23rd Jun 2017

Power struggle jeopardises EU Galileo satellite system

  • The Giove-A test-satellite was sent in orbit in December 2005 (Photo: European Space Agency)

Political wrangling between governments and companies in the EU is jeopardising the bloc's biggest ever joint technological project – the Galileo satellite navigation system – which is already facing several delays.

An internal power struggle has led to the negotiations in the private consortium - consisting of eight European firms who will implement and run the Galileo system - being suspended because they cannot agree a common commercial position.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot said on Wednesday (14 March) he was writing to the companies building the Galileo system to discover the reason for more than a year's delay. "They are just not working," his spokesman Michele Cercone said, according to the Financial Times.

The consortium includes European aerospace company EADS, France's Thales and Alcatel-Lucent, the UK's Inmarsat, Italy's Finmeccanica, AENA and Hispasat of Spain, and a German group led by Deutsche Telekom.

The companies are reportedly holding out for more work to be guaranteed by the consortium.

Officials from the EU and the European Space Agency have since June 2005 been negotiating with this group to put in place the details of a 20-year concession.

"The Spanish firms are the current block," says one source close to the consortium's negotiations, according to

"They are making outrageous demands over guaranteed work share arrangements. But Spain has already secured a completely unnecessary control centre and people aren't having any more," the source said.

However, there have also been complaints of political meddling, with EU member states still pushing for their interests to be taken into account.

Arguments continue over where control centres should be sited and where industrial contracts should be placed.

Severe delays

Galileo was meant to end reliance on the US Global Positioning System (GPS) by 2010. The US version is a free network but it is military-run meaning that it can be switched off at the whim of the Pentagon. The date has now been postponed to 2011 at the earliest.

Galileo's 30 satellites are to be launched into mid-Earth orbits at a cost of around €3.2 billion, with one third of that coming from EU taxpayers, and the rest coming from the consortium hoping to regain its investment by selling location-based technology and services.

The consortium was meant to have formed a single Galileo operating company by the end of 2006 as well as appointed an independent chief executive.

The delays mean that orders cannot be placed for Galileo's 30 needed satellites.

"This is posing major problems. As time schedules slip, costs go up," says Paul Verhoef – the commission's Galileo program manager, according to

Continued delays could also have an expensive knock-on effect. Last week the European Space Agency, was forced to order Giove-A2, a €30 million Galileo signal testing satellite.

It had not planned for the satellite but ordered it to be placed in orbit to maintain rights to Galileo's frequency allocations expected to run out mid-2008.

It has fallen to the German government – which currently holds the agenda-setting EU presidency - to try to break the impasse. The country's transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, is set to chair a number of critical meetings, with one of them being a gathering of EU transport ministers in Brussels next week.

"The consortium must fulfil the conditions and obligations it agreed to in 2005," a spokesman for Tiefensee's office told "We expect substantial progress by June."

"We will give the companies an ultimatum," a French diplomat said, according to the Financial Times.

EU to choose Galileo seat despite technical delays

EU ministers are set to choose the seat of Europe's satellite navigation programme Galileo - an ambitious project to compete with the American GPS by 2011 - but a decision on private contractors has been delayed.

Czechs complain against security spin in EU satellite spat

Czech PM Mirek Topolanek used an EU leaders' dinner on Thursday to accuse some western EU states of trying to sabotage Prague's bid to host a new satellite centre by casting "vague" doubt on its security credentials.

Spain holding up European satellite project

The prestigious European satellite project, Galileo, is still mired in financial problems as a meeting in the European Space Agency, ESA on Friday failed to resolve a dispute between Spain and other countries. The multi-billion Euro navigation satellite system is intended to make Europe independent of the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

EU and US close to clinching Open Skies deal

An EU-US deal on opening up competition in the trans-Atlantic aviation sector is ready to be approved, but the UK is set to demand conditions before any deal is finalised.

EU expected to unveil space policy before summer

After two years of political wrangling among governments, the EU is finally set to unveil a collective space policy for the 27-nation bloc, including implications for the military use of space.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal
  2. US issues warrant for VW managers, German media say
  3. EU extends sanctions against Russia
  4. Merkel denies Franco-German deal on EU agencies
  5. Dutch PM: Turkey is upholding migration deal
  6. Britain to outline rights of UK-based EU citizens
  7. Tusk can 'imagine' the UK still remaining in EU
  8. Norway offers more blocks for Arctic oil exploration

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  2. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  3. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  4. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  5. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  6. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  7. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  8. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  11. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  12. European Social Services ConferenceDriving innovation in the social sector – 26-28 June

Latest News

  1. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  2. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  3. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit
  4. EU pressures firms to tackle online terrorism
  5. Lack of eligible candidates dogs EU relocation scheme
  6. Border management going virtual
  7. Tusk hints UK could stay in EU, if it wanted
  8. Merkel, Orban and the not quite closed Balkan route