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Press announcement

The Commission launches a plan of action for global monitoring for environment and security


Brussels, 30 October 2001

Key words: Environment, Space monitoring, Action Plan 

At the initiative of the European Commission, a new programme using space technology for the environment and security is to be launched soon. Philippe Busquin, the Commissioner responsible for research (including space), and Margot Wallstr÷m, the Commissioner responsible for the environment, have joined forces to present a detailed plan of action which, by 2008, will provide Europe with independent, operational capacity in global monitoring for environment and security (GMES). The first stage of this plan (2001-2003) is due to get the go-ahead from the EU research ministers today. The GMES programme will use different technologies. The use of earth observing satellites will be combined with data and information collected by ground-level sensors. The data collected will provide accurate information in support of several Community policies, sustainable development and climate change, civil protection, humanitarian aid, safety, research and space strategy among them. To begin with, this initiative will be financed jointly by the European Commission and the European Space Agency.

Commissioner Busquin welcomed the adoption of the action plan, declaring: "We have first-rate scientific expertise and space technologies in Europe. We must put them to greater and better use to meet the challenges of our globalised society. GMES is of strategic importance for space research and for the individual since it aims both to obtain accurate and reliable information on the state of our earth and to monitor our environment in the wider sense. Natural catastrophes such as forest fires and mass movements of refugees will be better managed. The Commission and the European Space Agency will work together on this project, which is one of the cornerstones of the EU's space strategy.   The role of the Commission is to join with users in defining what Europe's needs are." Commissioner Wallstr÷m added: "I welcome this initiative which will underpin environment policy. What interests me specifically is having powerful measurement instruments for monitoring application of international conventions such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change."

A number of practical applications for the environment have been identified as taking priority: management of natural catastrophes (floods, earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions, etc.), global ocean, vegetation and atmosphere monitoring, support for regional development aid, environmental stress in Europe and land use.

In terms of security, satellite observation will help to measure the extent of movements of refugees, to optimise the provision of food aid and also to support peace-keeping troops outside Europe.

These applications need reliable communication networks to be set up for the public authorities. The GMES programme also includes an analysis of regulatory aspects, such as the conditions to be put in place to guarantee the protection of privacy and the capacity to establish a platform for international co-operation. During the first phase of the work we must also look at how GMES could help to detect acts of terrorism or biological and chemical attacks.

Another specific feature of this initiative is the geographic cover of the services provided. The programme is global in scope due to the satellites placed in orbit. The Commission's plan of action must bring all the various players together, combine their respective needs and translate them into performance levels to enable the industry to respond to the wide variety of user groups.

The European Union is the ideal partner to support this programme, given the need for verification tools that can be applied to the whole of Europe, including the Member States of the European Economic Area, neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean and candidate countries for accession. Russia and Canada have also already expressed their intention to be associated with this European initiative.

The programme forms part of an ambitious global strategy launched jointly by the Commission and the ESA in 2000. Its objective is to establish a new European space policy geared to the immediate needs of Europeans. GMES is the second concrete application after the GALILEO programme, Europe's future civil satellite navigation system. It will be one of the priorities in the next European framework programme for research.

You can find the action plan - COM (2001) 609 - in all 11 official EU languages on the EUR-Lex web site.

For further information please contact :

  • Patrick Vittet-Philippe, Information and Communication Unit, 
    Research DG
    Tel : +32-2-296.90.56 
    Fax: +32-2-295.82.20 

  • Luc Tytgat, Space Research Policy & Coordination, 
    Research DG
    Tel : + 
    Fax : + 

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