Friday, 15 June 2007

EU Space Race and Technology Meltdown – Two Projects, Two Failures … and They Haven’t Even Started

Ever since the European Space Council recently endorsed a Common Space Policy, the EU has been struggling with the funding for the Galileo satellite navigation programme. The Space Council has already failed on its public-private partnership financing of the scheme yet the European Council has consistently reaffirmed “the value of Galileo as a key project of the European Union.”

The European Commission, the Parliament and many of the Member States now want to finance Galileo from the EU budget. However, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands want Member State governments to fund Galileo through contributions to the European Space Agency budget, since this would ensure that the Commission has a limited influence on Galileo. According to the government, the Council cannot make a decision on the way forward for the Galileo project as there is not sufficient evidence on the perceived cost and risks, or affordability in terms of the current EU budget.

At the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council which took place on 6-8 June, the EU transport ministers could not reach an agreement on how to fund the extra €2.4 billion needed to complete the Galileo programme. A total of €1 billion was already allotted to the programme by the EU’s 2007-2013 financial budgetary plan. The Council has until October 2007 to make a decision on the implementation of Galileo, the public financing and the way forward on public procurement.

The European Parliament Budget Committee has also been forced to reassess the serious funding problems faced by the European Institute of Technology (EIT). The European Commission has estimated the costs of the EIT to be around €2.4 billion for 2008-2013. Therefore, according to the Commission proposal, approximately €310 million should be allocated from the EU budget for six years. The Commission has suggested that around €527 million should come from the private sector and from Member State contributions – an unreasonable figure given its current failings.

Jim McConalogue, Editor of The European Journal, said:
“Of course, Galileo has been a royal flop. What really beggars belief is that the European Commission has proposed to take up €1.5 billion from other existing programmes on so called ‘Competitiveness for growth and employment’ in order to finance the European Institute of Technology for the next six years. It needs to meet its €2.4 billion estimated cost. But even the European Parliament Budget Committee has demanded that the Institute cannot get its money from dipping into other EU pots.”

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