Highlights of the 1st European Space Policy Workshop

Vice-Rector Professor Vervenne welcomed the participants to the one-day workshop on 19 September 2002 on "Fundamental issues of European space policy", organized by the university's Institute of International Law and Systemics Network International. He introduced the Workshop on behalf of the two organizers and of the University.

Europe in space is at an historic turning point. The ESA system and its progeny, like Eutelsat and Arianespace, have dominated the past. But, now, the EU aims at making space an integral part of its core policies. How, he asked, will it do so? How "integral" will the EU's approach to space be? Think of the enormous new applications we could have. But will these be only for civil space activities, or also for the EU's developing Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy? Where will ESA stand in the new European architecture? Will there still be "two Europes in one space", or will we see increasing interpenetration? Beyond these questions, how should space science, technology and R&D projects develop in the European context if we are to meet the challenges?

How does this fit in with the future of the aerospace industry?

The European Space Policy Workshop series has been launched to enter these and other questions. It has been timed to accompany and complement institutional policy deliberations at a time of major realignment in inter-institutional relationships. The outcome of this process will strongly affect Europe's profile in the space field for the next decades. It will be of decisive importance for our common future.

But why should a university like K.U.Leuven take the initiative? It is not just because it is the oldest university in Northern Europe or because it enjoys international prestige in space-related science and technology. Nor is it because the Faculty of Law has an international reputation for matters related to European and international organizations-to which it has now added space law and policy. Rather, it is because it is this University's strong conviction that it owes more to society than teaching and research. It has a crucial third function, in light of its ancient tradition of international and European openness-to make itself available for the European and international community, to bring important challenges of public interest to the fore, to discuss them in all objectivity and academic rigour, and to assist in finding responses to these challenges.

K.U.Leuven, in other words, sees itself as an "honest broker" in this broad debate on Europe and its space policy. An academic institution of high standing in European affairs is ideally placed to fulfil such a role, while an independent consultancy specialized in this field, Systemics Network International, can provide as partner the requisite practical, informational and logistical basis. It is for these reasons that KU Leuven and SNI have joined forces as the workshop series' organizers.

Prof. Vervenne closed by expressing his high hopes for the free, yet structured exchange the select Workshops are designed to allow.

Next, Madame Marie-Claude Limbourg spoke in the name of Mr Ylieff, the Commissioner in the Belgian Government responsible for Science Policy.

Belgium is fourth in Europe for investing in European space through ESA; 90% of national space funding goes through the Agency. She recalled Belgium's contribution to policy development in recent years, notably Mr Ylieff's role in this regard when he was Chairman of the ESA Council at ministerial level. She also commented on some of the challenges facing Belgium, and other European nations, in orienting themselves towards the future. Different ways were being found at programme level to deal with some of these challenges. But a joint European strategy, she added, is needed on several grounds-to avoid scientific and industrial domination, to address applications that will have an impact on Europe's citizens, and to bring together national and European programmes. She and the Commissioner therefore wished the workshop well.

Following this Statement, Frances Brown, Editor of Space Policy and the Workshop Chair, introduced the Workshop's first session and its working tools, as contained in the Workshop Folder.

Dr Kevin Madders, Managing Partner of Systemics Network International and Workshop co-organizer, made the first presentation, "Background: Highlights of how today's system for space in Europe arose".

Starting with a snapshot of today's European space "system", this reveals a number of actors and levels, but no unified design. To help understand the way this disparate system was defined, he referred to four basic factors its organizing entities depend upon: drivers, scope, mechanisms and resources. He then related these factors to a scorecard for policy content by which the completeness of the various systems could be judged. He next presented a model statement of space policymaking. Some words were familiar from recent EU and ESA output. Yet the statement came from 1958, when Senator Johnson's committee fashioned the policy that set the United States on the path to becoming the undisputed dominant space power it is today.

It was the comprehensiveness of the Johnson formula in creating a policy framework that set a standard too for the first European systems. As Dr Madders went through them, their scorecards revealed what a roller-coaster ride space policy system building in Europe had been, from 1960 right up to the present, still fragmented scene.

