Brussels, 24 Jun 2003
A four month consultation process on a future European space policy came to a close in Paris on 23 June, with stakeholders calling for increased efforts in space research and an upgraded institutional framework.
The consultation process began in February. Events were held across Europe and addressed different aspects of the Commission's Green Paper on space, published in January. The conclusions will be used to draw up a White Paper, which is expected to be published in October.
'The consultation was a successful exercise in democracy and collective creativity,' said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. 'People expect the EU to play a greater role in space, and we must be ready to meet those expectations. We will build on the lessons learnt from the consultation to devise an ambitious action plan for European space policy. With a strong political commitment from all key space stakeholders and a continued interest of public opinion, we can turn Europe into the space leader of the 21st century.'
The implications of space are becoming more evident, both politically and economically. The US Department of Defence has estimated that by 2010, more than 2000 satellites will be orbiting the Earth, compared with 600 today.
The concluding conference attracted a number of high level participants, including Italian Minister for Education, Universities and Scientific Research, Letizia Moratti; French Minister for Research and New Technologies, Claudie Haigneré; the outgoing and future Director Generals of the European Space Agency; former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt and several European astronauts.
Ms Haigneré, herself a former astronaut, called for the inclusion of space as a shared competence in the EU constitution: 'We wholeheartedly support this initiative, which should enable us to contribute significantly to developing Europe's future in space. Our ambition is considerable: we must re-establish the importance of space at the European level to build a stronger Europe ever closer to its citizens.'
Among the ideas put forward during the consultation process were the creation of a Council of Space Ministers, using the same satellite systems for both civil and defence security purposes, the doubling of funding for European research, and harmonising data collection and processing at European level.
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