Commission and European Space Agency propose  a 'joint venture' in space

[Press release collected by Adelia Bertetto]

For the first time the Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) are developing a common approach for the space sector in Europe. "Thanks to a long-standing co-operation between Member States through the ESA, we have world-class capabilities in space", said Philippe Busquin, EU Commissioner for Research. "But we need to better exploit these strengths to respond to market needs and to serve a range of Community policies in such fields as environment, agriculture, foreign policy and security." Mr. Busquin added: "One of the aims of the Communication, which the Commission adopted today and which was agreed with the ESA, is to define a role for the EU in the field of space and to give a political and Community dimension to space". Parts of our society have, sometimes unknowingly, become critically dependent on the use of satellites and space-based technology, for example for telecommunication services. New markets are emerging for satellites and in particular for down-stream services and user equipment. The use of space-based information will be a significant element for success in the global knowledge economy.

In addition, satellites offer great potential for developing tools that help implement Community policies. An autonomous and competitive capability to develop and manage space-based infrastructures and to collect and use the information derived from such systems is an increasingly important asset for a further integrating Union with a greater political weight on the global scene.

The joint Commission and ESA communication "Europe and space: turning to a new chapter" is a further step in establishing a coherent approach for space in Europe, built around three pillars: strengthening the foundation for space so that Europe preserves an independent and affordable access to space, enhancing scientific knowledge and exploiting the benefits of space-based tools for markets and society.

The Commission's role is to establish the right political and regulatory conditions for space activities, to catalyse joint R&D efforts in line with the objectives of a European Research Area and to bring together all actors around common political objectives in projects of a European-wide interest. The user-oriented and policy-driven approach to space is articulated concretely in two Community initiatives: one for the development of a civil satellite navigation and positioning system (GALILEO) and, eventually, an initiative to build a coherent capacity in Europe for a global monitoring for environment and security (GMES).

The success of such initiatives depends on an effective co-operation between the European Commission and the ESA. In order to define arrangements for co-operation between the two institutions, to further develop the strategy for space and to propose a unified setting for EU and ESA Member States to jointly review space developments, a joint task force will be set up that should deliver its output before December 2001.

"The approach proposed in this communication is fully in line with the objectives of a European Research Area", said Mr. Busquin. "It should help to mobilise Member States and private actors to invest in a coherent fashion in the research and development for European space capabilities. An endorsement of this approach by the EU and ESA councils before the end this year will provide the necessary political basis for turn to a new and promising chapter in space."

The turnover in markets associated with satellites, launches and derived services will reach, in 2002, an estimated ÿ 60 - 100 billion for satellite communications, ÿ 5 - 10 billion for satellite navigation receivers and positioning services, ÿ 2 billion for commercial launches and ÿ 0,5 to 2 billion for satellite imagery. The total annual consolidated turnover of the European space industry is of the order of ÿ 6 billion, directly providing highly qualified employment to 40.000 people in Europe.

Note: Members of ESA are all EU Members States excluding Greece and Luxembourg but including Switzerland and Norway. ESA has concluded co-operation agreements with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

[AB - TDF 3/2000 - 04/10/2000]