France’s role in European space policy


In the space sector, Europe offers the most pertinent framework for achieving France’s objectives in numerous large-scale projects. France therefore plays an active part in implementation of the European Space Policy (ESP) and in major flagship EU programmes (Galileo and GMES).

A European cooperation frameworkThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) participates in the work of ministerial bodies responsible for formulating France’s position on European space policy and sits on the French delegations to the various bodies dealing with these issues, the most notable being the European Union, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the EC-ESA high-level space policy group.

At ministerial level, the ESA Space Council is responsible for decisions relating to Agency programmes. At its meeting in Berlin on 5 and 6 December 2005, the Council adopted a resolution giving preference to European launchers for ESA missions. In March 2006, France decided unilaterally to apply this principle to French space missions. The Franco-Italian Summit of 30 November 2007 also adopted a Franco-Italian declaration on European preference regarding space access. Following the first successful launch of the Vega small launcher on 13 February 2012, Europe now has a complete array of launchers ranging from heavy (Ariane 5) to medium (Soyuz, launched from the Guiana Space Centre, CSG) and light (Vega). The ESA held a Council at Ministerial Level in Caserta (Italy) on 20-21 November 2012.

Progress under France’s EU PresidencyInitially, the Space Council, which first met on 25 November 2004, was supported by the Competitiveness Council and the ESA Council at Ministerial Level. It provided the forum in which the main orientations of European space policy were determined. The 4th Space Council meeting (May 2007) adopted a resolution on "the European Space Policy".

The 5th Space Council meeting (26 September 2008), held under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, adopted a resolution on "taking forward the European Space Policy". The resolution noted that European space policy rests on three pillars: the European Union, the European Space Agency and their member States. It also proposed new initiatives, particularly as regards the contribution that space technology could make to combating climate change and to competitiveness, employment and security in Europe.

The Presidency Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 11-12 December 2008 identified "space technology and the services arising from it" as one of the technologies of the future under the Lisbon strategy beyond 2010 and a candidate for inclusion in the European Plan for Innovation.

Under the French Presidency of the European Union, significant progress was made on the contribution of space technology to Europe’s defence and security. The Council declaration of 8 December 2008 on the enhancement of the capabilities of the European Security and Defence Policy decided to strengthen information-gathering and space-based intelligence through a variety of steps: making Cosmo Skymed and Helios 2 satellite images available to the European Union Satellite Centre (EU SatCen), issuing a letter of intent to that effect for the SAR-Lupe satellite, making preparations for a new generation of observation satellites (MUSIS programme) and factoring military requirements into space surveillance.

On the political front, the first draft of the Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities was officially published at the General Affairs External Relations Council meeting of 8 December 2008. Following the first round of consultations, a revised draft was adopted by the EU Council on 27 September 2010.

Useful links