Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Bienkowska bows out, with no EU 'Space Force' in sight

  • Following two speeches in January by the EU commissioner, the European Commission has done little to promote the idea of a European Space Force (Photo: Kenny Mitchell)

The idea for a European Space Force has so far remained little more but that - an idea.

Last January, European Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said in a speech that Europe should consider setting up a European Space Force, in response to US president Donald Trump's announcement the US will have a space branch in the military.

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  • 'The US have created a Space Force. (...) We need, on the medium to long term, a European Space Force, said Bienkowska last January (Photo: European Commission)

Six month later however, she seems not to have done anything to promote the idea.

EUobserver filed an access to documents request to see all commission letters, emails, papers, and presentations about a European Space Force, as well as any minutes, records or emails about discussions Bienkowska may have had about a European Space Force.

In its response, sent last month, the commission sent only the two speeches Bienkowska gave in January, both on the 22nd of the month, at the annual conference on space policy in Brussels. No other documents apparently existed.

This suggested that following her speeches, Bienkowska has done little else to convince member states - whose approval would be crucial - or to advance the idea further internally in the commission.

Bienkowska is nearing the end of her term, as commissioner in charge of internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs (on 31 October), and Poland is not expected not to renominate her as commissioner.

Asked to comment, a spokesperson for the commission said Bienkowska had "explicitly highlighted that her ideas were a personal contribution" and said that they were "her reflections about a daring vision for Europe in space".

The spokesperson did not explain what else Bienkowska had done to advance her idea, beyond mentioning it in two speeches on 22 January.

The commission spokesperson pointed out that in her speech, in which Bienkowska also spoke about a European Space Council and a European 'Space Google', the commissioner had acknowledged that all those ideas went "well beyond my mandate as a commissioner and even the competence of the EU itself in space".

The spokesperson also quoted Bienkowska's speech when she said: "I do not wish my words to be interpreted like saying that the EU should do it. But I think somebody needs and dares to say it out loud."

However, Bienkowska's first speech can be interpreted as if she was saying that the EU should do it.

"The US have created a Space Force. Several member states are considering ways to strengthen their defence doctrine to the space dimension. What is a reality in our partners and at national level, should also become a reality at EU level. We need, on the medium to long term, a European Space Force," she said.

In her second speech, she toned that down into saying: "We should reflect on the possibility to have a European Space Force."

However, she appears not to have created any huge discussion on the topic yet.

A Google search limited to webpages created since 1 February (a week after Bienkowska's speech) looking for the phrase "European Space Force" in English yielded only 11 results.

Macron space plan

Last month, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that come September France will create "a large space command", as part of the French air force.

"We will reinforce our knowledge of the situation in space, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active manner," he said.

While Macron referred in his speech to the "European framework", he did not mention Bienkowska's idea for a European Space Force.

Trump: 'before you know it'

Meanwhile, the Trump administration still seems committed to moving ahead on its plans for a US Space Force.

"We are ensuring American dominance across every war-fighting domain — land, air, sea, cyber, and now space," said Trump last week.

The US president said that people are excited whenever he mentions the plans.

"They stand up and they clap, and I can't sit them down. And I have to wait because I say, "We're launching the United States Space Force." They go absolutely wild. They understand that's where it's going to be at," said Trump.

Earlier in July, Trump's vice-president Mike Pence said the United States Space Force will "soon" be a reality.

"Our nation's armed forces have always been a vanguard of advancing American leadership beyond the bounds of Earth. And the Space Force, we believe, is the next and natural evolution of American military supremacy. (...) The United States Space Force is going to be here before you know it," said Pence.

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