He concluded that today there are again strong drivers impelling us forward. But there are major weaknesses in terms of overriding goals, coordination and mechanisms, and the informational basis upon which policy is formed. These are more than mere issues of inter-institutional realignment.

Further, while it is true that political authority is at last being restored, a fundamental defect remains of over-reliance on national sponsors for vital elements of ESA's programmes. This implies an exposure to political risk that must be reduced in forming any "genuine" policy. Some European space programmes have failed through depending on the political will of only one State, and long delays have afflicted others as sponsorship faltered.Several of the weaknesses identified affect not only parts of the system; they go to its roots. The need for decisive leadership and a comprehensive policy is urgent. But finding one must depend on as open and transparent a process as possible involving all interested parties and the public. For clearly no one in the present system can have all the answers. It must be a collective process, and this workshop has the role of acting as catalyst for it.

The next speaker was Professor Joan Johnson-Freese, Chair, Department of National Security Studies, US Naval War College. She gave an "Assessment of Europe's position relative to US and rest of the World".

Prof. Johnson-Freese started by outlining the main current drivers in setting US goals for space. These are national security, and otherwise pragmatism, economic stringency, prestige, and science. Space is one of the few industries that cannot be privatised in the foreseeable future. Therefore, there is a tendency to base funding on what in politics can produce political will rather than on profit potential.

The US has made its military space efforts an increasingly high national priority. Missile Defence is now part of these efforts, which witness a growing synergy between the space domain and strategic capabilities. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has articulated in six "transformational goals" the sweeping doctrine that now holds sway. One is "to maintain unhindered access to space and protect our space capabilities from enemy attack". He had earlier warned of a "Space Pearl Harbor", which laid a justification for moving from a policy of deterrence and defence against "probable" attack to preparedness for any "possible" attack.

In practical terms the US' main military space focus is on: Space Support (activities such as launching, deploying space vehicles, maintaining and sustaining them on orbit, and their recovery), Force Enhancement (a capability that significantly increases the combat potential of a force), Space Control (operations which provide freedom of action in space, and include surveillance, denial to adversaries, and protection), and Force Application (in other words, weaponisation of space).

Part of the technological expression of this policy is the creation of integrated Global Utilities and of support systems such as the project for the MS-1A Military Spaceplane System Architecture. Following 9/11 manned reusable transportation systems that were mere paper designs have moved closer towards the realm of reality. Financial constraints have been relaxed massively.

For Europe, the technology gap that has already emerged is so vast that it may be idle to think of trying to catch up. As the magazine Wired boasted in April 2002, "The Race to Dominate Space is over. We Won".

Turning to Europe in its global context, Prof. Johnson-Freese observed a number of system features. Firstly, as in the US and elsewhere, space has been a topic of interest to many, a priority for a few, and the full responsibility of none. But in Europe the situation seems significantly exacerbated by the number of national players, and the increasing number of organizations representing the multiple players. There seems to be a real problem in setting and assessing goals. She recalled in this regard the political drivers for space funding and compared Japan's Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) System and Britain's TopSat as examples of obedience to factors that were not function-driven. Topsat was, certainly, low-cost, but added dubious value to commercially available imagery.

Prof. Johnson-Freese mentioned that it has always been difficult for Americans to deal with Europe as there is no single entity for European space policy. No one therefore knows who's in charge. She commented that it might be easier for Europe as well to address space policy issues if all decision-making were centralised. She also noted a frustration felt by US players in their dialogue with Europe at the gap between rhetoric and action. The perception was that Europe was quite ready to complain at US actions, but unable to come up with its own proposals. She felt there is a willingness on the US' part to ensure more productive cooperation. But it must show a programmatic gain. In this regard, and with regard to its own programmes, Europe should not underestimate the funding that is needed. Europe may not like dependency, but it has to confront the choice of dependency versus spending lots of money. And while it is of course right for ESA to compare itself with NASA in examining its programme composition, Europe should also assess carefully the differences between NASA and ESA. NASA has a legacy, which it lives from, that ESA has not. Building such a legacy is part of Europe's political challenge for the future.

