Galileo can generate economic and social benefits worth around €60-90bn over the next 20 years
The launch of the first Galileo satellites has been a major step towards European independent satellite navigation. The launch is very important to Europeans for four main reasons. First, it is important because the two satellites are the starting point for a navigation network that has an enormous economic potential. Already today, 6-7 per cent of gross domestic product in western countries is estimated to depend on satellite radio navigation. The turnover of global applications markets is expected to reach around €240bn by 2020, for example. The satellite navigation market is growing rapidly. In this fertile environment, Galileo will prove to be a real asset because of its prime qualities.
It will improve the accuracy, availability and coverage of satellite signals. The system has been designed to offer excellent and reliable services. These qualities will enable the development of many new timing and positioning services and applications. That is why the project is expected to generate economic and social benefits worth around €60-90bn over the next 20 years. It makes sense to invest in the build-up of this infrastructure. European companies will be able to tap the economic potential that Galileo offers and, hopefully, make the most of it.
Second, the successful launch of the first satellites is important because Galileo is a truly European project. No member state could have developed it alone. It is an industrial project, with a European identity. The continent's companies will invest in applications and services, our governments will be using the search and rescue and public regulated service, and European citizens will benefit from new applications. At a time when the economy is in a crisis, Galileo is a gleam of hope. It demonstrates what we can achieve, if we persist in pursuing a common strategic aim.
Third - the launch is an important event for citizens because Galileo will improve their safety, daily lives and comfort. Satellite navigation services are a sector that has become critical for the economy. But they are also an asset for the wellbeing of citizens. Satellite-based applications and services have become part of everyday lives. Applications are guiding the tourist in an unknown city, providing guidance for the blind or poorly sighted and for people with reduced mobility, helping monitor children and people with Alzheimer's and memory loss, as well as giving people real-time information on local public transport. Applications in the area of road transport, aviation, maritime transport, agriculture, environment and civil protection offer countless benefits to citizens. New applications using positioning data are introduced every day. Galileo will be making life safer and more comfortable in ways that we cannot even imagine now.
Last but not least, the rocket finally taking off is important because this launch demonstrates the determination to overcome political and financial difficulties. The development of the project was not always straightforward and without controversy. But since the European Parliament and the European Council decided, in 2008, to complete Galileo using the European Union budget - much progress has been achieved. Now, the challenge ahead is to ensure sufficient financing for the future. Galileo must be operational as quickly as possible. If there are further delays because the commission, council and parliament cannot agree on the financing - we risk losing ground to the global competitors.
But we all want Galileo to conquer the satellite navigation market and open opportunities for European companies. That is why we need to do everything possible to avoid further delays. We should all strive to get initial services running by 2014, and achieve the full constellation of 30 satellites by 2018. It is, therefore, of utmost importance to continue efforts in the implementation and promotion of the programme – even, in times of financial crisis. This is not only a question of credibility, but also a question of economic reason.Herbert Reul MEP is chairman of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in the European Parliament