Israel near to joining EU Galileo satellite project

Israel near to joining EU Galileo satellite project

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Israel is close to agreement on participating in the European Union’s multi-billion-dollar Galileo navigation satellite project, its envoy to the EU said yesterday. Ambassador Oded Eran told a seminar at the European Parliament the accord would be another step towards his country’s goal of reaching as close an association as possible with the EU without actually seeking membership.

Israel, which has both a civilian and a military space programme, would be the second outside partner to join Galileo, due to come on line in 2008 as an alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), after China signed up last year.

The planned system of 27 satellites has a range of potential uses from guiding cars and ships or landing military aircraft to precision positioning in engineering projects. A European Commission official confirmed Brussels expected to initial an accord with Israel at a formal negotiating session later this month after member states gave the Commission a mandate in January. Ministers could then sign a deal in June.

“The Israelis want to participate as soon as possible because industrial contracts are going out to tender now,” the official said. How much Israel pays towards the project is still under negotiation. Sources on both sides suggested it would be tens of millions of euros. One said Israel might even contribute a maximum of $100 million (82 million euros). That in turn will help determine how big a share Israeli industry gets in work. China has put up 230 million euros and India, which is negotiating to join, has spoken of 300 million euros.