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A new space policy for Europe: Independence, competitiveness and citizen’s quality of life

Improving the safety and daily lives of European citizens thanks to radio navigation, guiding tractors by satellite for high-yield crops, optimizing response to humanitarian crisis… This is not science fiction but just a few examples of innovations related to space technologies developed today.

This crucial role of space is reflected in the European Commission communication presented today as a first step of an integrated Space Policy to be developed with the new legal basis provided by the Lisbon Treaty.

The new Communication aims at reinforcing Europe’s space infrastructure and calls for increasing support for research to increase European technological non-dependence, foster cross-fertilisation between the space sector and other industry sectors, and boost innovation as a driver of European competitiveness.

Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “Space is strategic for Europe’s independence, job creation and competitiveness. Space activities create high-skilled jobs, innovation, new commercial opportunities, and improve citizens’ well-being and security. This is why we need to reinforce European space policy to best exploit its social and economic opportunities for industry and SMEs. In order to achieve our goals, Europe needs to keep an independent access to space.”

Faced with important economic, societal and strategic challenges, today’s communication sets out priorities for the future EU space policy:

  • Pursue the achievement of the European navigation satellite programmes Galileo and EGNOS. For example, a service that was recently introduced under EGNOS enables precision approaches and renders air navigation safer (IP/11/247).
  • Implement with Member States the European Earth Monitoring Programme (GMES) which is designed for land, ocean, atmosphere, air quality and climate change monitoring, as well as emergency response and security, with the objective to become fully operational from 2014;
  • Protect space infrastructures against space debris, solar radiation and asteroids by setting-up a European Space Situation Awareness (SSA) system;
  • Identify and support actions at EU level in the field of Space exploration. The Union could notably explore options to work with the ISS ensuring that all Member States participate in it;
  • Pursue a Space Industrial policy developed in close collaboration with the European Space Agency and Member States;
  • Support research and development to increase European technological non dependence and ensure that innovation in this field will be of benefit to non-space sectors and citizens. Communication satellites play a key role in this context;
  • Strengthen the partnerships with EU Member States and the European Space Agency (ESA) and implement improved management schemes.

The Commission will pursue the dialogue with its key partners United States and Russia and will initiate discussion with other space faring nations such as China in order to develop more synergies. Space should become an integral part of the EU’s external policy in particular to the benefit of Africa.

Finally, the Commission is looking into the possibility of presenting a proposal for a European space programme in 2011. Taking responses to this communication into account, it will decide on its approach as part of its June proposal on the next multi-annual financial framework.

The economic importance of European space manufacturing industry

European space manufacturing industry represents a consolidated turnover of 5.4 B€ and a highly qualified workforce of over 31,000. The 11 major satellite operators in Europe operate 153 communication satellites and represent 6000 employees and have a 6 billion euro per year turnover, with a downstream effect on 30,000 employees. It is estimated that, already, 6-7% of GDP in Western countries, i.e. € 800 billion in the EU, is dependent on satellite radio navigation.

The space service markets are growing rapidly. For instance, GNSS applications markets annual turnover worldwide is expected to reach around € 240 billion by 2020. Moreover, as a result of the advantages of Galileo and EGNOS compared with the other competing systems, they are expected to generate economic and social benefits worth around € 60-90 billion over the next 20 years.

According to OECD, the world market for Earth Observation commercial data which was $ 735 millions in 2007 has the potential to raise to around $ 3 billions in 2017.

SSA (Space Situational Awareness System) would help reduce the quantifiable estimated loss for European assets due to collision with debris and space weather, which, on the basis of available data, amount to ~€332million on a yearly basis on average.

These costs are almost certainly a small fraction of possible non-quantified consequences and costs that may result from the absence of a European Space Situational Awareness System. For example the loss of a satellite may result in the loss of critical satellite communication capacity in an emergency situation resulting in loss of life. Destruction or complete failure of a satellite can result in serious disruption of economic activity (banking relies increasingly on satellite communications) and could have an impact on client business through loss of service. At present there are no reliable figures for estimating the value of such loses. Similarly, it is impossible to quantify the consequences of Near Earth Objects impacting on the Earth.


Article 189 of the Lisbon Treaty gives the European Union an explicit role in designing a policy for the exploration and exploitation of space in order to promote scientific and technical progress, industrial competitiveness and the implementation of its policies. Space policy is a key element of Europe 2020 strategy and an integral part of the industrial policy flagship initiative (IP/10/1434). It supports the objectives of a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by creating high-skilled jobs, commercial opportunities, boosting innovation and improving citizens’ well-being and security.

For more information:

Communication “EU Space Strategy at the service of the citizen” (COM/2011/152)

DG Enterprise and Industry: Space policy

European Commission GMES website

DG Enterprise and Industry: Satellite navigation


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