International cooperation contributes to the implementation of European space programmes such as EGNOS, Galileo, and Copernicus. It also supports space research through the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and development, and can open up markets abroad for European space-related technology and services.
For the EU, international cooperation on space follows two complementary streams: implementing existing bilateral agreements in specific programmes and pursuing non-binding cooperation related to existing programmes or strategies.
Regarding the former, EU space programmes such as Galileo, Copernicus, or Horizon 2020 have provided a framework for international cooperation. For the latter, there is broad collaboration between the EU and non-EU countries covering areas such as space exploration through the high-level International Space Exploration Forum, the protection of space infrastructures, training and education, and other cooperation issues related to particular countries or regions.
Since 2005, the European Commission, in cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), has pursued comprehensive 'space dialogues', which seek to advance objectives in both streams, and contribute to the EU's overall external policy priorities. Other actors are also closely involved in the dialogues, particularly the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Meteorological Office (EUMETSAT), and EU agencies.
Political and security constraints, the existence of mutual interest, and a representative set of stakeholders determines the space issues that the EU works on with each country. The EU’s main strategic international partners are existing space powers such as the United States, Russia, China, and Japan, as well as emerging space powers like South Africa. With all those countries, Space Dialogues have been established and meetings take place annually. Currently, the EU also provides expertise and assists with infrastructure in Africa, and will do so in Latin American and Asian countries in the future.
International relations in space are addressed by the Commission and the EEAS, in close cooperation with the ESA. Depending on the subjects covered, other European space agencies and international organisations, such as EUMETSAT are also involved. EU agencies, such as the European GNSS Agency (GSA), the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Defence Agency (EDA), and the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) have also been participants in the EU’s Space Dialogues.