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2023: a crucial year to deliver on our European space ambitions | Speech by Commissioner Thierry Breton

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After a successful 2022 for our space activities where we went from ideas to concrete achievements, 2023 will be a crucial year to deliver on our European space ambitions at an equally fast pace.

Let me highlight four pillars for our action in the next months:

First, on IRIS², our new flagship programme for space based secured connectivity.

Upon completion of the legislative phase in a month's time, we will move immediately to the implementation phase by launching the procurement process. 

Let me highlight some elements that will drive our procurement approach: 

IRIS² will be based on a governmental backbone infrastructure designed to serve our public service, security and defence needs.

At the same time, IRIS², through a public-private partnership, will enable the development of innovative European commercial services.

We are therefore looking for private partners ready to go new, innovative ways, not just using off-the-shelf solutions.

We will set those requirements making sure that consortia involve stakeholders beyond the usual space ecosystem, including downstream sector players; and associate SMEs and start-ups from the NewSpace and Digital worlds.

I therefore call upon our industries (you) to mobilise adequate investments, build functional alliances and submit the best offers.

The Commission stands ready and will engage to steer this process.

Second pillar, innovation.

For Europe in space to remain a success story, we need to ensure flexibility, agility and real innovation in the way we invest and procure.

CASSINI is running at full speed to turn Europe into the hub of space entrepreneurship. We have already supported more than 100 space-tech start-ups. Today, we establish a European Space Stock Index to attract additional private capital. We have also mobilized the EU financial community: EIC, EIF, EIB. We act as one team with ESA and EUSPA in support of the NewSpace ecosystem.

We also change the way we do procurement. Speed, agility and risk-taking to reduce dependencies and enhance performance. This is what we will achieve in acting as anchor customer and onboarding NewSpace companies.

We have started with Copernicus with 9 NewSpace companies to become suppliers of Copernicus Contribution Missions data, receiving 5-year contracts, with a value of €5M each.

We will also leverage IRIS² to onboard NewSpace companies.

With the flight ticket initiative, we will soon pre-book launch services from New launcher systems to boost the development of new solutions.

When it comes to Galileo, we are launching the entry into service of the new Galileo High Accuracy Service, feeding a prosperous market for innovative applications – from farming to drone navigation and autonomous driving.

Third pillar, towards the first EU Space & Defence strategy

Space is a contested area, and a strategic domain for our security and defence, where space assets are not immune to threats.

In the current geopolitical context, we need to enhance the Union's strategic posture to be able to defend our interests, protect our space systems and services and become a more assertive space power.

Together with the Josep Borrell, I will therefore table an EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence in March, based on four pillars:  

an EU-wide resilience and security framework for EU, national and commercial space systems; A strengthened capacity for the Union's ability to respond to threats

An enhanced use of space for security and defence operations, for instance through new Earth Observation and Space Situational Awareness services; and an intensified cooperation with global partners, notably NATO.

Fourth pillar is about an EU space law to put in place common rules on safety, security & sustainability of our space operations.

Ten Member States have already started to regulate space operations. We face the risk of diverging national rules with a negative impact on the competitiveness of our industry, as well as on our security.

We need for instance, common rules on collision avoidance, safety and mitigation measures, threats assessment, resilience requirement and a zero-debris approach.

This would be the “single-market moment” of space. It will build a European level-playing-field based on EU standards. This is ambitious yes. But I am convinced that this is the only way to ensure that future generations will enjoy all benefits from access to space services.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our space agenda for 2023 is very ambitious. I count on the European parliament, the Member States (both the Swedish and Spanish Presidency) as well as the whole European space community to mobilise so we can continue to build a true European space power.

Your discussions over the next two days will make an important contribution in this regard.


Thank you


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