Brussels, 02 Jul 2003
Paris conference brings Green Paper process to a close
1st July 2003
The results of the Space Green Paper consultation were presented in Paris on 23 and 24 June 2003. The joint European Commission (EC) and European Space Agency (ESA) initiative was, by all accounts, a major success, drawing contributions from every European institution, all of the European and ESA Member States and all of the major space organisations, both inside and outside of Europe, and garnering significant media attention.
Addressing an audience of over 400, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said, "Just six months after launching the Green Paper on a European Space Policy, we have now come together in Paris to hear the results. This consultation has taken place during a difficult period, a period of crisis for the space industry and a period that has seen disappointments - the delays in getting the GALILEO programme started and the Ariane 5 failure some months ago. Nevertheless, the response to our call has been very positive. More than 1000 people attended the consultation events and we have received hundreds of written and online contributions from every walk of life. The recent decisions of the ESA Council have also been highly positive, paving the way for a new period of progress. I think we can say that Europe is now truly back on track in space."
ESA Director-General Antonio Rodotà said, "We are completing and important phase in the process of defining where Europe is going in space. But we must not lose sight of what we have already accomplished. In programmes like Arianespace, EUTELSAT and EUMETSAT we have concrete examples of top-level global European competitors in the space arena. Clearly, our institutions, including ESA, must continue to develop and evolve, and we see the Green Paper process as a very positive step in that direction, but we must also understand our successes and not undo the solid foundation that has made Europe the major player it is today. Change is a must, but continuity also has its place."
Former astronaut Haigneré conveys determination
Speaking on behalf of her government, the charismatic French Minister of Research and New Technologies and former ESA astronaut Claudie Haigneré expressed France's determination to remain a strong and active player in space. "This is a turning point," she said. "We congratulate both the Commission and ESA for the incredible job they have done during this consultation initiative and we hope to see this spirit of co-operation continue until every one of our goals is met."
The Italian Minister for Education, University and Research, Letizia Moratti, who will be responsible for space under the imminent Italian Presidency, said, "Europe must take up the challenge and work to preserve its independence in this highly strategic area. Space is a fundamental instrument for the implementation of public policies." Moratti stressed three ways in which space, with its wide variety of applications is of critical importance today: "First," she said, "the many practical applications of space technologies can improve the quality of life of our citizens. Second, a strong space policy will allow us to remain highly competitive in science and technology. This means keeping the balance between industrial competitiveness on the one hand and responding to public and social interests on the other. And finally, a strong space policy will attract the best and brightest of our young people to the research fields."
Also making personal contributions in Paris were European Parliamentarian Guido Bodrato, Stéphane Buffetaut of the European Economic and Social Committee and Incoming ESA Director-General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, who will replace Antonio Rodotá in July 2003. "The Green Paper process has revealed both profound questions and questions of form," said Dordain. "We must now guard against proposing solutions of form in answer to profound questions. At issue are how ESA can best respond to the EU's policy needs as well as setting up a financial framework to support this relationship."
The meat of the matter
The bulk of the Paris conference was devoted to reports from the various Green Paper consultation events, which were held in several European capitals and which focussed on specific themes and communities.
Following the opening workshop in Brussels , the Madrid meeting focussed on the contribution of the industrial sector. EUROSPACE President Pascale Sourrisse reported the space industry's views on all of the questions posed in the Green Paper. Former ESA Director of Science Roger Bonnet spoke for the Berlin workshop, which brought the scientific community together. Participants in Rome addressed complex institutional issues. Their views were reported by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt . A special workshop, sponsored by the Greek Presidency, was held in Athens and addressed European security and defence. The results of that meeting were reported by Alexandros Kolovos of the Greek Ministry of Defence. The London meeting featured a debate on applications, reported on by Giuliano Berretta of the European Satellite Operators' Association . Finally, the Prague workshop looked at the role of international co-operation and was presented by rapporteur Reinard Loosch.
Among the common conclusions were:
- The public sector must become a prime customer of the space industry, as it is in the United States, not just a provider of financial support - the space sector should not have to rely solely on the volatile and unpredictable commercial market as a source of growth;
- Europe must face the challenge of a common security and defence structure, including a strong space component;
- New institutional arrangements must be undertaken in order to render the sector more strategically sound, efficient and responsive to the needs of European citizens;
- The main areas for near- to mid-term investment remain satellite navigation (GALILEO), earth observation for the environment and security (GMES) and satellite communications;
- Long-term, ambitious and possibly manned space programmes must be undertaken in order to provide incentive among young scientists and engineers, as well as for the further development of a common European identity;
- Europe should strive to achieve some level of autonomy in space, if not absolute autonomy, while maintaining international relationships where beneficial to both sides; and
- Space must remain a source of both inspiration and discovery, with a strong orientation towards and an increased budget for basic science.
From Green to White
With the workshops now over, the EC/ESA Joint Task Force is set to produce a summary report on the consultation, expected to be available in the second half of July 2003. The Commission will then prepare an action plan or 'White Paper' proposing a future strategy for space activities within the European Union. This will acknowledge the contributions that have been received, and include proposals for the content, organisation and level of future European activities. The Space White Paper is expected to be ready for approval by the Commission in October 2003, with consequent submission to the Council and Parliament.
The Competitiveness Council is expected to discuss the question of a European Space Policy in November 2003 under the Italian Presidency. A review of options could also take place at a joint EC/ESA Ministerial Council.