The European Commission has recently released a communication on the ‘EU Space Industrial Policy’, which is driven by the need to ensure cost-efficiency and competitiveness at global level and encourage economic growth in line with the Europe 2020 strategy: a ten-year growth strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy recognising the contribution of the space industry. Within the communication, one of the issues of greatest interest to industry is that the European Commission proposes the development of new Regulations to strengthen the European space market.
The European Commission adopted its Communication on Industrial Policy in 2010, with a specific chapter devoted to space policy. Following on from this, the conclusions of the May 2011 Competitiveness Council confirmed that a space industrial policy should be drawn up to promote a competitive space industry in Europe. By December 2011 the Competitiveness Council had underlined:
“the need to examine whether appropriate measures may be necessary at European and international level to guarantee the sustainability and economic development of space activities.”
The European Commission has therefore just released a draft EU Space Industrial Policy (Draft Policy) to support the development of the sector and encourage economic growth. The policy will be centred on five objectives:
- establishment of a coherent regulatory framework;
- development of a competitive, solid, efficient and balanced industrial European base supporting SME participation;
- support for the worldwide competitiveness of the European space industry;
- development of markets for space applications and services; and
- ensuring technological non-dependence and independent access to space.
Measures envisaged for the space industrial policy – development of space regulations
The measures envisaged by the European Commission are set out in the Annex to the Draft Policy. The measure of most influence on industry operators is perhaps the first objective – “Improving the Regulatory framework for the service segment and the manufacturing sector”.
The European Commission notes that it may be:
“necessary to take steps towards the establishment of a coherent EU space regulatory framework to untap the potential of an internal market for space by filling legal gaps in a coherent way, preventing diverging national legal frameworks, safeguarding national and European security interests”.
The European Commission suggests that the expansion of space activities and the growing market for space products and services raise legal issues which are not being fully addressed at European level and are only partly addressed at national level by a few Member States through national laws. The measures envisaged by the Commission are to:
“propose a Directive on certain aspects that have an impact on the emergence of a single market for space products and services such as: obligation of insurance, registration and authorisation of space activities, sanctions, environmental issues”, and “propose a Regulation on EU GNSS third party liability”.
The European Commission also notes that EU intervention needs to be assessed in relation to dual-use export control, spectrum policy and commercial spaceflight. Further measures proposed in the policy include: monitoring the impact of the 2009 EC Regulation which sets up a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items; analysis of measures and good practices developed by Member States to support access to international markets; promotion of the use of space-based applications in EU policies; and expanding the array and the use of available financial instruments by exploring possibilities to facilitate access to finance, especially by SMEs.
The Annex to the Draft Policy includes several other measures to achieve the five main objectives. However, it is the proposed Directive and Regulation which would seem to have the greatest impact on industry operators. Although unharmonised national legislation and regulatory frameworks may have an adverse affect on operators, the proposed EU legislation could prove to be restrictive. It is therefore important that the Directive and Regulation prove to be in the interests of the industry rather than simply an additional layer of bureaucracy. Industry members would therefore be advised to liaise with their national regulator and industry body to ensure that any such regulations are in the best interests of the European space industry.