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Interview with MEP Caroline NAGTEGAAL (VVD/ALDE) about the EU Space Budget

We had the pleasure of interviewing Dutch MEP Caroline Nagtegaal, ALDE Shadow Rapporteur for EU Space Budget to take a closer look at the proposal. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Nagtegaal for her time and her work on this proposal.

1. As the ALDE Shadow Rapporteur for the EU Space Budget are you satisfied with the Commission’s proposal?

“Yes, I am satisfied with the Commission’s proposal. It brings together the different existing and new space initiatives of the European Union. I do share the Commission’s assessment that the programme has a significant potential to stimulate innovation, safety, economic activities in the downstream sectors and help us further digitalise our economy. Moreover, it should improve our climate change monitoring capabilities which is an element of the proposal that I warmly welcome. These are all subjects where I believe Europe, and this space package, have a clear added value. At the same time, some member states have expressed scepticism about certain aspects of the proposal. But as far as I am concerned the Commission’s initiative also offers great opportunities for streamlining the current programmes and creating synergies.”

2. You have always been a strong supporter of SME’s. SME’s, especially in our sector (Earth Observation), can find hard to access the EU Space Budget. In your opinion, what could be done to rectify this?

“I believe that awareness is one of the most important aspect here. A lot of the time SME’s don’t even know about all the opportunities they have or if there is a call open. And also simplification of processes and applications is a continuous undertaking.”

3. You have advocated in past for cooperation between EU budgets but not overlapping work and knowledge exchange. Now that the Common Agricultural Policy has authorised satellite data to replace on-farm checks and that other DG’s will certainly use in the future more satellite data, what would be the best practices of this cooperation?

“Best practice would definitely be the knowledge exchange between different DG’s and creating awareness about the free availability of many space data for SME’s and entrepreneurs. With those data, they can build new and innovative products.”

4. You are the vice-president of the Delegation for relations with India. India, like some other non-European country, have signed a Cooperation Arrangement to access satellite Copernicus data. These types of agreement are a good example of the EU helping Earth Observation companies internationalise. What other best practises could the EU do to help Earth Observation companies compete on an international level?

“This market is very complex and it takes years of large investments and technological innovation to have fully developed market actors. I am certain that the EU as well as Member States should continue to develop and support our capacities in this field, among other measures by directly stimulating innovation and the latest technology, which present the only viable means to ensure that we are genuinely competitive. The Netherlands, for example, is leading in the fields of optics and optomechatronics. This allows us to contribute to Earth Observation missions under the Copernicus programme (through the development of the Tropomi instrument). Besides that, in the Netherlands we also have an SME called ISIS (Innovative Solutions In Space) that captures the opportunity of easier access to space. More companies and especially SMEs should be able to do so. Furthermore, the Union as a block has a significant leverage when negotiating trade agreements and establishing institutional and academic links with third countries, which should also be utilized. Nevertheless, it is evident that both public and private sectors need to mobilize more investments if we want to compete successfully with the US, Russia and China in the long run.”

5. The European Commission has stated that they are not proposing a new space Agency in Europe, but just a rebranding of European GNSS Agency to reflect the changes proposed by the draft regulation. In practice this appears to maintain the existing GSA role for GNSS and to introduce a new role to oversee security aspects for the whole space programme. Do you support this proposal?

“I think security is one of the main objectives of the European Union, so it is a good thing to overlook and control the security aspects for the space programme. However, we need to keep a close eye on how the Agency will relate to ESA. I believe that efficiency in the implementation of the programs can be achieved by giving responsibility and freedom to the implementing organizations such as the Agency and ESA (a division between policy and implementation). This prevents duplication. For program components, it is important to define the role of Commission, Agency, member states and other players in order to achieve optimal European added value.”