More EU states eyeing ESA

KOUROU, French Guiana (AFP) — Four countries that joined the European Union (EU) in 2004 are knocking on the door of the European Space Agency (ESA), French Research Minister Valerie Pecresse said here on Tuesday.

“A certain number of states have started to seriously contemplate joining the European Space Agency,” Pecresse told reporters after an informal meeting here of EU ministers responsible for space.

She mentioned Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.

Despite its title, ESA is not the official space agency of the EU.

It has 17 states, but two of them — Norway and Switzerland — are not EU members, and not all EU members of the EU are part of ESA.

In addition, a third non-EU country, Canada, sits on the agency’s governing council and takes part in some ESA projects through a cooperation agreement.

In 2001, ESA set up a halfway house arrangement for former Soviet bloc countries in central and eastern Europe.

Under this so-called Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS), ESA and the country sign a five-year agreement for a closer role in ESA projects and procurements.

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland already have PECS status, according to the ESA website.

In other comments, European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen called for an increase in EU space spending and the creation of a “clear budget” for space in the post-2013 budget period.

“We cannot tackle the global issues of climate change, terrorism and natural disasters if we do not use space capacities and we do not have independent, continued access to the data which are delivered by space applications,” Verheugen said.

He said that EU members had to “learn the lessons from Galileo” — the problem-wracked project to set up an EU rival to the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

Verheugen singled out the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, or GMES, a European initiative for gathering and analysing data from Earth observation satellites that touch on environment and security.

“One lesson is that the GMES project requires permanent and strong political guidance,” he said.

Fifteen EU ministers or secretaries of state with responsibility for space met on Monday and Tuesday in Kourou, where ESA’s space base is located.

Source AFP

Author: EARSC

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