18th Apr 2021

Space - a sphere of competence for EU members

European Defence and Space: Convergences for Security was the topic of a symposium organised in Brussels on 19 March by the Belgian Ministry of Defence and the Belgian École Royale Militaire.

Political and military aspects of the use of space as well as technical projects were discussed by participants including the Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin.

Observation and navigation

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The fact that an effective European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) would not be possible without investments in space technologies, such as observation and navigation satellites, was the main theme of the symposium.

Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel pointed out, "space technology needs to be integrated into ESDP," while Mr Solana declared that "space technology has a unique role to play in all aspects of crisis management."

Space workshop in Athens in May

Mr Busquin praised the EU Greek Presidency for having made space one of its priorities. A workshop on this will be organised in Athens on 8-9 May.

The Commission on 21 January 2003, in co-operation with the European Space Agency, launched a Green Paper on 2European Space Policy" on the use of space for the EU’s security and defence policy.

The Research Commissioner spoke of the Working Group on Defence, set up by the Convention on the Future of Europe, which proposed the creation of a European Armament Agency for Strategic Research to work on space issues as well.

Limited budget for European space activities

The Commissioner said that "the EU budget for space research is six times lower than that of the US', and called for a better dual use of satellites, both for military and civil purposes.

In his intervention on "Belgian ambitions," Mr Verhofstadt highlighted the need for "a new Atlanticism," which should encompass a strong European pillar in NATO to rebalance the Atlantic Alliance.

A strong European Security and Defence Policy would therefore be the key to achieve this rebalance. The current crisis over Iraq, according to the Belgian Prime Minister, gives the opportunity to promote the strengthening of EU co-operation on defence issues.

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