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Speech by Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič at the 8th Annual Conference on European Space Policy “Europe as a global space player”

The following press release was issued by the European Commission on January 13, 2016 10:20 am.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to be back at this conference which brings together all the “Who’s Who” of the European Space community – under the patronage of President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Since we met last year, we have seen some very encouraging developments.

The satellite launches for our EU flagship programmes Galileo and Copernicus have all been successful.

The service offer of Copernicus has been extended, and we have come closer to the early services of Galileo.

But beyond these EU programmes, I also want to note the accomplishments of the European Space Agency under its new Director-General, Mr. Woerner. Judging from my first meeting with Mr Woerner, I have no doubt that we will enjoy a very fruitful and pragmatic cooperation.

We have all followed with great excitement and pride the ESA’s Rosetta mission to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko at the end of 2014. And we have all followed with suspense the wake up of its lander, Philae, from hibernation in June last year.

Space policy is therefore about geopolitics, science, innovation, growth and jobs, and of course about inspiration and imagination for the future.

At last year’s Conference, I promised that space policy was to be a high priority for this Commission. I am standing here today with a proof: the Commission has tasked itself to elaborate a Space Strategy this year.

This was not obvious. This Commission has promised to be ‘big on big things’ and only on big things. We had to demonstrate that space falls under this discussion of being big, not only figuratively speaking but because of its huge impact on our economy, on our citizens, on our quality of life.

Space is linked to many issues like big data and the data economy; Transport; critical infrastructure for energy, telecommunications or transport; modern farming; disaster response; border and maritime surveillance; monitoring of the ground, sea levels or the atmosphere.

These links seem obvious to most of you here in the room. But they are not obvious to many citizens, and often not even to experts in these areas. We have to make them aware of the possibilities of space applications for different policy areas and economic sectors.

This is one of the reasons why the President has asked me to ensure as Vice-President that the space activities are well coordinated and reflected in all different policy areas of the Commission. I will do so in close cooperation with Commissioner Bienkowska and all the commissioners concerned, notably Vice-President Katainen to ensure that the potential for jobs and growth is fully exploited.

The space sector needs investment: public and private. If we want to get this money, we need an alliance of the space sector with the users and the market. Only then will we be able to convince private investors and the budgetary authorities.

I am ready to do this job, to reach out to other stakeholders and to help building this alliance.

I would like to see the climate experts loudly requesting a programme on measuring CO2 emissions. And the same is true for the transport sector, the military and the entire downstream sector.

Already this is an argument in itself for a space Strategy.

But let me add two arguments more:

The EU is the biggest individual contributor to European space programmes and the biggest institutional user of the European launcher industry.
6% of EU GDP depend on the availability of Satellite Navigation Technology, e.g. high-speed trading on financial markets, management of critical energy infrastructure or transport navigation systems. The expected growth of global satellite navigation markets is 7% a year.
Copernicus will be the world’s 4th biggest producer of raw data.

Keeping this in mind, the question is how could we afford not to have a Strategy?

In addition, our space programmes Galileo and Copernicus are at cross-roads.

We must complete both programmes; we must ensure their continuity and we must ensure their benefits for the European economy, public authorities and for society as whole.

The Strategy will therefore address among other things the market uptake of Galileo.

For Copernicus, the Strategy will focus on robust data dissemination architecture; on new business models and on promoting the use of space data by end users.

But beyond Galileo and Copernicus, we will look at the framework conditions and industrial policy tools that we have in order to foster new market opportunities, particularly in the downstream sectors.

There is a tremendous economic potential that we must ensure Europe’s industry taps into. This concerns big companies just like SMEs and start-ups.

We also have to examine and discuss potential new initiatives to address the global challenges in areas such as space, defence and security, or space and climate change as I mentioned before.

And finally, we want to look into the conditions for autonomous European access to space. As a global political player, access to space is a priority for the EU and will become even more so in the future.

Commissioner Bienkowska and Pierre Delsaux assured you already yesterday that the Commission will put in place a broad and inclusive consultation process with all stakeholders. I can only confirm this.

Let me conclude by referring to the title of this year’s conference: “Europe as a global space player”.

It is clear to me that if we want to be a global player, we must also be a global space player. The two go hand in hand.

As more and more states are active in space, we must not be complacent with the current state of play, but think ahead of our positioning in the future. Europe is among the leaders today, but global competition is increasing.

This means that we must challenge ourselves.

Europe has taken very important and good decisions on the new launcher Ariane 6. We must work hard to implement them as soon as possible.

But, nevertheless, I would ask all of you to think beyond this. What will the American, Russian, Indian or Chinese space sector look like in 20 or 30 years and what will they be able to do?

What kind of technologies should we as Europeans start to think of and work on to be still a global player in 30 years?

Some in the U.S. seriously deal with issues like space mining, and the American Congress even voted a law on this which President Obama signed a few weeks ago.

There is no progress without ambition and vision.

We must think what could be possible in the not too distant future. The speed of new technologies must never be underestimated.

Let me conclude by making the case for a European approach. All these issues and questions are too big and too costly for individual Member States. If Europe wants to be a global space player, we must work together. European cooperation is not only the best, but in my view the only way for Europe to remain a global space player. I hope that I can count on your support in this endeavour.

Thank you very much.