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Thank you very much. And let me welcome you all this morning to the tenth edition of this European Space Conference. It is, indeed, a pleasure to be here, not for the first time, but also not for the 10th time. It is above all a real pleasure to see so many of us gathered here today for something that is indeed very important. Since the beginning, this has been a place for people who believe that Europe is a “space power” in the making. And today we already have the second largest budget for space in the world. Our technology and expertise make us a heavyweight on global space markets. And I believe we need to share this awareness in a larger context. And we will have to keep investing, and investing better – if we want to be the autonomous and cooperative space power we need to be for our citizens, but also that the world needs us to be.
Since I last came to this conference, one year ago, we have already achieved impressive results. Just before I joined you, we signed a new agreement between the European Space Agency and the EU Satellite Centre. The Satellite Centre, working under my responsibility, contributes to shaping the European Union’s foreign and security policy. And I can tell you that I see in my daily life, my daily work, how much this work is crucial to shaping our foreign and security and defence policy. Images from space have helped us intervene in the aftermath of natural disasters, detect oil spills in the ocean, and observe the movements of smugglers of human beings and other things in the desert. When the terrorists of Da'esh attacked historic sites in Syria and Iraq, our satellites have contributed not only to assessing the damage, but also to planning for the reconstruction. And we share this work as a world superpower, as the European Union, with our partners in the region and globally.
This is not a luxury toy. It is essential to our own security and to our policy making, for us Europeans and that of our partners. So it is important that the Satellite Centre has an adequate budget, but also better access to images coming from national satellites, from private providers and of course from our Copernicus programme. Since last January, both Copernicus and Galileo have made impressive progress. Twenty-two Galileo satellites have already been launched – four last year, and four more are to come this year. Not only can our smart phones connect to Europe’s Global Navigation System, we finally have a European encrypted navigation service, the Galileo Public Regulated Service. This service is much more resilient to any kind of external interference, and it can provide top-class navigation services to our governments, to our civil protection units, to our search and rescue operations. It is a system with immense possibilities, and we have only started to explore its potential. So we must make sure that it gets the financial resources it needs and that we continue to invest in its security.
And we must also conclude our negotiations with partners such as the United States or Norway, who are also keen to access Galileo’s services. Galileo shows the kind of space power we, the Europeans, can be. Innovative, autonomous and cooperative – the three at the same time. This is something we have achieved together, as the European Union, and that no Member State can achieve alone, in isolation. This is the European Union at its best, putting our strength to the service of our citizens and also of our global partners. Doing things together that cannot be done by anyone alone.
The same goes for Copernicus, and we have seen it very practically over the last year. Let me make just one recent example. When Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean, we immediately mobilised Copernicus in support of all the people in need. And I was positively impressed by the very warm thank you that I received every time I met our partners and interlocutors from the region, from the Carribean, in these last weeks and months. They are really grateful for our help and to the technology that allows us to help. Copernicus has probably the best rapid mapping system in the world. This means that in a matter of hours, we could produce accurate maps to assess the damage and, most importantly, to plan for the rescue operations. We did this, first of all, for our own European citizen, because we know that everything that happens in the world somehow affects Europeans in the world - for instance in the French Antilles and in the British Virgin Islands. But we also did it for our friends in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in Florida. We did it free of charge, because we see it as our duty and responsibility as a responsible global power to help our friends in the moment of need. And because the space does not belong to any one country, but to the whole of us, as humankind.
As you see, there is no contradiction for us between strengthening the European Union as an autonomous space power, and at the same time investing in global cooperation on space issues. Galileo and Copernicus contribute to making us a global security provider. And I think we need to factor this awareness into our work and thinking much more especially considering the major steps forward we have made in the sector of European defence over the last year. They contribute to a strong European foreign policy, and they help us take better and swift decisions. So it is also important that we develop an autonomous capacity to protect our satellites. We need our own Space Surveillance and Tracking systems, because we cannot simply rely only on US data. I believe that Member States could join forces in a common initiative carried out at European level. Another good example are Governmental Satellite Communications, for instance, for an autonomous and secure transmission with the European Union’s Embassies in the world.
Our citizens and our partners see us as a global point of reference and a security provider. And this is growing by the day. And these capabilities are vital to deliver on our citizens’ needs and on our partners’ expectations. Good news is, that we finally have the tools to join forces and better spend our resources for innovation and development in our space sector. Over the last year, our work on security and defence has taken unprecedented steps forward. And for the first time ever – let me say this to also praise the work done together with [Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs] Elżbieta Bieńkowska – all European Union institutions were doing their part in a true team work that has proven to be not only possible but indeed the key to success. And I believe that is a story to be learnt also in other sectors for cooperation.
In the sector of defence, we have set up, as the European Commission, a European Defence Fund. And with twenty-five Member States, we have established the first ever Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence. With these initiatives, we will spend together, we will research together, we will develop new capabilities together – including as a space power. So there is room for you as well to come into this new horizon of European defence. Our space industry is unique in the world, with its mix of small, medium and large enterprises. And this is great, both for quality and for innovation. At the same time, research and industry need economies of scale and certainty about resources and long-term planning. This is where the European Union shows its added value. And this is where our Defence Fund, our Permanent Structured Cooperation and also the new EU seven-year budget can step in, for our shared European interest in space.
On top of that, I also believe that European foreign policy must also support the European economy and European industry. This is what we call “economic diplomacy”. And this is what we already do with our embassies, our European Union delegations around the world, in 140 countries. We help already our European industry make business in a different environment, in our interest, in the interest of our European citizens, and also in the interest of our international partners who know that in us, in the Europeans, they can always find reliable partners. This is also very much true for the space industry.
Earlier today I met with CEOs of the space industry, and we discussed precisely how to better support the autonomy and competitiveness of our space sector in the world. Because I believe there is no contradiction between autonomy and cooperation. On the contrary: there is no viable alternative to cooperation on space issues, but this requires a strong autonomy from a European perspective. No single country can reach the stars alone – that is clear. And you know this better than me. You know that every space power relies to some extent on other space powers.
Space markets are truly global by nature – and we must make sure that competition remains free and fair. And that we keep investing at the same time in our own European autonomy, keeping our European cooperative approach. This is our natural role. Let me stress this once again: being an autonomous, but at the same time cooperative space power. And we will continue to invest in a cooperative governance of all space issues. This is and will continue to be our approach, both at the International Space Exploration Forum in Tokyo in March, and at the meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space in Vienna next June.
Space is a global common, and it requires global rules. It is something we all share, and we all have a responsibility towards it. Space is a responsibility, as well as a dream and an ambition. Let me tell you my daughter was extremely excited about how I am starting my day today. So we also have some emotion to transmit, the imagination of a new frontier - that is not entirely new anymore - but that still has not only an economic and security perspective but that also has a lot [of messages] to pass in terms of values when it comes to us Europeans. The world needs a responsible space power. And we can be the space power the world needs. Ambitious, cooperative, innovative and autonomous - but always seeking cooperation, to the benefit of our citizens, of our industry, and of our partners in the world.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I149959