On 29 January 2004, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on the action plan for implementing the European Space Policy. That action plan, better known as the Space White Paper, calls for broader co-operation and coordination among Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA) and international partners. The move also makes way for increased financial support, in line with Europe’s strong space ambitions.
Responding to the Resolution, European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said, “This comes as a clear indication of the growing interest in the European Parliament with respect to European Space Policy. The Space White Paper, adopted at the end of 2003, was the result of a wide ranging consultation process that was supported by European Parliament and in which some of its Members participated directly.”
The Resolution represents the European Parliament’s formal opinion on the Space White Paper, making specific remarks on a number of key issues.
Pooling resources in a highly strategic area
In its Resolution, the Parliament states that an expanded space policy, based on the new Constitutional Treaty, must include the strengthening of both national and Community commitments, with a view to advancing the exploration of space and the solar system, and strengthening space sciences and basic research.
“Pooling resources and sharing investments,” it says, “is the most sensible way forward, while recognising that the long-term objectives can be achieved only on the basis of Community projects which require a progressive increase in the resources made available to the Community space budget, inter alia by definitely earmarking financial commitments for space in the future framework programmes for research.”
The resolution continues, “In view of the strategic significance of the conquest of space, its many technological and domestic repercussions and the emergence of new space powers, the European Union must make a supreme financial effort, including in particular the development of space applications relating to global security.”
These remarks will please many members of the scientific and space communities who have called for greater financial support for space activities. “
GALILEO, GMES and beyond
The Resolution emphasises the “huge importance” of the GALILEO satellite radio navigation project, launched under the aegis of the European Union and jointly financed with ESA, calling on the Commission and the Council to provide for the transparency, smooth operation and safety of the system.
The Parliament also calls on the Commission to “move forward in launching the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)”, and endorses the priorities set out in the White Paper for the development of specific earth observation services.
Going a step further, the Resolution says the Commission should consider complimentary initiatives to GMES, referring specifically to unpiloted aircraft which, because of the low altitude at which they fly, could detect, for example, small fires before they spread and monitor borders with greater precision.
Defence a clear priority
European defence is mentioned specifically in the Resolution, which endorses the view expressed in the White Paper that European Space Policy can make an important contribution to a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Research activities, it states, “ought to be coordinated further,” and, “coordinating steps should be taken to put an end to the fragmentation of industrial programmes connected with defence.”
In addition to welcoming the recently announced participation of China in the GALILEO project, the Parliament considers it essential to, “cement and extend the traditional co-operation with the United States, in a sector that is suited by its characteristics to international scientific cooperation.” It further urges the Commission to specify what role it wishes to assign to the International Space Station (ISS), taking into account the new space strategy being developed by the US.
Regarding co-operation with Russia, Europe must become involved in installing the Soyuz system at the European base of Kourou, says the Resolution. This would ensure, “the availability of a manned capsule, which could open up the opportunity for Europe to be a full partner in international manned flight projects.”
It also invites the European Astronaut Corps to open itself to would-be astronauts from the new Member States, with a view to their taking part in human space missions.
The new Treaty and the EC-ESA Framework
Finally, the Parliament takes the view that, “the entry into force of the new treaty will strengthen the Commission’s responsibilities, making it necessary to prioritise a single vision to unite the actions of the Commission, ESA, the Member States and other institutions.”
The Resolution also refers to the particular importance of ensuring, “that the framework agreement between the European Community and ESA is complied with, especially given a strategy which will be structured in two phases and which will include a commitment to report regularly to the Council and Parliament.
The Parliament has now instructed its President to forward the resolution to the Council, the Commission and Member States. (ends)
Click here for the full text of the resolution, on the EU website