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EU to unveil new Space Policy

Berlin, Germany, 09 April 2007: The European Union is set to unveil before July a collective space policy for the 27-nation alliance. While focused mainly towards supporting Europe’s commercial space sector, the policy will touch on the military use of space and whether national governments can forever continue with their separate military satellite programs. France has been a vocal advocate of intra-European cooperation in its military space programs.

Germany, which occupies the EU presidency, is expected to reveal the new European space strategy before its six-month term as EU president expires in July. EU sources said economic pressure is forcing member states to move toward a common military satellite environment since the budgetary capabilities of member states cannot continue supporting separate national programs.

The EU has had its difficulties in getting collective space programs and policies off the ground. In November 2004, a joint meeting of EU and European Space Agency (ESA) ministers agreed to define a common space strategy. This strategy, however, has been delayed by bureaucratic in-fighting and changes of key personnel within EU institutions. Added to this is the friction between the European Commission and ESA over managerial approaches to space initiatives. Sources say these behind-the-scenes problem have largely been kept largely out of the public’s view, but that this cannot go on any longer.

The Commission issued a document in 2005 that said the main elements of a new space strategy should cover sector-specific industrial policy to develop critical technologies and a globally competitive space industry; international cooperation that meets the “wider geopolitical objectives” of European external relations policies and effective day-to-day operation of space systems and policy instruments for investing in programs and ensuring their efficient management.

The French defense minister last month called for a 50 percent increase in the country’s military space spending, putting more muscle behind France’s long-held belief in the strategic necessity of space-based defense. Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie also suggests a Europe-wide effort to strengthen military space capabilities through reciprocal dependence on nationally owned space-based military assets.

Alliot-Marie also proposed that France increase its annual military space budget to $856 million per year, or a 50 percent increase from the average $693 million per year from 2003 to 2008. In her policy document, “Let’s Make More Space for our Defense: Strategic Guidelines for a Space Defense Policy in France and Europe,” Alliot-Marie also sought to remove a major obstacle to multinational military space cooperation by contending that for the system to work, each nation would need to be dependent on others for major network elements.

The report warns that hostile missiles should ideally be destroyed during their boost phase so that they fall back on the territory from which they were launched. Should this initial interception fail, it said, France should also plan to provide continuous re-engagement capabilities, which implies early detection and tracking of the threat.

Last December, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and Greece signed an agreement calling for common development of a space-based reconnaissance system called Musis, or the Multinational Space-based Imaging System.

The recommendations said France should be less concerned about which European nation owns a given asset than with preserving a cadre of French specialists trained in interpreting and processing the satellite data. The report also noted that France was willing to be part of a European missile-defense effort, but recognized the difficulty of such a program given the closeness of Europe to potential sources of hostile missiles.