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European space policy

European space policy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European space policy


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Research and innovation > Research in support of other policies

European space policy

Space has long been a source of progress for Europe, serving numerous objectives and policies, including transport and mobility, the information society and industrial competitiveness, the environment, agriculture and fisheries, and civil protection. The aim is to make the European Union (EU) the most advanced knowledge-based society in the world.

Document or Iniciative

Commission Green Paper of 21 January 2003 on European Space Policy [COM(2003) 17 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The Galileo project (civil satellite navigation and positioning system) and the GMES (global monitoring for environment and security) initiative are examples of a new approach underlining the need for the EU to play a more important role in space policy.

The objective of this Green Paper is to raise awareness in European society as a whole of the strategic importance of space and space policy to the EU and to find practical answers to the questions of access, funding and institutional regulation.

The Green Paper is the fruit of close and effective cooperation between the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA).


Since 1980 Ariane and the space centre in Guyana have given Europe independent and reliable access to space, allowing it considerable freedom of initiative for achieving its ambitions in space. However, Europe’s competitiveness in space must be based on new technical developments combined with a renewed method of public support for using space.

Today the total turnover of the European space industry is in the order of EUR 5.5 billion a year. At the same time the European space industry directly employs 30 000 people, spread over about 2 000 companies.

Priorities for the future:

  • guarantee European access to space and long-term funding for this purpose;
  • split responsibilities between national and European players;
  • strike a balance between European autonomy and international cooperation: Europe must take the initiative and intervene on a par with its partners by playing a strategic role in major cooperative space projects;
  • make available a high-quality industrial structure and have access to key technologies: Europe must identify the sectors offering added value and decide if it wants to maintain an industrial base covering the whole chain of space activities;
  • ensure a broad and efficient technological base maintained through research and demonstration programmes: the EU, the ESA, the national players and the industry have established various instruments (the space technology plan, the Seventh Framework RTD Programme and the national research programmes);
  • continue the transfer of know-how and information between generations of scientists and engineers: in Europe it is estimated that nearly 30% of employees in the space sector are due to retire in the next 10 years.


The technical potential of the space community needs to be used in a manner responding to the new demands made by society. The objective is to create a competitive knowledge-society, with the aim of ensuring that all European citizens, notably those with special requirements, will be able to have access to advanced technologies and services.

Beyond extremely widespread use of telecommunication satellites for exchanging information (telephony, television and digital data transmission), placing European launchers in orbit offers businesses, public authorities and citizens a wide range of services such as more sustainable mobility, weather forecasting, monitoring of climate change, faster response to natural disasters, etc.

Priorities for the future:

  • broaden the range of space research to players other than the conventional space industry: encourage transfers from research activities to industrial applications and value added services which go beyond the strict context of space;
  • transfer technologies from the research sector to the commercial sector: encourage private investment through long-term commitments by the public authorities;
  • develop new applications which make optimum use of the benefits of earth and space technologies;
  • maintain the interests of an enlarged Union: all European citizens, including the population of the new Member States, will be able to benefit from high-quality services if the EU introduces, for example, new broadband space systems;
  • support sustainable development: space technology is used for Earth observation, particularly for meteorological and environmental purposes to monitor changes on the planet (climate, meteorology, oceans, vegetation, global warming, monitoring oil slicks at sea, etc.);
  • contribute to the development of satellite navigation systems offering new opportunities for navigation in the air, at sea and on land;
  • improve the security of citizens: crisis management depends directly on mastering space technologies, particularly military applications.


The ESA, set up in 1975, met the initial objective of bringing together the resources and skills required for developing an integrated space science programme backed up by the national agencies of certain Member States, operational bodies and space initiatives.

Priorities for the future:

  • optimise Europe’s strengths in the space field, complying with the subsidiarity principle to set new objectives;
  • ensure that the contributions made by various institutional players converge towards common objectives;
  • define the responsibilities of the institutions involved in respect of space – in particular development agencies and operational structures – and their relationship with the private sector;
  • develop the space industry within a transparent and stable regulatory framework to motivate decision-makers and investors: efforts are being made to simplify procedures and minimise the regulatory barriers.


The publication of the Green Paper marked the start of a period for official consultations which ended on 30 May 2003. An action plan (White Paper of 11 November 2003 – PDF ) to implement the European space policy was drawn up on the basis of the replies sent in by interested parties. The Communication from the Commission of May 2005 (PDF ) lays the foundations for a European space programme within the EU’s new institutional and technological context (development of Galileo and GMES).


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
COM(2003) 17 final

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 23 May 2005 “European Space Policy – Preliminary Elements” [COM(2005) 208 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Council Decision 2004/578/EC of 29 April 2004 on the conclusion of the Framework Agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency [Official Journal L 261, 06.08.2004].

Commission White Paper of 11 November 2003: “Space: a new European frontier for an expanding Union – An action plan for implementing the European Space policy” [COM(2003) 673 – Not published in the Official Journal].

This White Paper is the follow-up to the consultation period launched by the Green Paper of January 2003. It puts forward an action plan for a European space policy to foster competitiveness and sustainable development in the EU. The Galileo and GMES programmes are actual examples of space technologies helping to achieve the EU’s policy objectives.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – “A Regions: “A Coherent Framework for Aerospace – A Response to the STAR 21 Coherent Framework for Aerospace – A Response to the STAR 21 Report” Report” [COM(2003) 600 final – Not [COM(2003) 600 final – Not Published in the Official Journal].

This strategy proposes providing political support for action by both the public and private sectors in order to define a Community political approach to space.

The communication proposes the basic components and broad lines of a space strategy revolving around three objectives:

  • strengthen and preserve independent and affordable access to space;
  • enhance scientific knowledge;
  • reap the benefits of the technical capabilities of the space community for markets and society.