Various Documents considered by the Committee - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

5 Global navigation satellite system



COM (10) 550

Draft Decision on the detailed rules for access to the public regulated service offered by the global navigation satellite system established under the Galileo programme

Legal baseArticle 172 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Document originated8 October 2010
Deposited in Parliament14 October 2010
Basis of considerationEM of 4 November 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNot yet known
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


5.1 The EU has a two-phase policy for developing a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). The first phase, GNSS 1, is the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) programme. The second phase, GNSS 2, is the programme, named Galileo, to establish a new satellite navigation constellation with appropriate ground infrastructure. Galileo is based on the presumption that Europe ought not to rely indefinitely on the GPS (the US Global Positioning System) and GLONASS (the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System) systems, augmented by EGNOS. Galileo is being carried out in conjunction with the European Space Agency[10] and there are a number of agreements in place or being negotiated with third countries about cooperation in the project.

5.2 It is intended that Galileo will allow provision of five services. These are known as the:

  • Open Service (OS), free of charge at the point of use — a basic service, but it is expected to potentially offer greater accuracy and coverage than GPS;
  • Commercial Service (CS), offering for a fee added value for more demanding uses — that is expected to be professional users who need superior accuracy and guaranteed service;
  • Safety of Life Service (SoL), for safety-critical applications that require high integrity — this will have the same accuracy as the Open Signal, but with a service guarantee providing high reliability;
  • Search and Rescue Service (SAR), to complement the current COSPAS-SARSAT system (International Satellite Search and Rescue System founded by Canada, France, the former USSR and the USA in 1988 and with 33 countries now participating) — the service is more advanced than any comparable existing service: it relays the distress signal and location to the nearest rescue centre and informs the sender that that signal has been received and that help is on its way; and
  • Public Regulated Service (PRS), a high-performance, encrypted service for authorised civil government applications — such as for such as national security, law enforcement agencies, customs and excise. The potential users will need a service which is useable, available, reliable and secure. The main benefit of this service will be its greater resistance to jamming and interference than the other four services, the fact that it will remain operational if other services are turned off or locally denied (jammed) in times of crisis and the ability to deny signals to specific receivers and user groups.

5.3 From early in 1999 previous Committees have reported to the House on many aspects of the Galileo project, most recently in October 2009.[11] The matter has been debated four times in European Standing Committee, most recently on 26 November 2007,[12] and once on the Floor of the House.[13] We ourselves have reported on a Commission Communication: Action plan on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) applications.[14]

The document

5.4 The Commission's draft Decision relates to the PRS, which will provide a highly accurate positioning service to specific government-designated users requiring a high continuity of service and access to which will be controlled. The draft Decision sets out the high-level rules governing access to the PRS, including:

  • "PRS participants", that is Member States, the Council, the Commission and authorised EU agencies, third countries and international organisations, shall designate a "competent PRS authority";
  • competent authorities shall agree the users of the service and monitor the manufacture, ownership and use of PRS receivers — uses may be related to security;
  • competent authorities shall comply with common minimum standards, a framework for which is set out in the annex to the Decision and is subject to future revision and added detail under delegated acts of the Commission; and
  • if application of the Decision could undermine the security of Member States or the EU, recourse would be to the procedures in Council Joint Action 2004/552/CFSP of 12 July 2004 "on aspects of the operation of the European satellite radio-navigation system affecting the security of the European Union".[15]

Member States will be able to take their own decisions regarding the use, or not, of the PRS and the nature of its use.

5.5 Switzerland, which is negotiating a cooperation agreement on satellite navigation with the Commission and Norway, which has already negotiated a cooperation agreement (likely to enter into force in the next few months once Member States have signed), have expressed an interest in using the PRS. The draft Decision would require these countries to enter into a security agreement with the EU. As members of the European Space Agency, Switzerland and Norway contributed to the early parts of the project, as part of their agreement with the Commission they will contribute towards the cost of Galileo.

The Government's view

5.6 The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers) says that:

  • the Government is considering its approach to the PRS in the light of this proposal, including the potential user organisations in the UK, the likely costs and potential charges for the PRS and the most appropriate organisation to deliver PRS management in the UK;
  • if it decides to use the PRS, national legislation would be required in order to allow the UK designated competent PRS authority to authorise PRS users and to determine the system of penalties applicable in the event of non-compliance;
  • the Government will also consider the issue of security-related use of the PRS — an important factor in this assessment is the successful joint bid by the UK and France to host the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre, referred to in the proposed Decision as the "Security Centre";
  • this will monitor the PRS for possible electronic attack and will administer crypto keys for PRS receivers — it is critical to assurance of the whole Galileo system;
  • the Commission accepted the UK's and France's offer in February 2010 and the two governments are working with the Commission, the European GNSS Agency and the European Space Agency to define the best infrastructure to host the centre;
  • the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum notes that the draft Decision has not been subjected to an impact assessment;
  • this is regrettable and the Government will push for transparency over the assessments made by the Commission in support of its proposal; and
  • in particular, it will press for information on whether the Commission will charge for access to the PRS and on how the European GNSS Agency, which may be called upon to act as a competent PRS authority, will be funded to perform such a role.


5.7 We note that the Government is considering its position in relation to the Public Regulated Service and security-related use of the service and is pressing the Commission for information which should have been in an impact assessment. So before considering this draft Decision further we should like to hear from the Government about developments on these matters. Meanwhile the document remains under scrutiny.

10   See and  Back

11   (30902) 13066/09: see HC 19-xxix (2008-09), chapter 8 (28 October 2009). Back

12   See Gen Co Debs, European Standing Committee, cols. 3-40. Back

13   See HC Deb, 2 July 2007, cols. 763-87. Back

14   (31718) 11137/10 + ADDs 1-2: see HC 428-ii (2010-11), chapter 19 (15 September 2010).  Back

15   See OJ L 246 , 20/07/2004 P. 30-31.


previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 2 December 2010