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23rd Sep 2018

EU agrees Galileo satellite project

  • The Galileo project has already been delayed by five years (Photo: European Space Agency)

Updated 30.11.2007 21.00 CET The 27-nation European Union has agreed how the Galileo satellite project, worth €3.4 billion, will be shared out among member states, with Spain on Friday abandoning its isolated position and finally giving its blessing to the deal.

"Thanks to the combined efforts of the commission and the presidency, all the member states have eventually accepted to work on the basis of this mechanism", EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a written statement.

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He added that "an agreement will allow Europe to have its own satellite navigation system by 2013".

Spain's U-turn follows six-hour long negotiations on Thursday night (29 November), which saw 26 ministers outvoting their Spanish colleague in order move on with the project.

Madrid had demanded to host a ground control centre for Galileo - a global network of 30 navigation satellites and ground stations, which is meant to end the EU's reliance on the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

In the end, the Spanish government accepted an offer to host the project's only 'life safety' centre, designed to help all types of search and rescue services.

In addition, the centre could eventually carry out the functions of a control centre, if certain conditions are met.

Until now, only two centres - Germany and Italy - have qualified for such a status.

However, the EU bloc was set to move on with its biggest ever joint technological project even without Spain's blessing.

Originally a public-private project, it has already been postponed by five years to 2013, as the private consortium, consisting of eight European firms, could not agree a common commercial position.

"We have reached the point where it was no longer possible to carry on with that situation", Portuguese transport minister Mario Lino said on Thursday in response to Spain's firm opposition to a compromise scenario.

He added that "I did not understand what it was they were objecting to...we really listened to Spanish concerns and we think it's clearly reflected in the text".

According to the newly-adopted industrial plan, the construction of Galileo will be divided into six phases, with each of them having one main investor and several subcontractors - a model which should ensure all member states will be able to bid.

This was "very difficult" to agree, commissioner Barrot said, referring to the need to "reconcile necessary measures of competition and the desire for fair allocation of the construction work of Galileo".

In addition, he pointed out that once up and running, Galileo will "ensure the economic and strategic independence" of the EU, as "special navigation is an indication of power" on the world stage.

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