Friday, November 26, 2004

The EU reaches for the stars

In a small way – but with potentially huge consequences – a piece of history was made yesterday, when the EU held its first "Space Council" in Brussels - ignored, as always by the mainstream media.

Reported on the European Space Agency website, it dealt with an issue rehearsed many times on this Blog. (See, for instance: here, here, here and here), this first Council was lauded by the ESA as "a major political milestone for Europe in Space".

It purpose was to offer ministers representing the 27 European Union (EU) and/or European Space Agency (ESA) Member States "the first opportunity to jointly discuss the development of a coherent overall European space programme."

But the most sinister aspect is that it pre-empts the EU Constitution, which defined for the first time "space" as a shared competence of the Union, with the Space Council acknowledging "the importance of space activities for a wide range of European policies."

In yesterday’s meeting, according to the ESA release, ministers also recognised

...that it is essential to utilise the available resources in an efficient and effective way so that the supply of space-based services and infrastructures can meet the demand from users, such as the European Union's policies, Member States' policies and for the benefit of all European citizens.
Adding fuel to the fire, the German minister for education and research, Edelgard Bulmahn, current chair of the ESA council at ministerial level, said:

This meeting was a great step forward for Europe's ambitions in space. Europe must federate its space efforts in order to better exploit the potential of space technologies for the well-being of its citizens. The European Space Programme will significantly strengthen Europe's role in this area of great economic and political importance.
Europe "must federate its space efforts…." Well, well, well. And that, of course, includes the militarisation of space in support of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, not least through the EU's Galileo satellite navigation system.

In that light, the comments of the Dutch Minister for economic affairs Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst, current chair of the EU Competitiveness Council, are more than interesting. "Today”, he said,

...was a memorable day for European cooperation in Space. With the first EU-ESA Space Council Europe made a major step in the direction of a strong and coherent European Space Programme. Space technologies and applications will help Europe to reach its common goals in the field of i.e. competitiveness, environment and security. I am confident that our joint efforts will contribute to a strong and independent position for Europe in the global arena.
Added the commissioner for enterprise and industry, G√ľnter Verheugen:

Today's first Space Council may not yet be a giant step for mankind. But the fact that we are drawing up a joint European Space Policy is a huge leap forward. Space is an area where the added value of a joint and coherent policy on the European level is very clear. The industrial dimension of space is key to increasing the competitiveness of European industry.
And still more from ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain:

The European Space Agency has long-standing experience of providing Europe's citizens with space-based solutions meeting their requirements. We are prepared to take up the new challenges that the future European space programme will ask us to accomplish.
A second "Space Council" meeting is planned for Spring 2005 "to define general governance principles, identify priorities as well as the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders and establish industrial policy principles."

And you can bet the EU military planning cell will be taking a very keen interest in the proceedings.

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