Documents considered by the Committee on 14 December 2016 Contents

3Space Strategy for Europe

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested

Document details

Commission Communication about EU space policy.

Legal base


Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(38226), 13758/16, COM(16) 705

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

3.1The UK industry’s ambition is to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030, to generate a sector worth €40 billion (£36 billion) per annum and creating 60,000 new jobs. The Government considers that a strong European space sector will benefit UK industry by generating customers and increasing demand for space-based services and products. It notes that many UK space companies are subsidiaries of larger, multinational European space companies.

3.2The Commission has been seeking to establish an ambitious EU space policy since the beginning of the last decade. This has been given added impetus by Article 189 TFEU, which requires a “European space policy” to be drawn up and allows establishment of an European space programme. The Commission now presents its Space Strategy for Europe, which sets out the importance of space technology and services to society and the growth of the economy, and summarises the challenges facing the EU space sector from foreign competition and rapid technological change. It then proposes a wide range of initiatives to deliver four strategic goals: maximising the benefits of space for society and the EU economy; fostering a globally competitive and innovative European space sector; reinforcing the Europe’s autonomy in accessing and using space in a secure and safe environment; and strengthening the EU’s role as a global actor and promoting international cooperation.

3.3The Government gives a broad welcome to the proposed Strategy, emphasises the importance of the space sector for the UK and notes that many of the proposed activities support and enhance initiatives already underway in the UK. However it also tells us that it is seeking clarification of a number of the Commission’s proposals. We note that includes whether the Commission is seeking to adapt the civilian Galileo and Copernicus programmes to meet defence user needs, and whether the proposed new EU GovSatCom programme might adversely affect UK business.

3.4We note the importance of the space sector to the UK and the relevance to its space policy of the Commission’s Space Strategy for Europe. However, before considering the Commission’s Communication again we should like to hear from the Government as to its expectations for space policy post-Brexit. We note that the UK is a member of the European Space Agency in its own right, and that the Government considers most of the proposals welcome, but we would like more information about whether this EU strategy will complement or compete with European Space Agency programmes.

3.5In addition, we await further information about the clarifications the Government is seeking from the Commission, particularly in relation to compromising the civilian status of EU space programmes, such as Galileo and Copernicus, by incorporating defence matters, and in relation to the impacts on the UK space sector. Meanwhile the document remains under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents

Commission Communication: Space Strategy for Europe: (38226), 13758/16, COM(16) 705.


3.6Since the beginning of the last decade, and before the Lisbon Treaty came into effect, previous Committees reported on the evolution of a European space policy, most notably a Council Decision,16 which led to the signing of a Framework Agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency (ESA—a treaty-based organisation established entirely outside the EU, of which the UK is a founding member),17 and a Commission White Paper,18 setting out an action plan for implementing the policy. These documents were followed in May 2005 and April 2007 by two Commission Communications19 which suggested what the policy’s preliminary elements might be.

3.7In commenting on these various documents, our predecessors noted that the UK is a strong supporter of a common European space policy, but that the Government stressed the importance of a user-focused approach and expressed scepticism about the value of European involvement in launchers, space science (including the International Space Station) and future human exploration of space. It also voiced particular concern that the Commission might be seeking in this area to extend its competence to include the Common Security and Defence Policy which is a matter for Member States.

3.8As a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty, Article 189 TFEU requires a “European space policy” to be drawn up and allows establishment of an EU space programme (that does not involve harmonisation of the laws and regulations of Member States). Article 4(3) TFEU explicitly states that exercise of these EU competences does not prevent Member States exercising their competence in this area.

3.9In April 2011 the Commission presented a further Communication,20 which it suggested might lead to a legislative proposal for an EU space policy. The Commission said that an EU space policy would be an instrument serving the EU’s internal and external policies and would respond to three types of need—social, economic and strategic. It set the policy in the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the EU’s industrial policy. It rehearsed the highlights of earlier EU involvement in space projects, noting the “gradual emergence of EU competence with regard to space”.

