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Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, dear friends,
I am pleased to speak at this year’s European Space Conference. I remember well when we met one year ago and discussed how space has become a key component of the global security equation and how the rise in geo-political tensions we see on Earth are being extended and projected into the space.
Much has happened since then, since the first time I had the honour to address you. Today I want to focus my remarks on how space is a crucial component of our wider work on developing Europe’s strategic autonomy. If there is one thing that the pandemic and 2020 have taught us, it is that we need to enhance our strategic autonomy in different domains.
What do I mean by that? In essence, space is an enabler. Our presence in space enables us to achieve our goals in science, economy and security. In this way, our European space sector is an enabler of European strategic autonomy. As stated in a recent report of the EU Institute for Security Studies: “Without strategic autonomy in space, there can be no strategic autonomy on Earth”.
These days we are talking a lot about European strategic autonomy and people ask me what it means, what I mean by that. It is about protecting our capacity to act according to our interests and reducing our over-dependencies and vulnerabilities. In that respect, space is one of the “frontlines” of our strategic autonomy.
And which tools do we have at the European Union level? My colleague Thierry Breton [Commissioner for Internal Market] already referred to the European Union Space programme and its flagships: GALILEO, EGNOS and COPERNICUS. They have and will continue to enhance our economy. But they will also amplify our Foreign and Security Policy, including its defence aspects.
Indeed, space and defence technologies are interlinked. For example, EU space-based applications can provide crucial operational capacities such as precision navigation, surveillance, communications, and situational awareness. We are supporting Member States to strengthen their cooperation in the PESCO framework. We do a lot. However, we need to do more, and developing strong space capabilities will remain a central focus for years to come.
On the future of the European Union’s space policy, I see two main pillars. The first is what I call “security from space”. This is about protecting the security of the Union and of its citizens on Earth. This includes improving our situational awareness to deal with security situations such as disaster response, border and maritime surveillance and terrorist attacks. The European Union Satellite Centre, located in Torrejón de Ardoz, here in Madrid, plays an essential role, and it has been instrumental to the success of the European Union’s military operation IRINI in the Mediterranean. It would be difficult to imagine an operation such as IRINI working efficiently without the support of satellite capabilities.
The second is what I call “security of space”: to protect the security of the Union in space. This pillar in turn has two legs. Our ability to react in the case of a threat to the Union’s space assets, and the Space Traffic Monitoring leg on the other hand. This pillar allows us to continue using space as an enabler for our economy and our other policies – not only economy I want to stress this.
These two pillars are based on a solid foundation and that is the “3SOS initiative”. This stands for the Safety, Security and Sustainability of Outer Space. This is a European Union campaign promoting “good behaviour” in outer space amid concerns about orbital debris and arms race. Let me emphasise also the second meaning of the acronym: it is urgent to act together at worldwide level. SOS is also an S.O.S.
When it comes to implementing our EU space strategy we must harness all our tools – the European Union and Member States, public and private, financial and political – in support of our common objectives. This is what it means when we say space is a strategic issue.
If we work together we can make great progress and ensure Europe’s strategic autonomy, in space and by using space.
I thank you very much for your attention and I wish you a fruitful conference.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-200900