Galileo funding to guarantee EU’s ‘strategic autonomy’

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The Commission last week proposed funding Galileo entirely from the EU budget in order to guarantee strategic autonomy for Europe. The move comes just as the United States announced that a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System (GPS) will be made freely available for civilian activities.

“We cannot let Europe lose its independence in this strategic sector,” said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot, highlighting Galileo’s importance for Europe’s strategic autonomy as he presented, on 19 September 2007, the Commission communication on the way forward for Galileo and re-profiling the European GNSS Programmes. 

However, he said that the Commission had definitely abandoned the idea of a public-private partnership to build the satellite system. The private sector, he said, was expected to participate in the Galileo concession only afterwards, during the exploitation phase.

The Commission proposes to fully finance the €3.4 billion required to launch Galileo with Community funds. €1 billion is already foreseen for this purpose in the Community financial framework for 2007-2013, whereas it proposes a revision of the multiannual financial framework permitting the use of unused funds and remaining margins for other policies within the EU budget, and thus providing the extra €2.4 billion. 

“For 2007, the margin in agriculture is €2 billion and for 2008, €2.5 billion,” Barrot explained. “There is also a margin for administration. The use of these margins would not affect the policies concerned because the margins correspond to the right to spend,” explained Barrot. These margins are “above and beyond the forecasted budget needs”, explained a Commission official.

In a separate development, US President George W. Bush announced, on 18 September 2007, that the US will end procurement of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites that are capable of intentionally degrading the accuracy of civilian signals, known as Selective Availability (SA). This means that the US will make a more accurate version of the GPS, currently available only to the US military, available for global civilian activities.

The Greens in the European Parliament welcomed the Commission proposal and urged the Council "to show that it is serious about its own pet projects by agreeing to the Commission proposal. Without these additional funds Galileo is doomed to failure and all funds invested so far would be lost."

"Everybody knows that there is no business case for Galileo. We only need a European system of our own, because at a militarily very critical moment we can't trust the GPS to be available," commented a diplomat from an EU member state, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Commission was told by EU member states to submit by September 2007 detailed alternative proposals for the financing of Galileo. The request followed the failure of consortium partners to solve their internal disputes and sign a consortium contract by 10 May 2007, the deadline set by the Commission. 

  • 1-2 October 2007: the Council intends to make a final decision on the completion of Galileo.

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