Twenty-fifth Report of Session 2013-14 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

15 European Earth Observation Programme (Copernicus)




COM(13) 831




COM(12) 218




COM(13) 312

+ ADDs 1-2

Commission Communication: European Earth Monitoring Programme (GMES) from 2014

Commission Communication on the establishment of an Intergovernmental Agreement for the operations of the European Earth Monitoring Programme (GMES) from 2014 to 2020

Draft Regulation establishing the Copernicus Programme and repealing Regulation (EU) No. 911/2010

Commission Staff Working Documents

Legal base(a)  and (b): —

(c)Article 189(2) TFEU; co-decision; QMV

DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 19 November 2013
Previous Committee Reports(a)  HC 428-xlvii (2010-12), chapter 19 (18 January 2012)

(b)  HC 86-iv (2012-13), chapter 7 (14 June 2012)

(c)  HC 83-vii (2013-14), chapter 3 (26 June 2013)

To be discussed in Council3 December 2013
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decision(a)  Cleared (decision reported on 18 January 2012)

(b)  and (c) Cleared


15.1 We and our predecessors have reported from time to time on the evolution of the European Earth Observation Programme, otherwise known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), which was established in 1998 as a joint initiative by the Commission and European Space Agency (ESA). It seeks to provide, by means of data obtained by satellite or from in situ sensors (such as buoys and balloons), information for the use of those making, implementing and monitoring environmental policy within the EU, and to support civil protection and security efforts. This is achieved through six operational services (covering atmospheric, marine, land and climate change monitoring, and responses to emergencies and security), as well as developmental and support activities.

The current proposal

15.2 Until 2011, the GMES was funded through the EU Framework Programme for research and technological development, and by contributions from members of the ESA, the focus then being on development activities. Regulation (EU) No. 911/2010 continued this joint funding until the end of 2013, but also introduced a further contribution from the EU to provide the first element of operational funding. The Commission says that, as the Programme is now entering its full operational phase, a new Regulation is required, and it therefore put forward in May 2013 a proposal (document (c)), which would repeal Regulation (EU) No. 911/2010; change the name of the programme to "Copernicus"; and set out the financial and operational arrangements for the period 2014-20. In particular, the new Regulation would provide for a budget of up to €3.786 billion, to be financed under sub-heading 1a of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), thereby departing from a suggestion put forward in Commission Communications in November 2011 (document (a)) and May 2012 (document (b)) — to which the UK had been strongly opposed — that the Programme should be financed by a specific fund established by an intergovernmental agreement between the EU Member States and managed by the Commission outside the MFF.

15.3 The proposal also seeks to set out the arrangements for the Programme's governance. Thus, it would give the Commission overall responsibility for defining its priorities and objectives and overseeing its implementation; require it to adopt each year an implementing act setting out a work programme, and to cooperate with Member States in improving the exchange of data and information; and enable it to entrust the operational activities to EU bodies[36] with expertise in relevant areas. In addition, the draft Regulation would enable the EU to enter into agreements with third countries; establish the ownership of assets developed under the Programme; and set out conditions for the availability of data from the Programme, the protection of EU and national security interests, and the protection of the EU financial interests against fraud, corruption and other illegal activities.

15.4 As we noted in our Report of 26 June 2013, the Government said that it was still analysing the text and discussing it with other Member States, but that its initial views were that it would be inconceivable for the UK to agree a new Regulation for a programme of this scale where the governance arrangements were unclear. In particular, the Regulation would need to set out details of the respective roles of the Commission and Member States; to outline clear allocations for the key elements of the Copernicus Programme (services, and the space component and in-situ components) against the €3,786 million provision, as well as providing a level of detail against each of those elements; and allocate the budget to different phases of the programme to improve transparency. The Government also noted that the Commission was proposing that a number of delegated powers should be conferred upon it, and said that it would be pressing it to ensure that these were justified and their scope appropriate, and that they were time limited, rather than for an indeterminate period as proposed. Finally, the Government pointed out that scientific research and space are areas of parallel competence, and that the UK will therefore in principle retain competence in this area, but it added that it would scrutinise the proposal to ensure that EU was constrained to the scope of its competences and to this Regulation.

