Brussels, 05 Nov 2003
With the successful manned space flight by China and active space programmes in India and Russia, space has received its fair share of publicity of late. In Europe, however, the subject has a deeper political significance, stemming from the realisation that space can open up new political, economic and strategic dimensions for Europe. Meeting last month, members of the European Interparliamentary Space Conference (EISC) echoed this view, stressing that Europe must play a leading role on the international stage and be in a position to independently engage in space activities and develop corresponding technologies.
The EISC is a forum for co-operation between the European national parliaments. It aims to establish a permanent dialogue on space policy issues and support the national governments and European institutions in their efforts to achieve a common European space policy for the maximum benefit of Europe's citizens.
For the fifth edition of the EISC, parliamentarians met in Berlin from 30 September to 2 October 2003 to discuss ways of further boosting European space activities. A number of observers also attended the conference, held under the German Presidency.
EISC participating parliamentarian delegations:
Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Italy (not present), the Netherlands, Norway, Poland (not present, written input), Romania, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom.
Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Japan, German ministries, ESA, EUMETSAT, the European Commission, DLR, WEU and industry representatives.
Conference round up
During the two-day meeting, delegates recapped the conclusions of the fourth conference to examine how much had been achieved on the European space scene during the year. The EISC examined the current climate and debated what should be done to both support EU space policy and, in turn, further stimulate Europe's successful space sector.
The conference tackled a number of issues and challenges, which are summarised as follows:
The EISC is convinced that space and its utilisation are essential to better define and implement Union policies. A bigger European space policy budget should help EU Member States achieve more rapidly their Barcelona objectives (i.e. spend 3% of GDP on R&D). The EISC calls upon the Commission to also establish new budget lines for space within the EU in the next few years, in order to support Union policies – transport, agriculture, environment, knowledge society and security. It also calls upon the Commission to identify and set in motion horizontal activities – research and other – that allow space to serve Europeans. For this, the EISC recommends substantial increases in space-related budgets in Europe on a long-term scale.
The EISC appreciates the fact that many elements of the fourth EISC have been realised, including getting space in the draft of the EU Constitution, starting work on the GALILEO satellite navigation system and securing independent access to space with the Ariane 5 launcher. Also appreciated were the resolutions adopted at the special meeting of the ESA Council of Ministers responsible for space activities in the Member States concerning Ariane, with the European Guaranteed Access to Space programme, designed to safeguard competitiveness, and the restructuring of the European launcher industry. The decision to use the Ariane site in Kourou to launch Russian Soyuz craft in the future is also supported. This is a positive sign for further co-operation between Europe, Russia and CIS, also in research and development fields above and beyond space.
A constitution for space
The inclusion of 'space' in the proposal for a European Convention drew a lot of attention during the conference. A statement of the EISC's conclusions said: "Space is to be a shared competence of the European Union and its Member States, including ESA and their national agencies and administrations. In the future the role of the EU would be to federate the demand on space activities and related services whereas the ESA would take the role of a federator [on the] supply [side]." The EISC welcomed the fact that, under the Convention, Union space policy could potentially fund joint initiatives for supporting R&D.
The EISC also welcomes the Commission's Green Paper initiative and the accompanying consultation process, which has been viewed favourably by most stakeholders. The Green Paper should inform a far-reaching White Paper which will further elaborate European space policy. The EISC recommends that a regularly updated space agenda, involving the highest political level of the Member States and the Union, should be created.
The agreement to start development of GALILEO, the European satellite navigation programme, was also welcomed by the EISC. It points out the significance of the GALILEO programme for public safety, the improvement of airspace management, land and sea traffic, as well as environmental and regional planning policy. But certain elements still need to be addressed: "The EISC… calls upon the Commission and ESA to tackle the outstanding items relating to the start-up phase without delay, in order to be able to adhere to the envisaged schedule and enter the navigation market in 2008." Agreements between the EU and China and potentially Russia and other parties are encouraged by the interparliamentary group.
Faster progress on the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) related activities, taking into account the contribution EUMETSAT is ready and able to make, is welcomed by the EISC. This supports the Union policies on sustainable development and on a Common Foreign and Security Policy. As demanded by the European Council, implementation of the GMES initiative must lead to a substantial, independent European monitoring capacity for the environment and security by 2008. Partial implementation of the initiatives should be started already in 2004. Likewise, rapid coordination regarding this topic in the framework of the Union is essential.
