Friday, 25 May 2007

Why EU Integration is no Longer One Small Step for British Taxpayers

The European Union has recently established negotiations for the foundation of a common European vision in space. It is important to look at this particular vision, since it is catastrophic attempt toward regressive European integration, leaving Britain no longer as an independent nation-state but as part of the empowered European bloc, looking to launch a common space policy. It is as damning as a European Army or the full completion of European government. The future of the EU is no longer about negotiating lower (or no) trade tariffs between nations but about absorbing 27 nation-states into a formalised European super state with an unrealistic view of putting mankind into space. That is not an agreement that Britain ever signed with the other European Member States. Nor is Britain an existing Cold War Power – so hopes for it to contribute in the great space race are unqualified.

However, the European Commission persists in its undemocratic endeavours. Last April, the European Commission considered a text on European Space Policy, debating a joint policy document by the European Commission and the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA). With this Communication, the Commission made clear its hopes to develop several elements of a European Space Policy. What’s more, space is one of the areas that the Draft Constitutional Treaty envisaged turning into a European policy. But, even without the full backing of the European Parliament and even without the Constitutional Treaty, a European Space policy is well under way.

So, what’s the point? According to the European Commission, the European Space Policy aims at increasing coordination between the EU, their Member States and USA concerning space activity, providing a more flexible framework to ease European investment in space activities. The European space policy “will be based on the peaceful exploitation of Outer Space by all states and will seek: to develop and exploit space applications, to meet Europe's security and defence needs as regards space, to ensure a strong and competitive space industry, to contribute to the knowledge-based society by investing strongly in space-based science, to secure unrestricted access to new and critical technologies, systems and capabilities in order to ensure independent European space applications.” Essentially, the Commission wants the Member States to pool and share their space technology. It should be borne in mind that the Security and Defence policy are key areas of Member States sovereignty and not declared areas of responsibility for the EU institutions. Member States have been watching with great concern since the EU began interfering with Member State security interests.

The EU’s achievement for a space policy will rest upon its existing and controversial negotiations over a sustainable civil navigation satellite system, Galileo. It has asked that the Galileo satellite navigation system and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) be used by the military – which has been met with strong opposition. Naturally, the Commission has been looking to extend its competence far beyond its current capabilities – and in order to do so, it has not sought the permission of Member States. It should be observed that Karl von Wogau, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence, has argued recently, at a hearing to discuss the Commission proposal for an EU space policy that Europe “needs information satellites for military missions, to protect its external borders, to protect sensitive infrastructure and even to warn of tsunamis.” To achieve its aims, the European Commission has increased its expenditure on space.

But it’s not just a financial burden – it’s a major political disaster. With the fast-failing Galileo satellite navigation system project, Europe wants to have independence from the US’s own Global Position System (GPS). The EU has recently been asking for 2.4 billon euros to help their project along. This can be understood as a worrying threat since, as Bill Cash MP has already argued, the US would be unable to share information with the UK which “has serious implications for the US-UK relationship.” It will, in sum, severely affect the UK-US relationship on matters beyond a common space policy.

You might well ask – who will be funding the contentious Galileo project? A private consortium was meant to have deployed Galileo through a Public-Private Partnership contract. Galileo’s construction and operation was supposed to be financed by public and private funds. However, the private consortium of eight companies, did not meet the 10th May deadline issued by the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council to sign the contract. Neither do private investors seem interested in taking the risk to finance €4 billion of the European Galileo satellite navigation system.

Of course, given its political and financial gravity, the Commission has struggled to negotiate the finance and terms of the Galileo project. On 16 May, the European Commission adopted a Communication entitled ‘GALILEO at a crossroad – The implementation of the European satellite navigation programmes (GNSS)’, in response to an earlier request from the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council. The Commission recognised that the completion of the project had been seriously threatened. The Commission understands the failure of the current concessions in the negotiations and has even stressed that the negotiations for Public-Private Partnership contract be ended. Taking into account all the difficulties, the Commission now has the choice of stopping the programme or to continue in a slightly different context.

The EU is concerned that it will become dependent on the US for its future systems. According to the Commission, the option to not pursue Galileo would increase EU dependency on the US system. Therefore, “this would mean that the European Union would be dependent on military/dual use foreign systems and technologies for applications vital to the running of the society tomorrow.” Furthermore, it knows that Galileo is essential for the future of the European Space Policy. Therefore, the Commission favours the option of Galileo being financed by the EU budget. Put quite simply, the Commission wants to finance the building of Galileo satellite infrastructure with public funds.

According to EUobserver, Jacques Barrot has said that: “it's €400 million per year which equals about 400km of motorway.” The EU´s taxpayers will pay for Galileo as the Commission does not want to surrender on this issue. The future of Galileo will be decided by the EU’s Member States transport ministers in June. That is when we shall see – since the European electorates have no say in the matter – whether Europe is still one small step for the British taxpayer.

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