15.5 We commented that the development of a European Earth Observation Programme had been in progress since 1998, and that the need for new funding arrangements for 2014 onwards had already been recognised. To that extent, therefore, this proposal did not cover new ground, and would at least have the merit of being financed from within the Multi-annual Financial Framework. However, it was clear that there were nevertheless a number of important areas where the Government was concerned at the lack of detailed information about how the Programme would operate in practice, and consequently, in drawing the proposal to the attention of the House, we said that we were holding it under scrutiny, pending further information as to whether (and how) those concerns had been met.

Minister's letter of 19 November 2013

15.6 We have now received from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord de Mauley) a letter of 19 November 2013, providing an update on the negotiations, with particular reference to the following areas of previous concern.


15.7 The Minister says that the current text now defines the role of the Copernicus Committee, part of which is to agree annual and long term programme plans, ensuring a clear role for Member States in shaping their direction and evolution. The Committee also has the power to appoint expert advisory groups for each of the Copernicus services to ensure that expert user views are taken into account when planning the evolution of the programme, and is able to meet in several configurations, so as (for example) to ensure that matters pertaining to security are handled appropriately.

15.8 The Minister also points out that the design of the Copernicus services is an important element in the delivery of the system, and that, given their complexity, it was not practical to define these in full detail in the Regulation itself. The UK has therefore sought an approach which would ensure sufficient Member State involvement in the final definition of the services, and this will now be achieved through the Implementing Acts with examination procedure.

15.9 He therefore concludes that the UK has achieved its original aim of strengthening the role of the Copernicus Committee, and its sub-configurations, and of ensuring appropriate Member State oversight of the delivery of the programme and of the definition of the Copernicus Services. He also says that this approach has the support of the Presidency, the Commission and other Member States.

Copernicus Space Component

15.10 The Minister says that, although the Commission will retain overall responsibility for ensuring that funds are spent effectively, delivery of the Space Component will be the responsibility of the ESA and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. He adds that the Space Component requires long-term planning and budget stability, and that, whilst the Commission's original proposal did not specify precisely how much funding would be provided or the activities to be undertaken within the component, the negotiations have resulted in a clear budget breakdown between the services and the space component within the Regulation, with clear procedures for agreeing annual and long term work programmes for both components.

Data Policy

15.11 The Minister observes that the UK has sought to ensure that the Copernicus data policy is oriented as far as possible towards free and open use, and that robust procedures are put in place to ensure any security concerns from Member States are considered and addressed. He says that the current version of the Regulation reflects this aim, although he points out that amendments proposed by the European Parliament would introduce a review of the data policy once the programme has been operational for two years — a course which the UK could support so long as it relates to data policy, and not the key principles of free and open access, and with a preference for it taking place after three to five years, as the necessary evidence would not be available after only two.

Legal Competence

15.12 The Minister observes that scientific research and space are areas of parallel competence, and that the UK will retain competence. The Government will however continue to scrutinise the proposal to ensure that the EU remains within the scope of its own competences, bearing in mind that the legal basis of the Regulation is Article 189(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which provides the Council and Parliament with the power to take necessary measures to draw up a European space policy (including the promotion of joint initiatives, support for research and technological development, and coordination of the efforts needed for the exploration and exploitation of space), but excludes any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States. He says that the proposed Regulation remains within the scope of this basis.

Financial Costs

15.13 The Minister confirms that the programme will be financed under the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), with a maximum level of commitments of €3,786 million.

15.14 As regards timing, the Minister says that the negotiations are entering their final phase, with the European Parliament's position expected on 28 November, following which the proposal will go to the Competitiveness Council for agreement on a general approach on 3 December, with a view to entering into trilogue discussions immediately afterwards, leading to the ultimate adoption of the proposal in the first quarter of 2014 (ahead of the forthcoming European Parliament elections). In view of this, he expects negotiations to proceed at a rapid pace, and he has therefore asked for scrutiny clearance.


15.15 We are grateful to the Minister for this update, and we note that the Government is satisfied that the text now on the table meets the UK's earlier concerns. Consequently, although we would like to be kept in touch with subsequent progress, we are now willing to clear the draft Regulation at document (c), as well as the Communication at document (b). The earlier of the two Communications (document (a)) was previously cleared by virtue of our Report of 18 January 2012.

36   Such as the European Environment Agency, FRONTEX, the European Maritime Safety Agency, and the European Union Satellite Centre. Back

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Prepared 6 December 2013