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Competitiveness Council resolves to advance the European Space Policy

On 26 September, the Competitiveness Council adopted a resolution to advance Europe's Space Policy. The resolution sets out four priority areas: space and climate change; space and security; space exploration; and the contribution of space to the Lisbon Strategy. The Member St...

On 26 September, the Competitiveness Council adopted a resolution to advance Europe's Space Policy. The resolution sets out four priority areas: space and climate change; space and security; space exploration; and the contribution of space to the Lisbon Strategy. The Member States highlighted in particular the importance of the rapid and successful implementation both of Galileo, the EU's satellite navigation system, and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). With the adoption in 2006 of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and its new thematic chapter Space, space has been recognised by the EU as one of the key building blocks of the European knowledge-based society. In May 2004 the framework agreement between the European Community (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA) entered into force, and in May 2007 the Space Council adopted a resolution that established the policy base for space in Europe. The EC, ESA Director General and European Union and ESA Member States together monitor and evaluate the implementation of the policy. Friday's resolution comes after the successful launch and in-orbit validation of the GIOVE-B satellite, which has demonstrated critical new technologies by the Galileo system; the demonstration at the Lille GMES Forum of pre-operational GMES services; and the adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the Regulation on the further implementation of the European GNSS programmes that clarify the public governance of Galileo deployment. Implementing both Galileo and GMES rapidly remains a high priority. Galileo is a satellite system built along the lines of the US's global positioning system. GMES is a user-driven initiative designed to maximise the use of existing space and non-space Earth Observation centres, capacities and services in Europe. The global observation capacity and long-term coverage that characterise space programmes make them ideally suited for providing key scientific data to the climate-change research community. As the challenges posed by climate change are of global concern, the Council emphasised the need to continue and expand European space programmes so that they may 'provide the evidence base for key decisions to be taken in environment policy'. While the contributions of the ESA Living Planet Programme, the national Earth science space missions, EUMETSAT and the GMES Space Component to this endeavour were acknowledged, the Council called for the scientific community, EC, ESA and EUMETSAT to pool GMES and European space observation data relating to climate change more effectively. Furthermore, it invited the Commission to assess the research community's need (and provide the means) for full access to standardised data and for increased computing power. The Council's recent resolution highlighted the need to ensure the security of Europe's space assets, which have become indispensable to the economy, and underlined the importance of developing European capability 'for the monitoring and surveillance of its space infrastructure and of space debris'. It highlighted the need to 'define the way and means to improve the coordination between civilian and defence space programmes in long-term arrangements' and to 'recognise Europe's dependence on overseas suppliers for selected critical space technologies and components, establish mitigation strategies to ensure guaranteed European access, and take practical steps to pursue reduction of Europe's dependence'. The Council believes that Europe should undertake space exploration 'within a worldwide programme, without any monopoly or appropriation by one country', and highlighted Europe's need for long-term strategic planning for exploration. The Council welcomed the launch of the ESA Columbus laboratory and the successful demonstrations of the Automated Transfer Vehicle 'Jules Verne', describing them as 'truly European technology development projects and crucial elements for ensuring European access to the International Space Station ISS'. It acknowledged that establishing Europe as a leader in space exploration can be achieved only through sustained investment, and underlined 'the value of space exploration for inspiring young Europeans to choose a career in science and technology'. Regarding the contribution of space to the Lisbon strategy, the Council emphasised that exploiting the results of high-tech space research can contribute to reaching the Lisbon goals, insomuch as it will provide new business opportunities and innovative solutions for various services throughout Europe. This will in turn contribute to fulfilling the 'economic, educational, social and environmental ambitions of the EU and the expectations of its citizens'. The resolution explains that space applications such as satellite telecommunications, the EGNOS and Galileo systems and GMES 'are expected to create substantial global market opportunities, especially for SMEs, through the development of value-added downstream services'. To maximise the value EU Member States can secure from these space assets, an 'appropriate regulatory framework, sustained access to radio-spectrum for space applications, and development of standards in relevant areas' are required, the resolution states. According to the resolution, major issues that remain to be addressed include promoting a coherent approach to international cooperation in space programmes; ensuring open and equitable access to the benefits of space activities in terms of public policies, scientific data, technological development, industrial activities and services; guaranteeing the continuity of autonomous, reliable and cost-efficient access to space at affordable conditions; promoting the development of an appropriate regulatory framework to ease the swift emergence of innovative and competitive downstream services; and organising the governance of space in line with the Resolution of the Fourth Space Council and with the political ambitions of the EU and ESA. The resolution emphasised the need to develop 'adequate EU instruments and funding schemes, taking into account the specificities of the space sector, the need to strengthen its [...]competitiveness and the necessity of a balanced industrial structure'. Additionally, strengthening cooperation with developing countries was seen as a priority action area. The European Union and ESA are key space actors, and they intend to develop Europe as a leading space power on the international scene. The resolution adopted on Friday by the Council emphasised that all of Europe's space activities contribute to the use of outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes, and to 'the promotion of international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space'. European space programmes were acknowledged as supporting the 'ongoing efforts of the United Nations' Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on the mitigation and prevention of space debris'.

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