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European Commissioner for Research, Including European Space Policy
Address to the GMES Steering Committee Meeting
Brussels, 19 March 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to extend to you a very warm welcome to this first meeting of the GMES Steering Committee.
I am delighted to see gathered in this room the key players in this exciting initiative Global Monitoring for Environment and Security.
I would like to extend a special welcome to representatives of the Community and ESA Members States, the European Space Agency, the European Environmental Agency, EUMETSAT and the Secretariat General to the Council. In short, all those who are contributing to make GMES a reality.
This is a timely and important meeting. It provides a unique opportunity for all of us to take stock of progress achieved. But also to identify of the work that remains to be done to ensure the full success of this ambitious initiative.
To set the scene, I would like to focus in my remarks on the following three issues:
First, GMES is not just a desirable measure. It is a necessary initiative, crucial to enhance the quality of life and the security of the citizens of Europe and beyond; it is also equally imperative for Europe to seize leadership in the strategic earth observation sector
Second, the success of the initiative will depend on true partnership and real co-ordination at the European and national levels, between all stakeholders. Those who are in this room and those who, I am sure, will join this initiative at a later stage.
Last, we need to ensure that Europe develops a true capacity to provide innovative space services and applications to a broad spectrum of users from both industry and government users. The Commission, together with its partner ESA, is fully committed to developing for Europe such services, not only to support European policies, but also to ensure the competitiveness of our continent in the global economy.
Allow me to elaborate briefly on these three themes
Gmes: an ambitious initiative for Europe
The GMES initiative is important and unique. But why should we launch such an ambitious project? The rationale stems from a number of important needs
First, sustainable development. We have to make every effort to ensure sustainable development, not only in Europe, but globally. Without sustainable development our very futures may be threatened. Responsibly managing the environment is a key aspect of this duty. In its communication to the Gothenburg Council in June 2001, the European Commission stressed that sustainable development is a core concern for all Community policies. Furthermore, it set the ambitious goal to achieve by 2008 a European capacity for Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security.
Second, international commitments. This works both ways. Europe has to fulfil our international commitments, as set out in international treaties on global climate change. But also, conversely, we must convince our neighbours to do the same and keep their engagements. The recent decision of the European Union to move ahead with the Kyoto Protocol is a powerful signal of our will in this area.
Third, humanitarian aid. Europe is fully committed to providing effective humanitarian aid within and outside its borders to respond to natural and man-made disasters. We must give ourselves the means to do so. And GMES will be an important tool to implement this policy and facilitate Europe's action in this field.
Fourth, development issues. Development policy has always been a key component of Europe's foreign policy. The aim is to contribute to the development of less favoured regions outside Europe, to help prevent conflicts wherever possible, and, by doing so, to contribute to Europe's own strategic security. With this in mind, the European Union will participate positively to the World Summit in Johannesburg later this year;
Fifth, and most important, competitiveness in the global "knowledge-economy". In Lisbon, two years ago, European heads of states and government took ambitious commitments to ensure that Europe becomes the "world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy". The Barcelona Summit a few days ago took stock of progress achieved. Developing a capacity for space applications and services, with the full involvement of both public sector and industry, will reinforce Europe's competitiveness edge in the global economy.
Fulfilling these ambitions requires clear and decisive policies and a clear framework for our activities. It also calls for adequate human and financial resources to implement these policies. But, I would insist, these policies cannot deliver the desired results unless they are supported by timely, relevant, accurate and continuous information - information provided in a cost-effective, and thus sustainable, fashion.
The aim of the GMES initiative is precisely to establish such a European capacity, for European policy and decision-makers in both industry and government.
How will this be achieved?
First, GMES will be user-driven. It will ensure that such information is relevant by putting the real needs of users at the forefront. To that effect, institutions which make up the user community will need to define their requirements in a precise manner. They will have to be fully involved at all stages and at all levels within the initiative. Cost-effectiveness will be achieved by building on existing knowledge, facilities and organisations wherever possible. Flexibility will be key. We have to ensure adequate response to evolving needs.
Second, GMES provides a comprehensive approach. The GMES initiative aims to support a wide spectrum of complementary policies. In organisational terms, GMES will be broad-based, involving a wide range of stakeholders. Similarly, it will seek to address a broad range of requirements emerging from international, European, national, regional and local partners. In terms of technology, GMES will combine space information with other sources of information, notably those provided by terrestrial and airborne systems.
For these reasons, GMES cannot be a single project dominated by only two or three organisations. It must be based on the co-ordinated efforts of a wide number of partners within a single coherent framework.
