Space: EU and European Space Agency sign co-operation agreement

November 26, 2003

Brussels, 25 November 2003

On the heels of the launch of the White Paper on Space, European space policy took another leap forward as the European Community (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have successfully completed negotiations on a new Framework Agreement. The Agreement was signed today in Brussels by European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Letizia Moratti, Italian Minister for Education, University and Research. Fields of co-operation include science and technology, earth observation, navigation, communication by satellite, human space flight and micro-gravity, launchers, and spectrum policy related to space. The EC and ESA will launch and fund joint projects, participate in each other's schemes, create common management agencies, carry out studies and jointly organise conferences and training of scientists, exchange and share experts, equipment and materials, and access to facilities.

"This Agreement represents a milestone for Europe as it opens the way to a new era for Europe as a true space power," said Commissioner Busquin. "We are now ready to work on closer terms with ESA, a world-class organisation. Our two institutions are committed to a common future with common goals and this can only mean a better future for European citizens. The agreement also resolves some key questions raised during the recent consultation on European space policy. We can now tie the knot at the EU level and achieve a true critical mass to speed up change and the launch of the European space sector."

Moving forward together

The Agreement is a key instrument that will support the implementation of the first phase of the White Paper. It recognises the need for the EC and ESA to join forces to make the most of space technology. This enables the Union to address and achieve a large number of policy goals, notably in the areas of the information society, transport and environmental protection.

Overall, the Agreement addresses two points:

  • The progressive development of an overall European Space Policy. This policy will aim to link demand for services and applications using space systems to support EU policies with space systems and infrastructure that respond to European society's demands;

  • Establishing a framework to provide common and appropriate operational arrangements for an efficient and mutually beneficial co-operation between the EU and ESA with regard to space activities in accordance with their respective tasks and responsibilities.
Specifically, EC/ESA co-operation will focus on:
  • Securing Europe's independent and cost-effective access to space for the independent use and application of space technologies;

  • Ensuring that Space takes into account the EU policies, in particular in support of sustainable development, economic growth and employment;

  • Combining the currently dispersed know-how available in achieving greater coherence and synergy, namely through a network of technical centres.
The Framework Agreement identifies eight specific fields of co-operation:


    earth observation


    communication by satellite

    human space flight and micro-gravity


    spectrum policy related to space.

The Agreement also sets out the principles for EU/ESA co-operation, and provides guidelines for joint initiatives, extra-European co-operation, exchange of personnel, settlement of disputes, and means for resolving other pertinent issues.

A new frontier

Following the 2000 Communication 'Europe and Space: Turning to a New Chapter' (1) and the subsequent ESA and EU Council Resolutions (2) on the European Space Strategy, the European Commission and ESA Executive set up a Joint Task Force to assess all aspects of the co-operation between the European Union and the ESA. The Joint Task Force report, published in 2001, formed the basis for the Commission's Communication 'Towards a European Space Policy' (3) . One of its main conclusions was that the successful development and implementation of a European Space Policy required the establishment of a well-defined working relationship between the EU and ESA.

The recent White Paper on "Space: a new European frontier for an expanding Union" (4) , prepared in co-operation with ESA, also calls for a consistent space policy (???) at EU level and for enhanced co-operation between the EU and ESA. The new 'Framework Agreement between the European Union and the European Space Agency' responds to these challenges, defining a general, overarching, formal association between the two organisations.

First joint initiatives expected to emerge from this co-operation could be:

  • the launch of the development phase of Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)

  • the development of satellite solutions to the "digital divide" in a wider Europe

  • an EU contribution to access to space

  • the use of the International Space Station (ISS) by European industry and research centres.
For further information please visit:

(1) Communication from the European Commission to the Council and European Parliament - "Europe and Space: Turning to a new chapter", COM(2000) 597 , September 2000
(2) Council Resolution of 16 November 2000 on a European space strategy Official Journal C 371, 23/12/2000 p. 0002.
(3) Communication from the European Commission to the Council and European Parliament - "Towards a European Space Policy", COM(2001)718 final, 07 December 2001.
(4) White Paper on Space: a new European frontier for an expanding Union - An action plan for implementing the European Space policy, COM(2003) 673 , 11 November 2003

DN: IP/03/1595 Date: 25/11/2003

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