Space's contribution to national and European foreign and security policy should not be underestimated. This is achieved through communication networks, reconnaissance systems and navigation. The EISC thinks that the European Agency for Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities – put forward in the Convention, demanded by the European Council and will be open to all EU Member States – can contribute to the space sector's industrial and technological capacities.
In view of enlargement, the Lisbon agenda and efforts to promote more international co-operation, the EISC strongly encourages the creation of a European programme aimed at reducing the digital divide in Europe and overseas. The EISC requests that this should be included in the White Paper, with a guaranteed budget.
The EISC stresses that only autonomous and competitive European access to space can guarantee Europe's independence in relation to space-based communication, navigation, earth observation and scientific infrastructures. The EU-15 are encouraged to make all the necessary financial and infrastructure arrangements to achieve this.
Where the parts make a whole
The EISC underlines that substantial independent capacities are an important prerequisite for Europe's role in international co-operation. However, it is also important that the right framework conditions be established, especially in the commercial sector. In this context, the EISC stressed the need to eliminate trade barriers and obstacles impeding the access of European enterprises to the global market and preventing the export of products containing parts manufactured in the USA.
The EISC points out the importance of international co-operation, especially for unmanned and manned space research, and considers it essential that the Union further expands technical/scientific and economic collaboration in space policy with the USA, Russia, CIS and the Ukraine, China and Japan.
In its concluding statement it said that: "It is important to support and revitalise the activities and projects of the International Space Station and to progress scientific knowledge relating to the Earth and the Universe by strengthening Europe's weight in the [project] in keeping with the technological/industrial capacities and the ambitions of the European Union."
The EISC demanded that, in recognition of the pioneering work and innovative activities of European space-based science, greater attention be devoted to staff qualification and that basic research be guaranteed greater and more permanent support. Effort should also be put into promoting space research and technology amongst Europe's youth.
In its statement, the EISC also supported the target of establishing a European Space Programme that encompasses all relevant public activities and players in Europe, and implements the goals of European space policy on the basis of mutual coordination. It is of particular importance for Europe's efficiency and competitiveness that the individual Member States are also capable of providing significant stimuli for European space developments in the framework of their National Space Programmes. The European Space Programme is a suitable platform for coordinating the key areas of national R&D programmes with the activities of all European partners more closely than in the past and for making more efficient use of available resources.
The EISC hopes that the White Paper on European Space Policy will appropriately reflect the these considerations and that the EU Council and the ESA Council will extensively discuss and implement the White Paper. The 'joint meeting' of these Councils, as foreseen in the ESA/EU framework agreement, is a suitable forum for discussions which should also debate the White Paper. Corresponding to the ESA/EU framework agreement, the respective independence of the two organisations will be maintained.
Talking space business
In its heyday, the proportion of commercial sales in the space industry in Europe was as much as 50%, but it has been on the decline since then. With its resolutions on GALILEO and GMES, the European Union has laid the foundations for boosting institutional demand. Now, concepts for increasing commercial interest must be developed and implemented at the national and European levels. In this context, Europe's industry should assume co-responsibility wherever possible and play an active role in the financing of operational space infrastructures.
The EISC welcomes the progress achieved by the Commission and the ESA in negotiating a joint framework agreement and has called upon both parties to devote more attention to the practical aspects of future co-operation, especially with a view to joint projects in the enlarged Europe. Key objectives here are to clarify issues relating to organisation, decision-making mechanisms, industrial policy, the financial regulations, and the respective roles and responsibilities.
The EISC insists on the rapid initiation of a programme to further develop critical technologies related to launchers, satellites and respective components in Europe. The programme should also aim to improve Europe's overall industrial competitiveness and independence (producers, users and equipment and service providers).
The EISC concluded by saying that, "Europe should, as stressed in the Green Paper, develop a new ambition in the area of 'space discoveries' and 'new frontiers'." To do this, it encouraged a debate on visionary endeavours such as manned or unmanned planetary missions in collaboration with international partners. It also accepted into its records the Charter of the European Astronaut Corps, whose declared vision is:
"Shaping and sharing human space exploration through unity in diversity".
The German Presidency will submit the results of the fifth EISC to the relevant EU authorities. Meanwhile, the Chairmen of the National Parliamentary Space Groups will present the conference findings to the national governments and actively pursue the issues arising. The next EISC meeting will be held in Madrid in 2004.
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