Mr Jean-Pol Poncelet, ESA Director of Strategy and External Relations, speaking on "Issues of Purpose and Opportunities for Europe in Space", referred to the many achievements of ESA. Looking forward, he foresaw a situation where there would still be two players-ESA and the EU-but one policy for both. Some of the tasks of policy have already been indicated in European Commission President Romano Prodi's "Four Challenges" European Convention speech. These include creating European identity, assisting in achieving a balanced model of society, enhancing freedom and security, and making Europe a centre of intellectual and scientific influence and innovation. The EU Barcelona Summit moreover added the goal of raising European investments in research to GDP 3% by 2010, from 1.93% now.

The co-existence of ESA and EU does hinder the decision-making process due to the major structural and legal differences between ESA and the EU. There is some duplication of authority, as there is no clear division of responsibilities. Despite this, both organizations have been able to agree in principle on the goals Europe ought to pursue in space, against a backcloth of a European space industry facing poor economic prospects. In addition to existing programmes, space should contribute to a Common Defence and Security Policy; Galileo, a joint programme, should go ahead and serve as a test-case for future cooperation; and Europe should aim with GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) to take leadership in improving environmental security. All realize, furthermore, that space tools offer Europe the opportunity to exercise greater influence in the world.

The organizational challenge is to find the equilibrium necessary for an efficient, cost-effective and politically sustainable alliance between the institutions.

Yet, it must be asked in this regard: Who do we talk to? And to what degree will the EU participate in space-policy making, and by what means? If EU models are to be followed, how, then, can ESA's geographical return system-so fundamental to its system-be accommodated? In answering these and other questions it will be important to make sure that the equilibrium to be found fully takes account of the gains Europe has made through ESA, not least in programme management and efficiency.

Mr Luc Tytgat, Head of the Space Policy and Coordination of Research Unit in DG Research of the European Commission, followed on with "The process of building space policy in the EU". Portraying the EU structure and its three "pillars", he noted how the overarching policies of the Union (Information Society, Environment, Transport, CFDP, etc. but also external relations) increasingly require space as an implementing tool, yet the means and know-how rest mainly with ESA and national space bodies. The need for a coherent European approach towards space is thus self-evident. An EU/ESA policy should address all aspects (civilian and security) and incorporate high level goals, basic guidelines for roles and responsibilities of main European actors, and a European space programme as implementing tool. The programme should cover the range of science, transportation and applications activities but shift from a technology-driven to a user-driven emphasis.

Mr Tytgat announced the following steps in arriving at an EU/ESA policy: first, a Green Paper for consultation by the end of 2002; second, preparation in 2003 of a "White Paper" on the basis of the consultation process; third, submission of the European Space Policy document to Council and Parliament; and, fourth, submission of inputs to the Convention/IGC on treaty changes, still in 2003. In the meantime, institutional progress should be made through interaction between the first (Community) and second (CFSP) pillar of the EU and ESA. As a transitional measure a cooperative structure should be established between the European Community and ESA under a simple, flexible Framework Agreement. For its part, the EU Council should become engaged in the development of especially the CFSP-related part of the policy. Integration of national programmes should also figure in this scheme.


Dr Ilana Bet-El, Senior Policy Adviser at GPC International, spoke on "Getting the Message Through: The dimension of strategic communication".

Dr Bet-El had been invited as a non-space expert. For space policy is not only a matter of decision, organization and space-related activity. It is also a matter of communication, and strategic communication-her speciality-is of particular importance given the reliance of space activities on political funding and hence public support.

It is well known that European space efforts have not caught the public eye sufficiently. She identified factors that could contribute to raising the popularity of space with the public. Applying them would be aimed at giving space a less "technological" and a more public-friendly and appealing image. She pointed out that space can be fun and prestigious, and can thus be brought closer to the public if effort is invested.

She asked the participants to stop being space professionals for a moment, and become ordinary citizens. In their psychology, what is "space"? It is the realm of Star Trek's Final Frontier, the scenes of exploration from 2001 Space Odyssey, the Apollo Missions. These are cognitive concepts, and are not to be ignored when trying to reach the public. These simple concepts in fact tell us a lot. They imply a positive, forward-looking predisposition. But they also recall Russian and particularly US activity, and an absence of "Europe". It does not have the prominence to be recognized.

