Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations 4th Committee: International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space

New York, 30/10/2019 - 23:06, UNIQUE ID: 191030_16
Statements on behalf of the EU

30 October 2019, New York - European Union Statement delivered by Ms. Carine Claeys, Special Envoy for Space, Head of the Space Task Force, European External Action Service, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee, Agenda item 49 (a): International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space

Thank you, Mr. Chairman,


I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

Mr. Chairman,

Allow me first to thank and congratulate the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space - COPUOS and the Office for Outer Space Affairs for their excellent work.

Mr. Chairman,

The EU, its Member States and the European Space Agency together have developed strong and unique space capabilities and industry in Europe. The EU has a large budget for space, most of which is dedicated to the European Global Navigation Satellite systems, Galileo and EGNOS, and the European earth-observation system, Copernicus.

Also space research and innovation are currently supported by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, which supports the competitiveness of the European space sector and helps tackle societal challenges, and is also open to international cooperation. An important reason for this investment effort is that we believe that space science, applications and technologies have a great potential to help tackle major global challenges such as climate change, disaster management, food security, environmental protection, efficient management of resources, transport development, marine protection and maritime awareness, migration and protection of cultural heritage.

In this respect, we support the work on the 2030 Space Agenda and its implementation plan with a view to enhancing global space governance and mobilising space for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals and targets, the Paris Agreement as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The EU space flagship programmes Galileo/EGNOS and Copernicus have made large progress during the last years. They are an illustration of European and international cooperation because they are funded and owned by the EU and overseen by the European Commission, whereas deployment, design, and further development of the systems and infrastructure are entrusted to the European Space Agency.

Galileo is autonomous but also interoperable with existing satellite navigation systems. When Galileo is fully operational in 2020 with the constellation of 30 satellites, it will allow improved services and provide new business opportunities in a wide variety of applications in many sectors of the economy worldwide.

Today, around 7% of the EU economy is dependent on global navigation satellite signals. This includes transport, logistics, telecommunications and energy sectors. The EU wishes to strengthen the competitiveness of its industry and considers space as a source of industrial excellence and technological development with several potential spill-over effects into other sectors. Independent studies show that Galileo will deliver around EUR 90 billion to the EU economy over the first 20 years of operations.

Copernicus is a user-driven European Earth observation and monitoring programme. In 2018 and 2019, which unfortunately saw natural disasters in a number of countries, Copernicus has again shown its exceptional usefulness by providing accurate maps that allow for a rapid assessment of the damage and planning of rescue operations.

Mr. Chairman,

We reiterate that the United Nations Charter, UN Treaties on outer space and five UNGA sets of principles, as well as other related documents and resolutions adopted by the UNGA, constitute the cornerstone of the international space law. As a responsible space actor, the EU is exploring the possibility of acceptance of the rights and obligations of the relevant UN Treaties on outer space.

The European Union and its Member States continue to promote the preservation of a safe, secure and sustainable space environment and the peaceful use of outer space on an equitable and mutually acceptable basis. We also continue to stress the importance of responsible behaviour in outer space in the UN framework.

We reiterate that UNOOSA, COPUOS and its Subcommittees are unique international platforms for international cooperation in space, including on the development of international norms and standards regulating space activities.

We would like to express our satisfaction that COPUOS adopted the preamble and 21 Guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, which will be an annex to the report of the Committee to be adopted by UNGA this year. The adoption of the guidelines was the main achievement of COPUOS for this year and for several previous years. COPUOS proved that space diplomacy can work and produces results.

The COPUOS long-term sustainability guidelines are the important contribution to the transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space, whose importance is consistently stressed by the EU and its Member States.

We also express our satisfaction with the fact that COPUOS decided to establish a 5 year Working Group under the agenda item "the LTS of outer space activities" of the Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee. This is another positive step in terms of considering new guidelines, sharing experience, best practices and lessons learnt from implementation of adopted guidelines, and raising awareness and capacity-building.

We underline the need to foster increased international cooperation, and to establish principles of responsible behaviour, and sustainability of space activities. Furthermore, we stress the need to strengthen commitments to avoid potentially harmful interference with the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, to facilitate equitable access to outer space, and to increase transparency of outer space activities.

We believe that the most realistic near term prospect lies in agreeing on a voluntary instrument or voluntary norms. Such a voluntary instrument could establish standards of responsible behaviour across the full range of space activities and related challenges. Topics could include the mitigation and remediation of space debris, which is partially caused by intentional anti-satellite weapon testing, and collision avoidance in order to promote security and safety in outer space in an integrated fashion.

Discussions, in particular within the UN framework, on a voluntary instrument or voluntary norms to govern increasing human activities in space should complement the COPUOS long-term sustainability guidelines by adding a political commitment and by creating a more structured cooperative framework. The compliance with existing international law and with transparency and confidence-building measures, as developed in the UN framework, would have to be ensured.


Thank you Mr. Chairman


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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