Opening speech by EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin on April 7, 2004
I am delighted to have this chance to speak in front of you today. I would first like to take this opportunity to thank our hosts and specifically Mr. Songde, Vice Minister of Science and Technology and Mr. Sun Laiyan, Vice Administrator of the China National Space Administration.
I also appreciate the interest expressed by representatives from the European and Chinese space organizations and industry who have joined us for this timely and important event.
Relations between China and Europe go back a long way. Over time, they have evolved in constructive and meaningful sectorial cooperation.
Today we are here to formally assess the feasibility to establish a new dialogue between China and Europe on Space.
The first contacts regarding space activities between Europe and China actually date back to the late 1970s. In 1993, Europe began cooperating with Chinese research and space institutions; the recent success of the Double Star Program that CNSA has successfully led with the support of ESA appears to be a good illustration.
The remains room for improvement, to build upon the previous fragmented experiences.
The stakes are great, but only equalled by the opportunities that are opening to us today.
Indeed, the presence of the various European actors today at the workshop confirms the interest to set up an overarching dialogue.
Europe, through the European Union and ESA, considers this partnership central and necessary.
Successful collaborations in space have already proved to be "win-win" situations, and more must be done to develop our ties.
I believe this visit is important, or should I say timely, in many respects.
First, because the People's Republic of China has recently reached new boundaries in space by successfully sending a first man in space.
Second, because the December launch of the Double Star satellite has illustrated how Europe and China can successfully work together.
Finally, because the European space landscape has greatly evolved this passed year.
Recent Chinese success in space
The People's Republic of China will soon celebrate 50th anniversary of the birth of its space program (1956). And there is much to mention in our country's successes: from the "Dongfanghong-I" satellite (1970) to more recent successes in scientific, earth observation, navigation and telecommunications efforts such as the successful launch of Shenzhou.
The cement of Sino-European cooperation in space
China has set out an ambitious program for its space activities, where applications as well as science play a key role, and where industry is appropriately regarded as a cornerstone of national efforts to modernize and support a flourishing and competitive economy.
The aims of this space policy, as described in your November 2000 White Paper, are largely in accordance with our own policy orientations in Europe:
- space applications that will have a positive impact on our citizen's welfare, meeting their demands, and supporting our economies.
- space exploration like the European AURORA program that stimulates technology development and scientific knowledge.
This can be the cement of our future partnership.
Europe and China have concluded, in 1998, the S/T Agreement, which opened cooperation schemes and financing through our Framework Programs.
Although this Agreement is approaching the end of this initial term, I am convinced that we will renew and reinforce this partnership even further.
Another significant field, of course, is our cooperation on Galileo. The signing in September 2003 of a Framework Agreement between China and the European Union on its participation to the Galileo program is yet another confirmation of the reinforced links between Europe and China in space.
Concrete joint validation campaigns have started.
With respect to earth observation, Chinese research institutions (University and Academy of Science) and the European Commission services already cooperate on forest monitoring, global land cover and oceanography.
Recent European space policy developments:
You are already aware that the European Union and with the technical support of the European Space Agency has issued a White Paper on the development of an extended space policy for Europe.
In many respects, I believe this evolution was necessary and that the White Paper is just a first step.
ESA will act as an implementing agency for the development and procurement of the space and ground segments associated with such initiatives; this agency will also provide the European Union with access to the relevant technical expertise available in Europe, though the coordination of the development and operation of an integrated network of technical centers.
The Commission will represent the authority establishing the necessary political, international and regulatory conditions for space activities, in line with and in support of EU policies; act as an animator to catalyse research and development efforts of all European actors.
It will bring together all actors and competencies around common political objectives in projects of a European-wide interest (concretely articulated in initiatives with a Community dimension such as GALILEO or GMES).
ESA will be responsible for the supply side, and the EU for the demand side of European space activities.
The White paper on space is a central policy document as it:
- Calls for increased budgetary efforts, based on programs for the benefits of European citizens;
- Sets the course for a European Space Program and urgent initiatives: access to space, bridging the Digital Divide, GMES, Galileo, Science, etc.
- Opens the door for more security applications.
- Calls for international cooperation.
To implement the White Paper, the European Community and ESA have recently concluded a Famework Agreement.
This document sets the legal basis for the institutional cooperation between the different actors in Europe in support of the implementation of the first phase of the White Paper.
Regarding telecommunication technologies, the aim is:
- to support relevant EU policies and the international community's commitments in the context of the World Summit on Information Society;
- to use Information and Communication Technologies to "turn the digital divide into a digital opportunity for all".
In this sense, Europe is deeply committed to the principles that were adopted at the last World Summit on information Society in Geneva and more specifically to guarantee one's ability to access in order to build an inclusive Information Society.
I believe that this is one of the foremost challenges Europe and the world will face in this dawning Millennium and could actually find a first practical application in China with, for example, the country-wide broadcast of next Olympic Games for all citizens to enjoy.
What the future holds
The EU will present by the end of the year, a European Space Program.
Before concluding let me again emphasise the importance of Europe and China working together on earth-related space applications such as Earth Observation (specifically with respect to natural disaster management and desertification), to which the upcoming Dragon Symposium is a testimony, as well as in satellite communications.
Finally, the European Commission, together with the GEO Summit to be held in Brussels in February 2005, will organise an international space conference gathering all space-faring nations in order for us to introduce the objectives of the European Space Program and in order to discuss cooperation possibilities with third parties. I would personally invite you to examine how China could contribute concretely to that event.
There is no question that space is a dream shared by everyone around the world. It is its strength, and our pledge as decision-makers must be that space shall remain a sphere of peaceful cooperation, for the benefit of all, as our Sino-European relations have already demonstrated. It is time for us to take this cooperation further. I remain confident that we will.
(China.org.cn April 7, 2004)