The Space Council is a major political milestone for Europe in space, gathering ministers representing all 27 EU and/or ESA Member States in joint discussions aimed at developing an overall ‘European Space Programme’. It also represents the next major step in the reorganisation of the European space sector, which has included the Space White Paper process, the EU-ESA Framework Agreement, and the inclusion of Space in the EU Constitution.
|Edelgard Bulmahn and Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst|
The Space Council was chaired jointly by Edelgard Bulmahn, German Minister for Education and Research and current chair of the ESA Council, and Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst, Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs and current chair of the EU Competitiveness Council.
Speaking to reporters, Bulmahn said, “We all agree that space must be an essential part of EU policy. The EU and ESA have some very good examples of successful co-operation to build upon, including GALILEO and GMES. We are now looking forward to enlarging that co-operation across the board, with new projects that will respond to EU policy needs in communications, transport, environment and especially industry. We want every EU country to play a role in this and we want every country to benefit. A clear description of tasks, responsibilities and financial arrangements is now a priority.”
“This is a historic day,” said Brinkhorst. “We have taken a first step towards a European Space Programme that will support science and industry, as well as a Common Security and Defence Policy. The EU Constitution sees space as a new area of competence and, with our target of a European Space Programme by 2005, all European space activities will be launched from a single coherent platform.”
A clear vision for space activities
Representing the European Commission executive was Günther Verheugen, EC Vice-President and the newly instated Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry. “Space has now been confirmed as an EU policy domain in its own right, going far beyond research. Space activities will play an integral part as we pursue our goals in terms of competitiveness, including the Lisbon process of becoming the most powerful knowledge-based economy in the world. The level of funding is still too low, if space is to play this key role. We believe that our European institutions, as the primary users of space, should back our efforts, not just with money but with a clear vision of where we want to go.”
Representing the ESA executive was Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director-General. He praised the work of both the EU and ESA in bringing about the Space Council. “It has been just six months since the EU-ESA Framework Agreement on co-operation entered into force. In that time we have managed to organise ourselves with a strong sense of motivation and enthusiasm. We know that space has already changed the lives of European citizens. We have a long history of success behind us. Now, with the EU and ESA working together, we can do even more.”
Again, Verheugen: “What we know is that we must now be concrete and user-oriented. We must demonstrate directly and immediately that each and every one of the activities we are engaged in is real of real value to the European citizen.”
An ambitious scheduleThe European Space Programme is to be defined in concept by the end of 2005. It will constitute a common, inclusive and flexible platform encompassing all activities and measures to be undertaken by the EC, ESA and other stakeholders, including national organisations, in order to achieve the objectives set by the overall European Space Policy.
A second Space Council is now planned to take place in Spring 2005, to define general governance and industrial policy principles, to identify priorities and establish roles and responsibilities.