Edgar Thielmann, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport European Commission
11 Jan 2013
37th Floor conference room, Delegation of the European Union to Singapore 250 North Bridge Road #37-01 Raffles City Tower, Singapore 179101
3.30 – 5.00pm
The launch of a global navigation satellite system like the European Union’s Galileo programme naturally attracts much interest not just because of its technological wonders but the strategic significance. Equally complex but easier to gloss over is the flurry of policy making activity typically accompanying the launch of a scientific project like Galileo.
In his policy briefing in Singapore, Edgar Thielmann,Advisor to the Galileo Programme, and placed within the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, shared some of the promises of Galileo, as well as some of the challenges of realising a uniquely civilian purpose-built satellite system under civilian control.
Currently in between the ‘development’ and ‘deployment’ stage, the early services of the Galileo programme will roll out in 2014 (the ‘exploitation’ stage). Besides an ‘open service’ for general use, an encrypted form of public-regulated service and a commercial service which will not be disrupted in crisis situations will also be available soon. Unlike the Egnos (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) system which is regional, the Galileo system is a global one akin to the Global Positioning Service (GPS) offered by the Americans. Furthermore, Galileo would improve the accuracy of positioning systems for Europe to under four metres.
The history of cooperation behind the Galileo programme has not been free from difficulties. In his candid explanations, Mr Thielmann spoke of the public-private partnership ventures mooted at the start of the programme, which eventually failed. Having decided to go ahead with Galileo, Mr Thielmann said the European Commission started to fund the programme completely with tax payers’ money from 2008, to support what he described as a widely-supported public good. Even though this period coincided with the onset of the global financial crisis and, eventually, the European sovereign debt crises, support for Galileo has not wavered. This has been due to a consensus across the EU that the Galileo programme presents a much needed investment in innovation, which would go a long way in helping Europe grow out of its current economic and financial difficulties.
There was early opposition such as from the United States too. Eventually, agreements with the US for the compatibility of the Galileo system with the GPS helped smoothen the genesis of the former. Countries as diverse as China,replica handbags Israel and Morocco are also scientific and investment partners in cooperation in the programme, though not in decision making.