations on the Commission's proposals for FP6, having aeronautics and space as a priority area has never been questioned.

Dr Mitsos announced that on May the Council of Ministers gave the Commission a mandate for formal negotiation with the European space agency (ESA) on a framework agreement between the two bodies. Talks between Dr Mitsos and ESA Director-General Antonio Rodatà have been underway for some time, but this mandate is a 'mandate to give it [the framework agreement] a proper dimension,' said Dr Mitsos.

Mr Rodatà, also present at the Brussels conference, has high hopes for the ESA-EU partnership, and said that it will be 'more than just Galileo.' He also said that further coordination at a European level will provide the opportunity for cooperation at an international level in the future.

He called however for a change of approach in Europe. 'Space is of strategic value and the USA has been taking this approach for a long time,' said Mr Rodatà.

Dr Mitsos talked of two events which will aid the development of a European space policy, the preparation of a green paper on space and the first European space council meeting. The green paper was requested by the European Parliament. 'We hope it will launch the debate on elements which will become part of the European space policy,' said Dr Mitsos.

The first ever European space council will be organised by the EU's Danish Presidency, which will run from 1 July to 31 December 2002. The informal meeting will involve EU ministers and members of the ESA council.

Moves towards a European space policy and a closer relationship between the EU and ESA was welcomed by industry representatives at the event. Gilles Maquet, vice president of the space systems division at EADS, highlighted the need to avoid duplication and loss of funding. He also called for a long term space plan describing where Europe wants to go and how to get there and for more international cooperation. 'In science there have been beautiful results from international cooperation and this can be extended to space,' said Mr Maquet.

Chairman of the board of management for DLR, the German centre for air and space travel, Sigmar Wittig, asserted that 70 per cent of Germany's involvement in space activities is through ESA or the EU, whereas European cooperation in other programmes accounts for around 25 per cent of Germany's activities. He said that one of the first milestones in meeting the Lisbon declaration of becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010 should be the creation of a long term space policy. 'We must pool our resources and we need consideration of space in the EU Treaty,' said Professor Wittig. //CPA For further information on the EU's space activities, please consult the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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