Keynote speech, The Hague, 30 May 2016

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Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Let me first thank Minister Henk Kamp for his nice welcome remarks. And thanks to you and the Dutch Presidency for jointly hosting this event with us. I welcome the chance to discuss the future of the space sector with you. The European Space Policy Conference of today and tomorrow followed by the European Space Solutions conference are great opportunities for us to discuss European space affairs. And we start with a good omen.

Last week, we had another successful launch of two Galileo satellites.

Galileo is moving ahead.

I expect that by the end of this year we will be able to declare the Galileo initial services operational. Copernicus is also moving ahead. We sent another satellite into orbit in April. And 4 Copernicus Services are already up and running. I am proud of these achievements. The main challenge is now to work to convert these achievements into useful services, products and applications and to support our policies.  

The importance of the space sector and the challenges it faces

Ladies and gentlemen,

In this room, we all know that space is a highly strategic sector for governments and businesses. It is strategic because of the tremendous technological benefits it brings. But just as importantly, it is strategic because it provides jobs and growth across Europe. About 320 000 citizens are employed in space-related activities in Europe. Its cutting-edge innovation, research and development create important spill-over effects in many other sectors, often well beyond the space sector itself. And we have a world-leading space sector, with world class research organisations making key discoveries and very dynamic large corporates, SMEs and even start-ups and entrepreneurs

But the sector is changing fast. Shifts in technologies and disruptive innovations are challenging the traditional business models in the sector. And new players and forms of companies are emerging all the time in manufacturing, services and ICT. And competition is growing from both established and emerging public and private actors in third countries.

So, the European space sector needs to adapt and maintain its competitive edge. It needs to anticipate future challenges and develop activities that clearly support public policies. It must not only maintain its current good position, but continue to grow. It must seize new markets and business opportunities to create jobs in Europe. And it must invest in long-term developments as well. Because for me, Space solutions and technologies can have a decisive impact on high political priorities such as climate change/air quality, border management, transport, environment issues.

Actually the largest impact might be outside of the space domain per se.

We live in an increasingly data driven economy. Space data will be part of this trend. This needs to be prepared and promoted.

A Space Strategy for Europe

This is exactly one of the purposes of our Space Strategy which we will present in the second semester of this year: react to ongoing challenges and prepare the future. We will use it to bring together the different strands of our space activities and make sure that they work together as effectively as possible. We will engage with all relevant actors in Europe: the EU, the Member States, ESA, the industry, and the users.

We intend to cover all parts of the space value chain from services and applications to operations, manufacturing, and launchers. And we will cover all domains of space activity: satellite navigation, Earth Observation, and satellite communications. The Strategy should be ambitious and flexible enough to remain stable and relevant over the next 15-20 years.

What we want is to mainstream the use of space to support public policies, providing effective solutions to the big societal challenges facing Europe and the world. What we want is a globally competitive European space sector. A sector which is innovative, agile and entrepreneurial. A sector that creates more jobs and growth in Europe. A sector that is capable of seizing large shares of global markets and maintaining them. And what we want is to ensure that the space environment is sustainable and remains accessible, safe and secure.

We are still developing the strategy, but my expectation is that we will address five main areas.

First, we will look to maximise the benefits of our current programmes: Galileo and Copernicus.

We want to ensure their long-term sustainability and development, taking into account new policy and user needs, and new technological shifts.

Second, we want to respond to emerging needs. Security, border surveillance, Climate change, Migration are important political priorities. Space can bring solutions to them.

I am thinking of GovSatCom, Space Surveillance & Tracking. As an Example: 26 of the key elements to monitor Climate change are only observable from Space. This shows the impact space can have on monitoring climate change evolution, for instance monitoring CO2 emissions.

Third, we want to boost the competitiveness of the European space industry, through stronger support in research, innovation. .

We are looking at whether we can take new procurement approaches. Weare looking at the possibilities from new business models in the sector, and how we can encourage greater involvement and risk-sharing by the private sector. And we are looking at smart financing approaches that would create synergies with cohesion policy and improve access to finance. We are also reflecting on the possible creation of a Space fund to support Start-up active in Space and help them grow within the single market.

Fourth, Space has also strategic aspects and dual-use synergies.

The resilience and protection of critical space and ground infrastructure is of great importance. Continuing and possibly expanding the current Space Surveillance and Tracking framework is therefore crucial. For instance, to address new threats such as space weather events or cyber-attacks. And the so-called 'dual-use' dimension of space will be highlighted and embedded, where possible, in the design of future activities.

We are assessing how to promote independent access to space at competitive conditions. We are likely to propose measures to help aggregate market demand. And we are looking at how we can encourage European industry to innovate and develop more flexible and cost-effective solutions.

Finally, we are looking at the international dimension.

We need to underpin the role and impact of the EU as a global actor. We have put in place a broad and inclusive consultation process to shape the strategy. In particular, last month we launched a public consultation to gather new ideas from the people who are the most knowledgeable in their sector.

I hope that you will all contribute to this initiative. It is open until 12 July.


Ladies and gentlemen, this brings me to my conclusion.

The space sector is a highly strategic sector. Space is an enabler of solution to political challenges, it is a vector of growth, an industrial sector facing challenges, but space also is a strategic asset crucial for the Europe's autonomy of action. But the only way that we can succeed is if we join forces in Europe to face these challenges. Everyone plays an important role.

The competition should not be between us, but with the rest of the world.

The European Commission, ESA and Member States must work together. In particular, ESA has an important role to play. The Commission and ESA are working to deliver together on the strategy. We will present a joint EU-ESA declaration on the Future of Europe in space. This will set out our shared vision for a Space in Europe.

Thank you for your attention.

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