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15th Apr 2024

European Space Force should only be for defence, says MEP

  • Europe has many assets, such as satellites, in space. Should a European Space Force be set up to protect them? (Photo: European Space Agency)

The European Space Force, if it is ever set up, should not have offensive capabilities, a centre-right German member of the European Parliament has told EUobserver.

"Europe is always thinking in defence and in peacekeeping missions," said Monika Hohlmeier, who is also the chairwoman of a group of MEPs that regularly hosts meetings with the space industry sector.

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  • 'We are thinking in peacekeeping and in defence, not to enlarge our territory via military or arms', MEP Monika Hohlmeier told the space conference (Photo: European Parliament)

Hohlmeier spoke to EUobserver at the 11th annual Conference on European Space Policy in Brussels on Wednesday (23 January), where a day earlier EU commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska mentioned the idea for a European Space Force for the first time.

Bienkowska's comments came in response to US president Donald Trump's wish to set up a Space Force as an additional branch of the military.

"Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea," Trump said last year.

"We need to discuss, [on the] medium [to] long term, a European Space Force," Bienkowska said Tuesday.

To Hohlmeier, the idea for a European Space Force did not fall entirely unexpectedly from the sky.

"In the internal circles yes, it was discussed," she admitted.

"It's a word that means we are interested in the defence sector of space," Hohlmeier said.

Bienkowska did not provide any details of what a European Space Force should look like.

Hohlmeier also did not want to pre-empt the discussion.

"At the end the defence ministers together with the [European] Commission have to think about what kind of projects could it be," she said.

As the EU becomes more self-reliant with its own satellite systems, like Galileo, one could imagine at some point a desire to protect those satellites from attack.

The MEP from the European People's Party called it "alarming" that Russia is developing new kinds of weapons - she spoke on the day Russia unveiled a new missile.

"At the moment the possibility to defend ourselves should be optimised," she said.

But Europe should not join an arms race in space, Hohlmeier cautioned.

"From the European side: No. … Russia is at the moment enlarging their territory with military force. This is not the way Europe is thinking," she said.

"We are thinking in peacekeeping and in defence, not to enlarge our territory via military or arms."

When pressed about the European Space Force, Hohlmeier preferred not to become too concrete before a widespread analysis in the member states.

"There is a need to analyse where is the need in the European Union. The defence ministers are the ones to bring together all their analyses, together with NATO. And then to define what to do," she said.

"European projects are less costly than if everybody does it on its own," the politician added, echoing the speech she gave earlier that day.

"At the moment there is more nationalism in the European Union," Hohlmeier had said.

"I love to be Bavarian, I love to be German. But if we want to be successful in the space sector, we have to work together on the European level," she added.

She told the audience, many of whom were working in the private sector, that politicians and industry should work together to convince the EU's member states of the need to invest heavily in the space sector.

"There are still some member states that we have to convince. There are still some finance ministers that need to be convinced," she noted.

"I count on your support, because I think we are all [supporters of] a common European big space programme," Hohlmeier told the audience.

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

EU commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said back in January the EU should consider setting up its own space army - in response to Donald Trump's similar plan. Bar two speeches, not much has happened.

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The European Space Agency, which is independent of the EU, has asked the European Commission not to rename an EU agency as the similar-sounding European Union Agency for the Space Programme.

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