Brussels, 14 Jul 2004
On 18 June 2004 in Brussels, after extensive talks between leaders of the 25 EU Member States, a Constitution was agreed for the European Union, including specific references to EU space activities.
The EU Constitution brings together, for the first time, the many treaties and agreements on which the EU is based. It defines the powers of the Union, stating where it can and cannot act and where the Member States retain their right of veto. It also defines the role of the EU institutions, providing orientation for the important work of the European Commission, for example in its support of research and technological development (RTD).
Space in the Constitution
Space is inherently extraterritorial, presenting key opportunities to develop and exploit a range of highly beneficial private and public services, including conventional and broadband communications, environmental monitoring, satellite-based navigation and earth observation, as well as defence- and security-related services.
The fact that space is referred specifically in the new Constitution reflects the growing recognition among EU leaders that space systems and related technologies can be used to provide beneficial products and services to European citizens, while delivering a powerful competitive edge to European industry in the global market place.
Doing what only Europe can do
Under Article I-13 of the EU Constitution: 'Areas of shared competence', space is mentioned along with RTD:
"In the areas of research, technological development and space, the Union shall have competence to carry out actions, in particular to define and implement programmes; however, the exercise of that competence may not result in Member States being prevented from exercising theirs."
In the words of former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the allocation of competencies among the Union and Member States makes it clear "who does what in Europe". The definition of space as a shared competence essentially gives the Union the authority to implement space programmes, as long as it does not interfere with Member States' activities.
Later in the document, under Section 9, RTD and space are dealt with at greater length. Article III-150 states:
"To promote scientific and technical progress, industrial competitiveness and the implementation of its policies, the Union shall draw up a European space policy. To this end, it may promote joint initiatives, support research and technological development and coordinate the efforts needed for the exploration and exploitation of space."
"To contribute to attaining the objectives referred to [above], a European law or framework law shall establish the necessary measures, which may take the form of a European space programme."
For members of the space sector, these unprecedented references to space in a European Treaty represent a true milestone, laying the way for a new era in Europe's history in space.
Strength through co-operation
Guided by the White Paper on European Space Policy, published in 2003, the EU has already been moving forward rapidly with important space initiatives. The entry into force of the European Community (EC) and European Space Agency (ESA) Framework Agreement and the launching of a new 'Panel of Experts on Space and Security' are only two recent examples.
Speaking at the first meeting of the EU/ ESA High-Level Space Policy Group, European Commission Research Director General Achilleas Mitsos said that the new draft European Constitution presents "a window of opportunity now open for joint space activities".