Increasing Europe's footprint in space

The EU has the best Earth observation system in the world

Photo: Maria Koleva Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska

Does your smartphone use Galileo? To know this you can check at www.UseGalileo.eu. This reads a big poster at the exhibition space of the 11th Conference on European Space Policy, held on 22 and 23 January 2019 at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. Many of the latest generation smartphones are able to use different satellite navigation systems, including Galileo, Europe's global navigation satellite system, providing users with improved positioning and timing information.

Next in the hall is a big 'magenta' Open Telecom Cloud, presented by T-Systems. Asked to explain what it means for the users, not with technical parameters as to be understandable for the general public, Michael Pauly from the Marketing division was very clear: “I don't need to build up a big data centre on my own if I want to use picture from satellite data for my start-up, for example. If I have an idea, I need just one PC and step on the cloud saying what I want and paying few euros for the service.”

In a time when the new Multiannual Financial Framework is in the legislative pipeline, the event gathered ministers from the member countries, EU commissioners, MEPs, people from academia and business to discuss the possible new developments for EU Space Strategy in the next decade. They also touched upon the ESA “Space 19 Plus” that will be tabled in late 2019, on the future “New space projects”, but also on how to enhance EU space sovereignty in the current international environment. The participants debated on issues such as whether the European Space Strategy in Earth and in Space Defence and Security is feasible and how ready is Europe for off-Earth manufacturing, robotic exploration and human spaceflight.

We have the best Earth observation system in the world and the best satellite positioning system in the world and we should not be afraid to say it, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska stated. About Copernicus the commissioner stressed that it is delivering data and services of unprecedented quality, setting global standards by offering the most accurate climate and environmental data around the clock. The Commission's aim is to maintain the EU's autonomous capacity to observe Earth and to position Copernicus in support of Europe's security and Europe's leadership to fight climate change. She also pointed out that the accuracy of Galileo is far better than expected. Galileo is the first and only non-US satellite navigation system authorised for use in the US. That happened last November.

Saying that the space sector is undergoing massive changes worldwide, she stressed that the European Space sector and policies must adapt and react to the new reality that emerges. In this context, the commissioner mentioned the new €16bn EU Space Programme which she presented last June. She also informed the audience that in the coming months she will launch a Space Fund, as a pilot initiative with the European Investment Fund.

Highlighting the digital autonomy, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel put the accent on the fact that connectivity, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity are three areas in which space can play a particularly key role in establishing this autonomy.

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