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Thank you Chris [Agius, Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport of Malta]. First of all let me thank the Maltese presidency for a wonderful start, get used to come together in Brussels more often but also us coming to Malta. I really believe that what you said just now, that in unity is strength, is something that is so evident - if not self-evident – coming from a country that is so much exposed to the dangers but also the opportunities of our geography and history, and also that the added value of being a Union is something we have somehow to rediscover and I think the Maltese presidency will help us doing so.
But let me thank, first of all, all of you, and in particular Elzbieta [Bienkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs] for the work, not only that you are going to have in these two-day conference, that is very important, I think for the follow-up of our work, but also for the opportunity to be here with you today.
To all of you, the fact that someone who is dealing with the external policies of the European Union is here, is self-evident. It might not necessarily be the case for our, let say, structures, or our citizens in the European Union even if, indeed, there is nothing more external than space if you think of it.
But also because there is a clear link with our security and our defence. Most of you are very much aware of that, much more than probably I am, but I think that this is a link, a field, that we need to explore more and more in these months and years.
The main focus of this conference is our Space Strategy, and I will come to that in a minute and I am sure Elzbieta will focus a lot on that – and by the way - I would like to thank her and her team for a wonderful work we have done together, with really a team spirit that sometimes is new in our institutions – but I would like to start with another strategy, our Global Strategy, our Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, that I presented last summer and which we are now putting in practice, together with all the European institutions, together with all the Member States.
We wanted this Global Strategy to be truly global, which is, to cover all the fields and all the tools of our external action. So the Global Strategy also looks at our skies, from two main perspectives.
First, we stress the need for cooperation, and to develop some kind of common governance of space activities.
Second, we all understand that space is essential to our own security and to our economy. So we have a strong and clear interest – and here I am quoting the Global Strategy we adopted – to, I quote, “promote the autonomy and security of our space-based services.”
Let me take a small step back in time and focus on governance. We all know that human exploration of the outer space began as a “space race,” between the US and the Soviet Union. Today, the Cold War is over, and I believe it is over forever – I do not only believe it, I also hope it - but the race to the space is still going on – although in a very, very different manner.
There are not just two super-powers, but a long list of countries with diffused power but also with large space programmes. And beyond governments, there is a long list of non-state actors, from telecommunication firms, to universities, to all kinds of companies.
So our skies are getting more crowded. It is more important than ever that we cooperate and look for a set of common rules.
Space is a global common. It does not belong to any one country, because it belongs to all mankind. So we must all take responsibility for what happens above our heads – to keep our space safe, clean and accessible to all. If I can use a term of reference, we often refer in the European Union to the fact that we invest in a rules-based global order – well, this can apply also to our space probably.
And we do not have so many actors in the world of today, and probably in the world of tomorrow – hopefully more on the day after tomorrow – we do not have too many actors that are investing truly in a rules-based global order. So we have a special responsibility as Europeans to play our role, to link up with the actors who share our same agenda and to try to bring this agenda forward for the sake of Europeans but also of others.
So the EU and its Member States proposed some years ago to negotiate an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Our proposal has received support from a large group of countries, and we keep working to reach an agreement on a voluntary code of conduct.
The European Union will also continue to work for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which is critical for the UN disarmament and arms control agenda, which is an agenda that we support actively and with a lot of energy.
Last June, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space agreed on the first set of guidelines for the sustainability of space activities. It is a step in the right direction, towards common rules for a common good – and we encourage the Member States of the Committee to keep working towards a second set of guidelines.
We are not only engaging inside the international institutions, but also, we would say in other fields “on the ground” - I guess here I would say in the sky - because the EU space surveillance and tracking support framework is providing concrete support to all these goals. This program has now begun to deliver operational services, based on a pool of Member States’ capacities.
We are engaging with all our tools – our diplomacy, our political weight - because indeed we have some, sometimes we do not realise how much weight we have, and our capabilities – because better global governance will only be achieved if we are able to look beyond the traditional domains of foreign policy, and reach new frontiers. And by definition here, we are talking about a new frontier that is not so new for us Europeans.
But as we work with our partners for more cooperation on the international arena, there is some work we need to do also here at home, inside Europe.
We have a strategic, an economic and a political interest to invest in our space capabilities.
First of all, a strategic interest for our foreign policy. Our security needs are evolving fast, for instance on maritime security. And today we realise that our space infrastructure can serve many different purposes that are all key to our security – from monitoring climate change, to better planning our development policies.
This is why we are upgrading our European navigation system to the third generation. This is also why we are investing in our own global navigation and Earth observation systems, with the Galileo and Copernicus programs.
To do so we have developed our European launchers, such as Ariane 6 and Vega C – so that the European Union has already become the largest institutional customer in Europe, surpassing our Member States. No need to say, this is good for our economy, for our research and for our industry. And let me add that this is good for our citizens, who can benefit from the new services, but also – and I would like to stress this, because this is something we should apply in all sectors of our activities, our citizens can benefit not only from the services but also from the economies of scale, which is the real strength of being a European Union, and a more efficient procurement and a better spending of our own resources.
Finally, and I conclude, we have a clear political interest to invest in space. Strategic autonomy in this field would not only benefit our citizens and our Member States, but also our partners, because the development of the full spectrum of security capabilities will make us a stronger partner – not only a global player relevant to the security of all Europeans but also for our friends around the world that are demanding more and more from the European Union to be a security provider around the world, including for our American friends. So we can set our partnerships globally on a more equal footing, sharing more equally the costs and the responsibilities of our common security and also increasing our own work on our internal security.
So Europe can be and should be a space power. But we can only do so if we act together, as a true Union. We face a world of continent-sized space powers, with continent-sized budgets and we come out of a long economic crisis. So the only way to go for it is doing it together. We together can develop a world-class industrial and technological base. Only together can we promote a rules-based global order that reaches out to the space.
This is the aim of our 'Space Strategy for Europe' - and here I guess I pass the floor to Elżbieta - which is the first unified space policy of the European institutions, the Member States, and the European Space Agency.
So Europe can and must be a space power. We can and must be a force of cooperation, security and peace – to the benefit of European citizens, but also for the whole world, also in the space. Thank you.