EU announces new space policy, but its autonomy remains distant

  • Petr Boháček
  • 6.6.2018 15:19

European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska announced plans of the  €16-billion EU Space Programme for the 2017-2021 period on 6 June, with the majority of the budget going to the state-of-the-art satellite systems for navigation (Galileo, EGNOS) and earth observation (Copernicus). However, security program development will receive only a €500 million, leaving Europe heavily dependent on the United States in the space sector.

With the earth’s orbits getting largely crowded and many basic functions of the society from telecommunication, defence, security, cyber or logistics relying on satellites, space and situational awareness (SSA) is becoming very critical. However, Europe is only dedicating a small portion of the budget to develop capabilities for 24/7 operational collision prevention, remaining dependent on data from the United States. Only about 20% of satellites as small as 10cm are detected by the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking, an EU-funded but intergovernmental body. Therefore, EU autonomy is again in the hands of individual member states. Further, with Copernicus and Galileo possessing security potential for anti-ballistic missile defence, imagery intelligence, surveillance or AVACS, significant investments and applications of information from these systems for the purpose of defence and security of Europe also lags behind. Also, Brussel continues to reject a full Galileo membership for the Brexiting United Kingdom, an indispensable security partner. With China and Russia developing anti-satellite capabilities, Europe has to invest into space security much more if it is serious about its new defence ambitions and strategic autonomy.

About author: Petr Boháček


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