Ministers agree on continuation of Galileo
By Isabelle Smets | Friday 08 June 2012
The member states’ transport ministers worked out an agreement, at their Council meeting on 7 June in Luxembourg, on the continuation beyond 2013 of the European satellite navigation programme, Galileo. The text confirms the European GNSS Agency, which currently manages Galileo and EGNOS (Galileo’s predecessor, which improves the accuracy of satellite signals), and the European Space Agency as the programme’s two main players, with the Commission assuring overall responsibility.
It also confirms the five types of services that the programme will offer in the future
(1). The Council agreement – a general approach – does not include any figures because the amount to be reserved for 2014-2020 to the two programmes is not the competence of the transport ministers, but will depend on the outcome of the negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework.
This is also the reason why the United Kingdom did not endorse the text, while nevertheless expressing agreement with its content. “At this stage, it remains a working hypothesis,” declared Justine Greening, Britain’s transport secretary. She continued: “We may need to revise the scope and timetable [of Galileo] depending on the budget we eventually agree. [...] Firstly, the EU will have to agree what is ultimately affordable and only then can we understand where relative priorities lie.” Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas had first commented that the amounts proposed by the Commission - €7.9 billion for EGNOS and Galileo for 2014-2020 - may endanger the programme. “Lowering this ceiling will bring the risk that the programme could face a lack of financing during the next financial period. The EU can not afford to fail. Its credibility is at stake.”
The general approach confirms that the first Galileo services will be offered between 2014 and 2015 and that full operational capability will be reached by 2020.
In Luxembourg, the ministers agreed to strengthen the provisions to ensure SME participation in the programme thanks to subcontracting. This was a request by Austria.
Czech Transport Minister Pavel Dobes confirmed that the seat of the GNSS Agency in Prague would be operational for 1 September. The agency is temporarily based in Brussels.(1) An open service, free of charge, for basic applications, such as GPS; a commercial service offering higher performance levels; a public regulated service using encrypted signals and reserved to government authorised users; participation in an international search and rescue service based on the detection of distress signals; and a contribution to a safety-of-life service aimed at users, such as airlines and shipping companies, that alerts them when signal levels are not up to their usual levels of accuracy