3.10The Commission proposed that the EU space policy would seek to promote technological and scientific progress, stimulate industrial innovation and competitiveness, bring benefits to EU citizens and raise the EU’s international profile on space matters. It asserted that, in order to achieve these objectives, the EU would need to maintain independent access to space, that is European built and operated launcher vehicles such as Ariane. The accompanying impact assessment set out specific objectives for a space policy which were not repeated in the Communication:

3.11Our predecessors said that clearly this ambitious document could have significant implications for the UK. So they recommended that it be debated and suggested that Members might wish to consider particularly whether the proposals were overly ambitious, especially in relation to human space flight, the financial implications and the possible consequences for Member States’ defence interests.22 The debate took place on 23 May 2011.23

The document

3.12The Commission now presents this Communication Space Strategy for Europe, which sets out the importance of space technology and services to society and the growth of the economy, and summarises the challenges facing the EU space sector from foreign competition and rapid technological change. The Commission first:

3.13The Commission says that the challenges to the space sector include rapid and disruptive technological change and the emergence of a much more commercial approach to space, which has reduced the cost of accessing and using space-based technologies and services. It then proposes a set of initiatives to deliver four strategic goals:

3.14On maximising the benefits of space, the Commission:

3.15Turning to fostering a globally competitive and innovative European space sector, the Commission:

3.16In relation to reinforcing Europe’s autonomy in accessing and using space safely, the Commission, asserting that the EU needs to be able to act independently when it wishes to do so, for instance avoiding reliance on other countries to launch its satellites, says that it will:

3.17On strengthening the EU’s role as a global actor, the Commission, asserting that the EU must take a much stronger role on the world stage, says that it will:

3.18The Communication then has a short outline of how the Commission expects the Strategy will be delivered. It concludes:

“The potential of space for Europe and the world is enormous. Europe faces huge global challenges which require global responses.

“Europe must contribute to this collective responsibility. No single Member State can do this alone. The EU, alongside its Member States and ESA, must act as a global stakeholder to promote and preserve the use of space for future generations.

“The EU cannot afford to fall behind in this domain. It must remain in the first rank, building on Europe’s talents and expertise, capitalising on its investments and anticipating the opportunities of tomorrow.

“The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to discuss and support this strategy, and to steer its effective implementation, in close cooperation with all relevant stakeholders.”

The Government’s view

3.19In his Explanatory Memorandum of 14 November 2016 the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Joseph Johnson) first reiterates the Government standard statement that until Brexit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the EU and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force and that during this period the Government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation.

3.20Saying that the European Space Strategy is welcome, the Minister tells us that the approach of considering the broader strategic issues facing the space sector, rather than focussing purely on the EU’s own space programmes is necessary. He explains that the Strategy aligns well with the Government’s domestic objectives for the UK space sector as set out in its National Space Policy24 from 2015 where the Government:

3.21The Minister comments further that:

3.22However, the Minister says also that there are some proposals where the Government will seek further clarification. First, he tells us that:

3.23Next, the Minister says that the proposed expansion of the Space Surveillance and Tracking programme would meet identified UK needs for better information on debris in orbit and better data to improve space weather forecasting (a severe space weather event is listed in the national risk register). But he comments that it is unclear why such a system should consider cyber-threats as the Commission proposes. Thirdly, the Minister tells us that the Government will seek clarification from the Commission on the extent to which it proposes to seek synergies between civil and defence space systems. Noting that the EU’s Galileo and Copernicus programmes are specified as civil systems under civilian control, he says that the Government will seek clarification of whether the Commission is seeking to change that by adapting the programmes to meet defence user needs.

3.24Finally on the policy implications the Minister says that the Government will press the Commission for a stronger implementation for the Strategy. As for the financial implications he says that:

3.25The Minister concludes by saying that:

Previous Committee Reports


16 (24945) 12858/03: see Thirty-fifth Report, HC 63-xxxv (2002–03), chapter 13 (29 October 2003).

18 (25038) 14886/03: see Second Report, HC 42-ii (2003–04), chapter 1 (9 December 2003).

19 (26592) 9032/05: see First Report, HC 34-i (2005–06) chapter 22 (4 July 2005), Seventh Report, HC 34-vii (2005–06), chapter 7 (26 October 2005) and Twelfth Report, HC 34-xii (2005–06), chapter 13 (30 November 2005) and (28598) 9052/07 + ADDs 1–3: see Twenty-second Report, HC 41-xxii (2006–07), chapter 16 (16 May 2007).

20 (32660) 8693/11 + ADDs 1–6: see Twenty-eighth Report, HC 428-xxvi (2010–2012), chapter 1 (11 May 2011).

21 A space situational awareness system is designed to give comprehensive knowledge, understanding and maintained awareness of space objects, of the space environment and of the risk to space operations.

22 Ibid.

23 Gen. Co. Debs, European Committee C, cols. 3–14.

16 December 2016