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Parliamentary Report favours ambitious EC space programme

Press Release From: European Commission
Posted: Saturday, October 18, 2003

image The European Parliament's Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy has published its final Report on the European Space Policy Green Paper. In it, rapporteur Guido Bodrato lays out the Parliament's view on Europe in space, reaffirming the need for Europe to play a leading role in this highly strategic international arena.

The goal set out in Lisbon of seeking to make Europe the world's most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy has often been cited as the raison d'Ítre for a strong European space programme. According to the 'Bodrato Report', "Independent access to space for Europe is fully in keeping with the Lisbon process." But the document goes much farther, calling for a broad and concerted effort on a number of space-related fronts.

Key priorities

The main existing European programmes, says the Report, including the GALILEO satellite navigation initiative and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, need to be accelerated. It also encourages the further development of telecommunications, which could be extremely useful in overcoming exclusion from the information society (the 'digital divide'), especially in countries about to join the Union.

The Member States and the Commission, the document says, should continue to invest resources, particularly with a view to enlargement and in connection with the policy of co-operation between the Union and the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.

The Commission is also called upon to "probe more deeply into the common policies (on transport, research and technology, agriculture, the environment and security) for which space policy provides support and which constitute the key areas of public demand." The Report specifically notes the value of using satellite technologies and their maritime applications to strengthen maritime safety and security.

Co-operation with third parties

International co-operation, in particular with the United States, Russia, the Ukraine, China and Japan, is considered essential. The International Space Station (ISS) is a key priority. Europe's weight within the ISS, says the Report, should be strengthened and, with regard to co-operation with Russia, Europe must move forward on bringing the Soyuz launch system to the European base at Kourou, French Guyana. This would open the way for Europe to become "a full partner in international manned flight projects."

The Report also calls for greater resources for basic research and for skills development. Interest in space among young people must be encouraged, through support for long-term career perspectives.

Broaching the defence question

Importantly, the Report notes the new space-related provisions within the European Convention's proposed Constitution, which establish a specific legal basis for a European Space Policy. In addition to Article 150, which stipulates that the Union shall draw up such a policy, the Convention calls for the creation of a European Agency for Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities.

In this context, the Parliament's Report has emphasised the "dual nature" of space activities and the need to take advantage of synergies between civil and military activities.

Funding

Much of the Report is devoted to outlining the particular difficulties in providing adequate funding for a strong space programme. It cites the growing gap between the public budgets allocated to space activities in the United States and Europe and calls for a European Space Policy to be "backed by the necessary resources, originating from official demand for services, research, European Space Agency (ESA) programmes, and he market."

The Aeronautics and Space heading should be retained in future research budgets, it says, but this should be "without prejudice to the entry of a specific Space budget heading to cover the funding of European programmes in both civil and military spheres".

Praise for the Commission and ESA

Finally, the Bodrato Report praises both the Commission and ESA for the speed and excellence of its Green Paper consultation process, and for the recent conclusion of a Framework Agreement establishing a working relationship between the two institutions. The latter, the Report says, is "a key aspect of a space strategy that must take advantage of the basic research and advanced technology experience and the concentration of professional expertise found in the ESA, which at the same time has to be fitted into the prospect opened up by the Convention's proposal for a European space programme."

The Commission is due to publish its White Paper on European Space Policy before the end of 2003.

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