Brussels, 11 March 2002
The European Union has rejected criticism from the USA over plans to establish an independent satellite navigation system for Europe, Galileo.
In a declaration released on 7 March, Colin Powell's US State Department said 'the United States government sees no compelling need for Galileo, because GPS is expected to meet the needs of users around the world for the foreseeable future.'
The statement said GPS is being provided to civilian users free of charge, and is undergoing a major overhaul to improve its accuracy. It added that the United States wanted to ensure that Galileo does not disrupt GPS, especially its military system. It said it will oppose anything which could reduce its ability to deny positioning signals to enemies during crises.
'Should Europe decide to go forward with Galileo, the United States would be interested in cooperation to ensure that Galileo is interoperable with GPS and benefits users on both sides of the Atlantic,' said the statement.
The US State Department said it had proposed a cooperation agreement to ensure that Galileo's signal structure and radio frequency would not interfere with GPS, adding that 'at this point in the dialogue, it remains unclear whether or not a solid basis for cooperation exists.'
But in a background paper released in January this year, the European Commission dismissed as 'spurious' claims that GPS was superior to Galileo as it is free to civilian users. The Commission's Directorate General for Energy and Transport said that Galileo will, like GPS, be free of charge to basic users, and that only selected special applications will require payment.
'These service applications will require a high level of service quality, which GPS as it stands is unable to provide,' it added. 'It is possible that the GPS of the future will offer high-quality services but there is no guarantee that these will be provided free of charge, especially if GPS were to find itself in a monopoly position.'
In an exclusive interview on 14 February, the Director General of the European space agency, Antonio Rodotà, told CORDIS News that it would be unwise for Europe to depend on 'endless' use of the American GPS satellite navigation system. He warned that if the Americans decide to use the GPS system to deal with a military crisis or other operation, its capacity for users outside the USA could be reduced.
German MEP Norbert Glante, who drew up a report on Galileo adopted by the European Parliament on 7 February this year, said that the EU is cooperating with the USA to ensure that Galileo will not disrupt the GPS system. He expressed confidence that cooperation between the European and US systems would be achieved in spite of the fact that GPS has been designed as a military application, whereas Galileo is intended to operate as a civil system. He added that he is optimistic the EU Member States will come to an agreement on the financing of Galileo in the near future.
A spokesperson for Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio has expressed absolute confidence in the need for Galileo and was optimistic that progress will be made on the issue will be made at the next EU Transport Council on March 25 and 26.
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