PositionEuropean Space Agency

Member states are far from unanimously backing the idea of placing the European Space Agency (ESA) under EU authority. Discussions on this idea have only just begun, at the Competitiveness Council on 11 December 2012, on the basis of a communication on EU-ESA relations presented a few weeks earlier by the European Commission. This communication presented three possible scenarios for the future of the agency: that ESA should become an EU agency; that it should be placed under the authority of the EU in its capacity as an intergovernmental organisation (similar to the European Defence Agency); or that relations between the two would be reconsidered in a sort of institutional status quo. These are long-term scenarios, since the Commission has set a deadline of 2020-2025.

The debate has therefore only just begun. According to a source, at this stage discussions at the Council have divided member states into three groups. First, those in favour of a scenario where the ESA would fall under the authority of the EU; France and Belgium are most clearly in favour of this idea, saying it would improve synergy and lead to more logical use of funding. Opposed to this suggestion are member states that are happy with the institutional status quo (including the United Kingdom and Germany): after all, the ESA has already notched up considerable successes for the EU (eg Galileo), so where is the need for change? The third group comprises the large majority of member states, which are as yet undecided, and are calling for a more in-depth analysis...

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