EU Space Governance Overhaul Urged

Currently, space projects are stewarded by several directorates within the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission (EC), and there is no official arrangement for coordinating them. This setup helped lead to a meltdown in the system created to manage the Galileo satellite navigation system, and a similar breakdown is feared for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) system, the EC’s second major foray into the space realm.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the European Space Agency (ESA), which has been tasked with developing and procuring Galileo and GMES on the EC’s behalf, has rules for procurement and industrial policy that differ from those at the EC, notably with respect to fair return and competition. In revamping the Galileo management setup at the end of last year, the Commission mandated that ESA change its policy to suit EC practice.

However, government and industry managers are increasingly insisting that convergence is unworkable. “Cycles in our industry are quite long, basic know-how requirements very demanding and our customers highly structured,” EADS Astrium space head Francois Auque told an audience of decision-makers at the French National Assembly early this month. “ESA-EU procurement rules are colliding,” warned Thales Chairman/CEO Denis Ranque.

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain remarked that the agency has already moved to relax its fair return rules, and is moving to make them yet more flexible. But he noted that there are other ways besides such rules to ensure geographical return.

The immediate problem is Galileo, which the EC wants to open to full competition with no consideration given to geographical return. But GMES is also at risk, warned Yannick d’Escatha, head of French space agency CNES. “If the governance and financing arrangement for Galileo has been clarified, the setup for GMES is not clear at all,” d’Escatha said, noting that the EC is preparing an action plan in an attempt to address the matter.

A window of opportunity is being offered by the new European treaty, which would make space an official prerogative of the EU and a tool for executing all of its policies, including expanded foreign policy and defense and security roles. This treaty was accepted by the EU’s heads of state last December and is to be ratified by its 27 members by year’s end. An informal space ministers’ meeting is planned at the French spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at the end of July to get the ball rolling.

“Europe needs vision,” quipped ESA chief Dordain. “And if we look at our fellow spacefaring nations, that doesn’t start with governance.”

By Michael A. Taverna/Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
Source Aviation Week



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