Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Lord Bach, Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 19 December 2005[66] regarding defence and security aspects of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative.

  As you know, Defra is the policy lead on GMES, but we have worked closely with FCO and MoD on the security aspects of the initiative. We will continue to work closely as GMES develops.

  In terms of the security aspects of GMES, our focus is very much ensuring that these activities remain in the civil arena and I offer more detail on this in my answers to the questions that you raised.

  The Commission has assured Defra that GMES is intended as a civilian system for civilian purposes and under civilian control. "A Report from the Panel of Experts on Space and Security" (March 2005), which the Commission cites in its GMES 2005 Communication, COM (2005) 565, provides an idea of the type of GMES functions. These are likely to include, in the area of security, viewing disaster areas, tracking population movements and border movements and observing terrorists. We are monitoring this issue closely and are drawing up a strategy to direct GMES towards those civil functions where it can be most useful.

  The European Defence Agency has not played a role in the development of GMES. A body under the second pillar of the European Union will be necessary to co-ordinate GMES' role on security issues. But the UK does not believe the EDA is appropriate for this because it only has a military remit.

The ESDP and Space report adopted by the Council in November 2004 does not explore the possible uses of GMES for ESDP operations in any detail. The report simply states:

    "On the civilian security side, significant steps have been taken by the European Communities to include security objectives in civilian space programmes, as illustrated by the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)."

  This underlines that GMES is designed for civilian purposes.

  As outlined above, GMES is a civil system. As with other civilian technology, the EU may draw on the information it provides for European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) crisis management operations. We anticipate that in some circumstances, such as disaster relief missions, the images received from GMES for civilian purposes may also be used by the military. MOD may wish to make use of GMES in a similar way. The UK would oppose the system being under military control or being tasked to serve the military directly. No one has proposed this.

  The EU Satellite Centre (SatCen) is mandated to support the ESDP decision making process by providing analysis of commercial satellite imagery. It has been used for activities such as post-disaster impact assessments and monitoring illegal crops. Currently there are no links between SatCen and GMES. The UK is not opposed in principle to SatCen using information provided by GMES for ESDP purposes.

  At the ESA Ministerial on 5-6 December 2005, the UK subscribed £6.23 million over three years to the ESA GMES Space Component Programme, with contributions from Defra, DTI and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The subscription allows the UK to join the ESA GMES programme and influence its development.

  The first phase of the ESA GMES Space Component Programme is funded by ESA Member States, but it is expected that the European Commission will contribute to the funding of subsequent phases. Commission activities on GMES have so far been funded through the EU's Framework Programme 6 for Research and Technological Development and it is expected that this funding will be continued in Framework Programme 7. However, the level of this funding will be subject to further negotiation of the Financial Perspectives 2007-13. As GMES transitions into the operational domain there will be a need to identify appropriate Commission budgets to fund operational activities in the long-term and the UK is working with the Commission and other EU Member States to develop an appropriate governance structure for GMES.

  I will, of course, keep you informed of further developments.

25 January 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Bach

  Thank you for your letter dated 25 January 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 2 February. The Sub-Committee was broadly satisfied with your reassurances concerning the potential military use of GMES and has now agreed to clear the Commission Communication from scrutiny.

  However, we would like clarification on one point. You note in your letter that "A body under the second pillar of the European Union will be necessary to coordinate GMES' role on security issues" but that you do not believe the EDA to be appropriate for this role. Will this proposed body be a new body, or will the role be given to another existing body? If new, why is it necessary to establish a new body purely for this one purpose? What will be the precise remit of this body, and where will it be placed within the current Council or Commission structures?

3 February 2006

Letter from Lord Bach to the Chairman

  I am writing in response to your letter of 3 February 2006 requesting further information on which body would be responsible for the coordination of GMES' role on security issues.

  The UK does not believe there is a need for a new Pillar II body specifically to co-ordinate GMES' role on security issues. The UK thinks that the existing EU Political and Security Committee (PSC) should provide political guidance on this. The PSC is composed of national representatives at the ambassadorial level and deals with all aspects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy including the European Security and Defence Policy.

1 March 2006

66   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp 296-297. Back

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