Is Europe therefore condemned always to be an "also ran" in space? This depends on why it wishes to invest in space.

Some things will work with the public, and others not. If one takes-as elements of a future, more ambitious space policy-the goals proposed by ESA's Long Term Space Policy Committee of independence, planetary management, and using the resources of space and exploring the Solar System, these are not antipathetic goals, but they do pose challenges. The main challenge is "Europe" itself. It must, to get broad support, at the same time show it is serious about space, provide the "fun" element that appeals to the public, and display coherence. Because Europe in general does not connect easily with the public, it tends to work best in unseen areas. She then gave some home truths about what can nevertheless attract Europeans. They approve of Europe if it appears to contribute in "soft areas", by stimulating the economic environment, taking action to improve the quality of life, and engaging in research. They also like to feel independent of other powers. And they are increasingly green. They will approve of planetary management strategies. But they tend to disapprove if Europe goes into hard areas like military activities. There is little pressure for Europe to become a superpower.

The message that emerges to communicate space policy to the public is therefore to stress economics, environmental concern, and research-and to be sure to make it all exciting. This should be reinforced, however, by relating new goals to Europe's track record, for example on sustainable development. Europe should also be careful about vying for world domination. It is far safer to emphasize the research and quality of life aspects. And in doing so it is important not to leave space another "techie" field. It must be presented in a manner accessible (and fun) for everyone, and preferably as part of a world movement in which people in Europe are participating. Done like this, Europe can begin to lead at the Final Frontier, in its own way.

In the closing presentation Professor Jan Wouters, Director of the Institute for International Law and Director of International Relations at K.U.Leuven, addressed "Perspectives of institutional realignment and the roles of the EU, ESA and other actors" in light of institutional law.

Prof. Wouters analysed how the EU had gradually come to space, a line of development influenced especially by the EU's entry into the research field through its Framework Programmes from 1984, as strengthened in terms of competence by the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. Further competence was added by the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam, which moved the EU towards a European defence policy, which in turn led to adoption of the Helsinki headline goals. Amsterdam's policy areas of sustainable development, environmental protection and justice each have a potential space dimension.

What is surprising is that already in 1988, in its first Communication on Space, the Commission had called for coherence and indeed offered a plan to move forward decisively. This did not occur. Instead a series of further discussion papers followed, accompanied, it is true, by greater interaction between the Commission and ESA. Recently, the institutions have appealed to outside advice-"Wise Men" led by former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt (2000) and a group of distinguished legal professors ("Legal Wise Men", 2001). The Bildt report urged that ESA become the EU's space agency. The Legal Wise Men advised that the choice was between "integration" of ESA in the EU and a "cooperative/partnership" approach, the former being a more lengthy undertaking than the former because it will involve treaty changes.

Much could be done under the cooperation/partnership model by defining specific policy areas for each party. Yet it is ultimately a complex arrangement and does not fully address the underlying policy difficulties that are becoming ever more evident. Looking to the integrationist model, this offers in fact more flexibility to ESA than might be supposed. There are already several different models for agencies functioning within the EU "family". What is required in this case above all is institutional creativity, because ESA is clearly as special case. Applying such creativity depends on a constructive, well informed, cooperative process, to which the workshop series is intended to make the greatest contribution it can.

Frances Brown then opened the discussion. Much of this was devoted to the objectives and concerns on various sides with regard to institutional realignment. Reference was made to the superordinate role in the 1960s that the European Space Conference had played. The suggestion was made that a similar forum, with a policymaking role across the EU's pillars and ESA, should be considered as part of the way forward.

Other participants noted the contribution the media and exhibitions, together with educational tools, could make in changing public perceptions of space in Europe. The multimedia tools and presentational techniques exist; but they need to be applied in a creative way. Another area of dialogue was on the way in which the different programme structures of the EU and ESA could be made to function in tandem, with ESA the lead agency where appropriate. This was particularly urgent in light of the advent of the 6th Framework Programme.