The Space Strategy calls for making ‘greater synergies between civil and defence aspects’. Where do you see the biggest potential for such synergies?

Synergies between civil and military aspects are certainly not limited to space. They are first and foremost needed in the face of the evolution of the threats and big security challenges confronting Europe and its citizens. Crisis management, fight against terrorism and smart border management may require both civil and military assets. One of the biggest threats for defence is hybrid warfare, which calls for improved synergies between civil and military actors to be responded properly.

Nevertheless, space is an obvious candidate for civil-military synergies. As mentioned in both the Space Strategy and in the European Defence Action plan, most space technologies, infrastructure and services can serve both civil and defence objectives. Although some space capabilities have to remain under exclusive national or military control, in a growing number of areas synergies between civil use and defence can reduce costs, increase resilience, improve efficiency, and contribute to Europe's technological leadership and industrial competitiveness.

For instance, protecting European space infrastructure is a growing challenge which requires synergies between civil and military actors. The EU has developed, for the first time, a specific governance model targeting civil-military synergies, namely the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) support framework, which aims at protecting EU space Infrastructure against space debris. Based upon its success we will enhance the current EU SST services and consider comprehensive space situational awareness services addressing other threats.

The Commission, ESA and EDA are working on a new GOVSATCOM initiative, the first European, inter-institutional, dual-use effort in space and defence. Which governance principles and structure do you foresee for this strategic partnership?

You are perfectly right to stress that we are working hand in hand with the ESA and EDA on developing GOVSATCOM, and have been doing so since the very early stages of the initiative. Each institution focuses on its respective area of competence and excellence.

Together with the EEAS and ESA, we have also worked on high level user needs, which set out principles to guide further work. For instance, our requirements document demonstrates an interest in pooling the civil and military user demand and in developing joint European solutions to perform the security assessment of future GOVSATCOM services. We are not starting from scratch, many SATCOM solutions are already available both in some EU Member States' Defence organizations and among private European Satellite Operators.

Based on the users' needs and on an analysis of existing solutions, the Commission is currently conducting an impact assessment to further evaluate different governance scenarios, as well as  consulting the various stakeholders.

It is too early to anticipate the outcome of this work. But I am confident that the GOVSATCOM proposal, which we intend to present by the end of this year, will offer the most suitable solution making the best use of the existing capacities while ensuring that Governmental users have the Satellite Communications they need whenever it is required.

The Space Strategy stresses that the EU has to draw on its assets and use its space capacities to meet its security needs. In this context, how will the Commission strengthen the security dimension of Galileo and Copernicus, as called for by the Strategy? 

The Security dimension of Copernicus has undergone a significant evolution in seventeen years since its precursor, GMES initiative, has been launched. Already back in 2007 we have initiated a debate on the Security dimension of Copernicus, then called GMES, with the objective of making it a dual-use programme under civilian control. We have cooperated with EDA and opened up discussions with CFSP/CSDP communities and involved them in R&D activities. This paved the way for the t security services we have in place today: Border Surveillance, operational through FRONTEX since early 2016, Maritime Surveillance, operational through EMSA since late 2016. Additionally we are just about to start operations for the Support to EU External Actions service with SATCEN, a service specially targeted to respond to the needs of CSDP/CFSP users. 

Important technology advances are also foreseen for the next few years, including a denser network of very high resolution satellites as well as new capabilities such as streaming video and complementary observations by remote piloted aircrafts. These will reduce the current wide-gap between observation capacities and the needs of security applications.

But it is not only in the technology domain that the gap needs to be narrowed. To be effective, we also need to improve information sharing between civil and defence observations  and to promote exchange of data and know-how through collaborative research and joint operations at the international level. This is the challenge for years to come.

Galileo is a civilian programme under civil control. Having said that, Galileo has certain features which make it particularly valuable for security sensitive applications. I am referring here to the Galileo Public Regulated Service, which has been specifically developed for services where robustness and complete reliability must be ensured. I am very proud that on 15 December we declared the launch of the Galileo Initial Services, including the Public Regulated Service.

But this is only the beginning. Our next objective is to declare the availability of full services by 2020. For the Public Regulated Service this should translate into easier access to the service and its handling. In addition, we are continuously improving and reinforcing the security of the system itself. This is an important element for all users, but for users of security sensitive applications it is an additional trust factor.

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