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Interview with Mr. Francisco Gaztelu, Deputy Head of Cabinet of Vice President Verheugen Enterprise and Industry, European Commission

In the next issue of EOMAG, EARSC we had the opportunity to feature an interview with Mr GAZTELU Deputy Head of Cabinet of Vice President Verheugen responsible for EC Enterprise and Industry asking some questions relevant for the European Earth Observation programme and its impacts to the geo-information service provider sector.


How would you explain in a few words the benefits of the GMES programme for the citizen? Could you explain the benefits of GMES on the political, economic, social and scientific levels?

The independent data and information that GMES provides have a strategic value for EU policies and priorities and strengthens EU leadership in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Economic benefits in a variety of fields will result from improved policy-making, better-informed planning and decision-making, and improved monitoring of implementation and compliance. Just to mention two concrete examples: GMES has already since several years been delivering air pollution forecasts which are particularly useful for people with asthma, and supported emergency management, e.g. during the fires around Genova in September and the flood in Ireland end of November last year. GMES will also enable innovation and growth in the downstream sector and thereby strengthen Europe’s services market and knowledge economy. Especially SMEs, which form the backbone of the Earth observation industry in Europe, will benefit from the certainty of future data continuity without which they cannot afford to invest in service development and infrastructure. The reduced data costs will enable them to provide services at more competitive prices, while more frequent observations and improved data quality will increase the value of existing services and facilitate the development of new ones. This, in turn, will significantly contribute to job creation in a high-tech sector of strategic importance. Additionally, the free and open availability of Sentinel data could be instrumental in reducing the disparities between Member States, since economically weaker MS will be able to reap the same economic benefits resulting from increased data availability as those owning EO space infrastructure. In particular, downstream services market development in countries with a weaker industrial base will most likely accelerate with the full and open access to Sentinel data. European scientists, not only remote sensing experts but from a number of scientific communities, will benefit from improved access to a larger amount of better-quality data. The value of long-term continuity of data series is here obvious, in particular for climate change science.

Governance (or ownership) was identified as a key challenge for GMES. Concerning the GMES Space Infrastructure, the situation seems to be clear at least at a first glance (ESA’s responsibility during an interim phase), governance issues are much more complicated and diverse in the service sector. What is your idea for the GMES governance scheme?

As programme manager, the Commission ensures the overall coordination of the EU Earth Observation programme (GMES), and will make sure that the programme is driven by user needs. Therefore, a strong coordination will be ensured with various DG’s within the Commission. At the same time, the Commission relies on existing technical expertise in Europe, including ESA, EUMETSAT and Member States for the Space Component. ESA is responsible for the overall coordination of the GMES Space Component, and is also development and procurement agent on behalf of the EU. ESA (ad interim) and EUMETSAT ensure, on behalf of the EU, the operations of the Sentinels. For the in-situ component the EEA is expected to play an important role, in coordination with the Commission, in relation to the supervision of some services and coordination with user communities under the SEIS umbrella. Some specific coordination activities could be delegated to other existing relevant coordination bodies. For the services different tailored approaches will be applied. To ensure the provision of operational marine and atmosphere services the Commission suggests establishing a network of technical centres at EU level. The European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) could be given an important coordination role. Land, emergency and security services should be provided in a decentralised way. Consequently a shared methodology will be needed so that services can be integrated and aggregated at European level following the successful agriculture model. The Commission is ready to contribute to the development of a common methodology for service delivery and aggregation of geo-information products. In the context of the consolidation of crisis management activities, the Emergency Service will be made available to various emergency response actors at EU and Member States levels, including through the civil protection response instrument, humanitarian aid interventions and crisis management operations.


A recent study from Euroconsult states: “to compete against free and low-cost government data solutions, commercial operators must develop and expand their service offerings by providing complete geoinformation solutions, a move which will lead to increased pressure on the already-fragmented value-added services industry”. What is your opinion on this analysis?

I think we will on one hand see “integrated” companies possessing the entire value-adding chain from sales of raw data to delivering user-tailored services with a large amount of value-adding. On the other hand, I think we will see the development of SMEs specialising in a thematic field, with a better knowledge of a particular market and its needs. They will be able to adopt a completely user-driven approach without any push to adopt a certain technology or data. The improved availability of free or low-cost data will further improve their competitiveness SMEs with a prominent remote sensing expertise will have to find ways of collaborating or joining with information service providers specialising in a certain market.


What in your opinion is a suitable budget envelope for the years to come to launch the operationality for GMES? How do you see the future financing steps for the GMES?

Based on an ESA technical analysis, the overall cost of the Space Component would represent a total investment of €4 Billion for the period 2014/2020, meaning an estimated annual average of € 430 Million in operation costs and €170 Million for R&D from the EU and ESA. The European Environment Agency (EEA) will perform an analysis of in-situ costs in the context of a Specific support action funded through FP7; this will be the main input for estimating costs of the in-situ component of GMES. The cost of the service component is being estimated on the basis of technical inputs by the FP7 Core service projects validated by the Implementation Group experts. It is on this basis, and after an ex-ante budgetary evaluation, that the EU contribution will be assessed in the context of the preparation of the next multiannual financial framework.


At the end of the interview, we would like to ask you for your overall recommendations on the future development of the geo-information service sector, and would like to ask to give some hopefully positive messages to the members of EARSC.

President Barroso announced he intends to launch a major initiative to help the EU anticipate the changes that need to be made so that we can cope with climate change. This work will involve marshalling all the necessary scientific and economic data that exists to help the EU to adapt its policies to the challenge of climate change. I’m convinced that GMES, as a knowledge-based system, should be at the heart of this vision. For President Barroso, GMES will be amongst the priorities actions, as stated in his mission letter for Mr Tajani, the future Commissioner in charge of the Industry and Entrepreneurship portfolio:

The Lisbon Treaty has given the Commission more competences vis-à-vis space policy. This is a long term agenda for which I would ask you to bring GMES to maturity, outsourcing gradually the operational elements to the European Space Agency.
The geo-information service sector should take the opportunity of this high priority given to GMES and the resulting improved long-term availability of data and information, and adapt as needed to the expected boost in the market. GMES remains situated inside the Directorate General in charge of industry and entrepreneurship. Other priority actions of this DG, such as the fostering of the development of SMEs in Europe and the development of an integrated industrial policy taking into account input from stakeholders, European industry and SMEs will also be of direct relevance for GMES.

Eomag!20_Interview with Francisco Gastelu, Deputy Head of cabinet of Vice President Verheugen.pdf