Galileo funding: A ‘small’ difference of €700 million

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship (in the centre), attended the signature ceremony of an agreement between the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA) and European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP). The agreement was signed by Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director of the GSA (on the left), and Dirk Werquin, President of ESSP. (EC Audiovisual Services, 26/06/2013).

Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship (in the centre), attended the signature ceremony of an agreement between the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA) and European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP). The agreement was signed by Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director of the GSA (on the left), and Dirk Werquin, President of ESSP. (EC Audiovisual Services, 26/06/2013).

A ‘small’ difference of €700 million appears in the funding of the European GPS Galileo-EGNOS programme for the 2014-2020 period. After the funding of the project got the green light in the plenary of the European Parliament, the legislators issued a Press release with a reference to its cost saying, “the programme’s €6.3 billion budget for 2014-2020, at 2011 prices”. At the same time, the European GNSS Agency, overseen by the European Commission, in an article published in its Internet site, while referring to the cost, it informs its readers that, “The European Commission has welcomed today’s approval by the European Parliament of the financing and governance of two European satellite navigation programmes: Galileo and EGNOS, for the period 2014-2020. Their total budget of €7bn will be used for the completion of the satellite navigation infrastructure”.

Probably, this can be easily explained by the accountants of the GNSS Agency, presumably ascribing the difference to some part of the programme that was not included in Parliament’s discussion. It’s probably like major banks’ off balance sheet accounts, where nobody can tell what is real and surreal. In any case, this €700 million is more than 11% of the total budget and the GNSS must have been more careful while informing the MEPs (€6.3bn) on the one side and the general public on the other (€7bn). Or even worse, when it comes to billions, the millions of taxpayers money don’t play an important role!

Parliament approves

In any event the programme’s budget of seemingly €6.3bn was approved in the Parliament by 603 votes in favour to 29 against, with 59 abstentions. The Galileo programme is Europe’s initiative for a state-of-the-art global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. The fully deployed system will consist of 30 satellites and the associated ground infrastructure. Galileo will be inter-operable with the American Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS, the two other global satellite navigation systems.

EGNOS, is the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, which constitutes Europe’s first venture into the field of satellite navigation and paves the way for Galileo. EGNOS is currently operational and available for use with both an Open Service and a Safety-of-Life Service for aviation. The Service is now using four satellites and around 40 ground stations, all belonging to the Galileo programme proper.

Huge returns

Yesterday, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Marian Jean Marinescu (EPP, RO) while presenting the programme to the plenary said, “Today global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology accounts for 7% of EU GDP, but its potential is far greater. Galileo and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) will give Europe the means to build on that potential, while also ending EU’s reliance on foreign military GNSS technology”.

Concerning the potential returns to the EU economy stemming from the Galileo-EGNOS programme, the GNSS Agency states that, “From now until 2020, the EU will spend €7bn on satellite navigation. But this investment will reap considerable rewards. Independent studies show that Galileo will deliver around €90bn to the EU economy over the first 20 years of operation”.

An important aspect of the Galileo programme is that it is built and will be operated by civilian agencies. On the contrary the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS systems are developed and now operate under military control, devoting a part of their dynamic to civilian uses.

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