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Brussels, 26th April 2007

EU needs powerful space policy to face global challenges

Emergency services and communications, navigation systems, live sports, news and weather coverage and financial transactions: day-to-day life in Europe depends more and more on space applications. To ensure a leading European role in these socially and economically important fields EU- countries are to join hands to successfully develop powerful space systems and technologies. Therefore a comprehensive political framework for the development of a viable and strong space sector has been tabled jointly today by the European Commission and the Director General of the- European Space Agency (ESA). The proposal focuses in particular on making more effective use of resources by combining efforts, as single Member States would not be able to face global challenges. Space is a strategic and high value-added growth sector on which the economy relies. The communication of the Commission and the General Director of ESA will be sent for endorsement to the European Space Council, a joint meeting of Competitiveness ministers and ESA-representatives from Member States, which will discuss the new policy on 22 May.

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry policy, said: “Without the European Space Policy Europe could become irrelevant. With this communication on the European Space Policy we intend to live up to Europe's global leadership aspirations in important industrial and research areas, which will provide growth and jobs for the future. Moreover, space has always been a source of inspiration which helps people to think outside and beyond the limits and to innovate. Today’s proposal marks a milestone, to ensure that Europe does not miss out on the important opportunities that space technology offers. ”

Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, said: “ESA has for more than 30 years successfully developed space systems and infrastructures. We are eager to respond to the new challenges of the European Space Policy and to open up to the new dimension that Europe is asking us to take on in support of its policies.”

Space technology will increasingly serve Europe’s domestic and global policy ambitions. It can help to achieve important European objectives. Environment and security policies including the response to global climate change is an outstanding example. Others are transport, research, agriculture, fisheries, development aid and weather forecasts. By an optimal use of space technology tsunami's could for instance be more predictable.

The Communication on European Space Policy sets out orientations for:

  • Coordinating more effective civil space programmes between ESA, EU and their respective Member States to ensure value for money and eliminate unnecessary duplication, thus meeting shared European needs.
  • Developing and exploiting European space applications such as GALILEO and GMES (Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security) and satellite communication applications (see Memo/07/154).
  • Preserving EU autonomous access to space.
  • Increasing synergy between defence and civil space programmes and technologies and pursue, in particular, interoperability of civil/military systems.
  • Ensuring that space policy is coherent with, and supports the EU's external relationships.

Finally, as space policy increasingly gains an EU dimension, the goal remains for closer and more efficient cooperation between the Commission and ESA. Both are currently evaluating scenarios for optimising the organisation of space activities in Europe.

Space matters for Europe’s competitiveness

The space industry plays a crucial role in maintaining Europe’s industrial and technological capability for transportation, communication, observation, security and defence. Two thirds of the European industry turnover comes from institutional customers, while in the US this is around 85%. More than half of the US budget is invested by the military, while in Europe it is less than a fifth. Furthermore, budgets for space are five times smaller in Europe than in the US. In addition, new competitors from China and India are emerging at the horizon.

Europe needs to maintain a competitive space sector by investing in new technologies and operational systems. Space policy and other policies should be mutually reinforcing. Public authorities must create the framework conditions to enable companies to become fit to tackle global markets. A focused industry policy should aim at improving the regulatory framework specific to the space sector, and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public investment in space.

Facts about the European Space Industry

European space manufacturing industry turnover in 2005 was 4.4 billion Euro, with a workforce of 28,000. Globally, the industry generates a considerable downstream industry about 5 times bigger than in the space segment. It also showcases European hi-tech skills. Despite the relative low European investment in space, today European space industry is highly competitive and secures 40 per cent of world markets for manufacturing, launching and operating satellites.

For more information on the multitude of space applications (GMES, Galileo, satellite communications etc.), see Memo/07/154

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