Thursday

25th Aug 2016

EU expected to unveil space policy before summer

  • EU member states have been bickering about the issue (Photo: European Space Agency)

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.

Germany, currently sitting at the EU's helm, is expected to table the European space strategy before its six-month term presidency expires at the end of June, according to defensenews.com.

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The strategy will not only focus on supporting Europe's commercial space sector, but also will touch on the military use of space and whether EU governments can continue holding on to their national military satellite programmes.

According to EU officials cited by defensenews, it is economic pressure that will force EU capitals to speed up their efforts towards "a common military satellite environment".

"I just don't see the budgetary capability [of member states] to continue supporting their separate national programmes", an EU official was cited as saying by media, underlining "it's hugely duplicative and costly."

Europe's common space policy was expected to take off before the end of 2005, after the European Commission had outlined its key elements in May of that year.

In its document at the time, Brussels said that the EU needed a sector-specific industrial policy to develop critical technologies and a globally competitive space industry; international cooperation in line with the EU's wider geopolitical objectives and effective day-to-day operation of space systems; and thirdly, policy instruments for investing in programmes and ensuring their efficient management.

But in practice, the EU had difficulties in getting the idea off the ground due to behind-the-scenes in-fighting, including friction between the commission and the European Space Agency over how space initiatives should be managed.

Galileo, a similar story?

Similar wrangling between governments and companies in the EU has also delayed the work on the bloc's biggest ever joint technological project – the Galileo satellite navigation system.

The internal power struggle 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.

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

The set-up of a global network of 30 navigation satellites and ground stations, meant to end the EU's reliance on the US Global Positioning System (GPS), is expected to be postponed from 2008 to 2012.

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