GMES ???

The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) sets out the frame and political priorities for the entire future EU-spending. All EU-expenditure is grouped around the major headings. The largest part of the budget will be aimed at getting people into work and growing the economy, tied in with the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The proposed funding mechanism for GMES implies that the EC terminates its support and the necessary amount should be paid by the Member States (MS) on a voluntary base. Although it had emphasized on several occasions the importance of timely implementing both space systems, the EU-proposal implies a dangerous budgetary situation for the operational phase of GMES post 2014.

This means that the entire future funding of GMES depends on negotiations and the political/financial support of MS. The tactics of the EC is to provoke Member States’ protest and make the key space powers among MS continue to support GMES and thus raise the EU-budget. This rationale involves several risks and the EC-service responsible for the management of the GMES-program acknowledged that this funding choice “would create high uncertainty for GMES and would mean a discontinuation of GMES.” The Commission sees its role lately more as a “contributor” to the program, in contrast to its former view that the GMES-program is lead by the Union and carried out in partnership with ESA and the MS.

The reasons for allocating EU-funding to Galileo instead to GMES are manifold and comprise a mix of political and program factors. One important element is definitely the question of ownership. While the EC is the sole owner of Galileo, the ownership regarding GMES-still needs to be decided. Another aspect is that Galileo is slightly more advanced than GMES with launches planned for this year and two of the main work packages already been contracted. Further to this GMES attracts less political attention compared to the Galileo program which was from its initial phase much more present at political level as well as towards the broad public.

After the publication of the Communication “Towards a space strategy for the European Union that benefits its citizens” in April 2011 which outlined the EC’s ideas regarding a future EU-space strategy and its priorities, the MFF points the way for the space programs of the next decade as it gives a clear indication of the financial resources available for each policy priority. Given the mandate of the treaty of Lisbon the space community expects a comprehensive space program post 2014, especially for the operational GMES-phase as a next step.

Colsman, member of Cabinet Tajani responsible for space affairs, said that the EC would be prepared to release a proposal for a GMES-program post 2014 however only if the EC and MS can agree on a long-term funding solution for GMES. Prof. Volker Liebig, ESA-director responsible for GMES, in an interview with SPACE NEWS considered chances very little that ESA which as a research and development agency typically does not fund programs of repeat satellites, will be able to step in for the Commission and fund GMES operations itself. France is the first Member State that expressed itself and holds the opinion that GMES like ITER should be included in the EU-budget however without increasing the general figures. Apart from that have ESA Member States (19 countries) already signaled that it will not possible to use national R&D budgets to finance the operational phase of a space system.

The current proposal “A Budget for Europe 2020” is not a legislative act but a proposal to the Council (MS) and the EP that contains the strategic orientations of the EC. After the summer break it will be discussed in the Council as well as in the EP while the EC prepares specific legislative proposals until the end of the year. The MFF will be adopted by means of a regulation by the Council (MS) deciding by unanimity after having obtained the European Parliament’s consent. This whole process will take about 12-18 months. For June 2012 an agreement at the level of the European Councils is scheduled and for December 2012 an agreement with the EP. An agreement on the legal bases for all the multiannual programs has to be taken until end of 2013.

The funding mechanism of GMES and its role within the EU-budget will be an important item of NEREUS’ political dialogue this autumn. Efforts have to be made to ensure a stable and sustainable funding situation for the operational phase of GMES post 2014. The Union together with ESA already invested about almost 3.2 bn€ (1/3 by the European Union and 2/3 by ESA) during the research and development phase in this system. These investments have now to be capitalized and the way paved for the development of relevant services. Leaving the future financing of GMES to MS bears the danger that a space system that was originally designed as a European infrastructure will be strongly driven by national interests. The insecure budgetary situation of GMES will in the long term have a serious impact on market development and the development of services across Europe. Space infrastructures like GMES in order to be successful need to be used by numerous societal and professional groups for a wide array of purposes. Convincing different groups to take up GMES-uses is already a difficult and lengthy process. However if the long-term availability and stability regarding the GMES-system is uncertain it will be even harder or almost impossible to convince public/private users to introduce uses or develop applications.

NEREUS’s response to the EC-proposal will be awareness rising for the impact of GMES at regional level towards national and EU-policy maker but also to start a reflection and debate among the network community for alternative funding opportunities. As the MS play an important role in the legislative process around the MFF it is vital to learn more about the national point of views and promote GMES at national level. For the discussion it is fundamental to have illustrative examples and figures that demonstrate the added value of GMES for regions and their citizens. All network members are invited to contribute with examples they are aware of.