Yes, GMES is an ambitious project. And like all ambitious projects, it represents tremendous opportunities for all partners involved as well as challenges to be overcome.
Taking stock: challenges & opportunities
GMES is not new. The term was first introduced at a meeting between space agencies and the Commission in Baveno in 1998. At that time, all parties agreed that Europe's Earth observation activities needed a new, more political focus.
By October 2000, at the Lille conference under French presidency, the concept had gained the full attention of policy-makers and potential stakeholders in the public and private sector. It became less focused on "suppliers" side i.e. the agenda of space agencies and data suppliers - and more on the "demand" side i.e. the needs for new space applications emerging from a wide variety of users in many different fields. The "user-centric" logic was further sharpened at the meetings in Stockholm and Brussels under the Swedish and Belgian presidencies last year.
In short, we have seen GMES progress from a narrower to a broader interest; and from a specialised to a wider constituency.
The awareness and involvement of the stakeholders of GMES is growing, be they users or suppliers. This includes authorities and agencies for environmental and civil protection, agriculture, development aid and foreign policy at European, national and even local level. This includes space agencies and operational agencies such as EUMETSAT. Most importantly, we are now seeing a full commitment from the private sector, with companies and consortia from a broad spectrum of industries fully involved in the project. Their early involvement shall represent a guarantee of long-term viability of these services.
How can we build on these opportunities?
First, focus. I believe that GMES can provide a strong focus and unifying force. Various uncoordinated activities throughout Europe at international and national levels should be made mutually reinforcing, with the GMES initiative providing a flexible, efficient framework and a federating force.
Second, partnerships. The greatest challenge and main opportunity for GMES lies in the forging of genuine partnerships with the full involvement of stakeholders, users as well as providers. A great deal has been achieved, but challenges remain in that area. Strong partnership should reduce the risk of proliferation of stand alone monitoring infrastructures designed to meet very specific needs
In this perspective, the Commission will continue to act as a facilitator. We have, I believe a key role to play in building consensus, encouraging partnerships, and structuring the demand for information by European institutional users.
In particular, I would like to express my satisfaction at the reinforcement of the fruitful cooperation between the Commission and the European Space Agency. Following the creation and endorsement of the joint European Strategy for Space last year, we look forward to closer and more formal arrangements under the Framework Agreement to be concluded between EC and ESA before end of 2002. GMES is one of the major pillars of our joint strategy. Another, equally important, is GALILEO satellite navigation programme which was given full political endorsement at the Barcelona Council last week- end.
Together with my colleague, Mrs de Palacio, I very much look forward to the formal adoption in a few days of GALILEO by EU Transport Ministers. Overall, our ambitious new EU Space strategy has directly contributed to the emergence of those exciting new Space projects.
Particularly relevant for today's proceedings is the work carried out between our organisations to launch the initial period of the GMES programme. This work was presented to the Research Council last June. It will provide the basis of our future respective activities.
The Directorate General for Research will fulfil its role of ensuring the overall co-ordination within the Commission, using, in particular, the resources available within the Framework Programme for Research. It will also insert GMES as a key element to the Framework Agreement to be concluded between EC and ESA before end of 2002.
The next stages
We must organise stakeholders, establish the initial requirements for operational information, provide initial services and outline further plans to ensure full and effective European capacity for GMES by 2008.
In this perspective, the guidance of this Steering committee will be crucial to the success of future activities. So, too, will be the full involvement of national representatives of the environmental and civil security branches of government. Private sector involvement will also be crucial.
This work will be supported and co-ordinated by the GMES Support Team, who are being drawn from all stakeholders. A wide and open dialogue on GMES is to be maintained within a GMES Forum, to be launched under the Spanish presidency at the end of June.
In conclusion, I would like to stress the following:
A successful GMES initiative should make a substantial contribution to the well-being and strategic security of Europe's citizens. By developing a wide spectrum of innovative space services and applications, it should also reinforce Europe's competitive edge in the knowledge economy. Additionally, it should provide useful tools to help shape and implement a broad range of EU policies
Substantial progress has been made during the last year in widening support and securing the commitment of policy-makers and decision-makers in Europe.
The Commission is committed to develop and encourage partnerships with users and other stakeholders in the development of the initiative, as set out in the GMES Action Plan. The success of GMES will depend on these partnerships notably between public and private sector
I look forward to the many ideas, opinions, discussions and recommendations that will result from today proceedings, and from the Initial Period of GMES. As a result of your efforts, I will be pleased to present the report for the Initial Period to Council and the European Parliament