The informal meeting of European Ministers responsible for Space, hosted on 16 February 2022 in Toulouse, France, will cover an array of space issues, including treating space as critical connectivity infrastructure for the economy, developing common rules for space traffic, and leveraging space to fight climate change, improve scientific research and expand space exploration capabilities.
This event will open in the morning with an informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council of the European Union, followed by a Ministers’ joint working lunch and a meeting of the European Space Agency (ESA) Council.
The informal Competitiveness Council meeting on space will focus on two strategic matters: space traffic management and the European Secure Connectivity Initiative, a constellation of interconnected communication satellites intended to greatly expand internet access. Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, will present the European Commission’s ambitions in these areas.
This meeting will provide an opportunity for EU Ministers to offer their input on the Commission’s objectives. These discussions will set the tone for the next five months of the French Presidency, which is set to oversee negotiations on a draft regulation with an eye to clarifying procedures for implementing the Secure Connectivity Initiative.
The Commission’s work on space traffic management represents a first step towards adopting a European approach to setting common rules for space exploration. The French Presidency will thus work on determining a common EU position on space traffic management that ensures sustainability, safety and security, and is based on three pillars: space surveillance capabilities, standards for space activities and their promotion at global level.
In addition, the ESA will outline its goals regarding the protection of EU space assets and the Rapid and Resilient Crisis Response Accelerator, two programmes that will be instrumental in the Commission’s initiatives.
Bringing together EU Ministers and ESA Ministers, the joint working lunch will tackle such topics as the climate and how space can contribute to climate change research, as well as space exploration, with inspiring presentations given by aerospace players, including innovative start-ups.
In the afternoon, the ESA Ministerial Council will assemble all ESA Member States, i.e. the 27 EU Member States plus Norway, Switzerland and the UK, as well as Canada, participating as a Cooperating State.
The Council will discuss climate change and build on the issues raised during the Ministers’ joint working lunch, such as the Space for a Green Future Accelerator, an initiative to help Europe act to mitigate climate change by harnessing data from space
Lastly, the Council will cover the role of science and space exploration: a presentation of the ESA vision and a round the table discussion will provide the latest insights into Europe’s ambitions in these realms, with a special focus on the potential for a European human spaceflight programme.