EU space strategy to be reshaped
by Francesco Guarascio
The European Commission will on Monday launch a revised space strategy that will put forward proposals to harden its security dimension - according to a document seen by PublicServiceEurope.com, writes Francesco Guarascio.
Europe's space policy has always had a predominantly civilian component, contrary to the US and Russian military approach. Galileo - the flagship EU programme for satellite navigation – is, indeed, aimed solely at civilian use - whereas the US Global Positioning System was initially developed for military purposes and only later found another application. But Europe now faces increasing security pressures at its borders with frequent humanitarian emergencies, natural catastrophes and massive immigration inflows. The new European External Action Service also requires more advanced hard-power instruments to properly carry out its soft-power diplomacy.
And, next week, EU space policy is expected to adapt to these new developments. The new strategy will be unveiled by Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani from the Environmental and Natural Resource Information Network, near Rome. Tajani will propose a number of different options "in order to strengthen EU security missions without depending on the facilities and services of non-member states," including America – the document reveals.
Experts insist that space technologies and satellites could play a crucial role in future crisis management in Europe. It could mean enhanced cooperation between member states – even, paving the way for the establishment of a European NASA, claim some optimistic insiders. Moreover, Brussels "could take part in the development of new infrastructure," reads the paper.
This obviously requires a conspicuous amount of funding, which could be made available if the EU decided to start a firm space programme in its next multi-annual budget. Debate on this extremely delicate matter, will officially start in the coming months in Brussels – but many behind-the-scenes discussions have already taken place.
Relying on the private sector is also an option. A route Barack Obama seems to have decided on in the US, after announcing the withdrawal of the shuttle programme. "The appropriateness of using commercial facilities for security missions must also form part of these discussions," reads the EU paper.
A new role is also envisaged for the Global Monitoring for Environmental Security programme, which has to date been mainly aimed at monitoring the environment to combat climate change and prevent natural disasters. The GMES is expected to become fully operational by 2014. By then, "the security component of the GMES must be enhanced," underlines the paper.
Borders monitoring and maritime surveillance are among the top goals of a more security-driven GMES, which would confirm the prevailing EU interest to protect itself from uncontrolled flows of immigrants. "Complex emergencies, humanitarian aid and civil protection" are also expected to be better dealt with by a security-enhanced GMES programme. Support for the EEAS is considered crucial too - to collect intelligence, for example.
With this aim, Brussels is looking at identifying existing observation resources, which might have a double use – civilian and military. For, systemic surveillance of large geographical areas or the tactical surveillance of smaller areas is already occurring for environmental reasons - and could be expanded for security purposes.