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London Space Policy Meeting Highlights Citizens' Needs for Practical Applications

Press Release From: European Union
Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2003

image High-level representatives discussed the Commission's Green Paper on a European Space Policy on 20 May 2003 in London, focussing on practical applications for European citizens. Highlighted were telecommunications, earth observation and satellite positioning, all of which have a huge impact not only on everyday life in Europe but also on global issues of sustainable development, peacekeeping and crisis management.

"The aim of the UK's space policy is to generate wealth for all of our citizens," said British Minister of Science and Technology Lord Sainsbury. "We see space as a source of enabling technologies having a greater and greater impact on ordinary life. The importance of space in telecoms is obvious and the global satellite positioning and navigation market will become enormous in the coming years. We are faced with a serious challenge in this space policy debate. Space is a valuable and cost-effective, and, in many ways, a unique tool, but we are not entitled to automatic funding. We must be convincing and accountable."

A clear and present policy asset

Representing the European Parliament, MEP Eryl McNally said, "A space policy is perfect for Europe in terms of added value. European security, sustainable development, energy policy - all are served by space technologies and the applications and services they provide. A space policy meets all the criteria of the Lisbon declaration, which we must repeat again and again: '…to become the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world…'. Space is dynamic, it is competitive, it is knowledge-driven, and Europe can be a world leader in the space sector. The industry is in a downturn for the moment, no one can deny that, but it will come back.

"The European Parliament is eager to see the GALILEO programme get off the ground and we want to see space as a part of the new European Treaty. Our main competitor, the United States, is spending much more than we are on space. Dare I say we need to 'boldly go…'? Let's ask for more support, for more money, with confidence. The Parliament's report on the Space Green Paper will be published soon and we expect to give all of you a positive response."

European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Antonio Rodotà said, "The strategy of using public funding for development and then transferring applications to the private sector has worked. Space development involves huge risks that the private sector is often unwilling to undertake. There are any number of companies in operation today, providing services based on space technologies and systems first developed and then handed over by ESA. The public sector must continue to contribute to this process. We now believe that the combination of our savoir faire and the political support of the EU is the way to meet our future challenges in space."

Speaking for the Commission, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said, "Space is excellent value for money for European citizens. So many applications are bringing space technologies into the lives of everyday people, from medical techniques and communications technologies to frying pans and potato chip packaging. But there is more - agricultural applications, bringing humanitarian aid to earthquake victims, cleaning up the Prestige oil spill. Recent actions in support of this process in the European Parliament, in the European Council and in the Convention have shown that all now agree this is a critical moment for Europe and space."

Sessions highlight 'big three'

According to workshop moderator and rapporteur Giuliano Berretta of the European Satellite Operators' Association, the main applications for space technologies remain telecommunications, including television and internet services, earth observation, including meteorological services, and global positioning and navigation. Workshop sessions covered each of these areas, with speakers from the space industry, government institutions and organisations exchanging views with panel members and the audience.

Common threads included the 'digital divide' - that is the lack of communications services in remoter areas where conventional ground-based access via cable is not practical. Satellite services are seen as a potential stopgap providing direct access to communications services in these areas.

The question of European defence was also raised repeatedly. Space-based systems, such as GALILEO and GMES, are generally seen as possessing 'dual-use' capabilities. According to Busquin, these systems will provide information at once useful for civil- and security-related applications.

Public funding is seen by many as a prerequisite to ongoing applications development. While there is great potential for economic benefit in the provision of space-based services, research and development requires a clear political commitment and an investment that is beyond the scope of the private sector.

Voice of youth heard

The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) works in support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications and is represented or directly involved in a wide range of meetings and conferences in the world space arena, expressing the visions and perspectives of youth with regard to future space activities. The group presented a draft of its response to the Space Green Paper to Philippe Busquin and Antonio Rodotà.

According to SGAC coordinator William Marshall, the group sees four areas for increased investment in the space sector, including common defence programmes, launcher technologies, space law and human space flight. Above all, he said, young people must be inspired by bold programmes, and youth outreach and education initiatives should be an integral part of all European space activities.

The Slide presentations of the key speakers are also available on this website.


The debate continues

The next Green Paper consultation event will take place in Prague on 2-3 June 2003 and will focus on 'The international dimension of Europe's future space policy'. A provisional agenda is now available.

Readers can also contribute their views via the Green Paper Online Forum .

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