Monday, June 30, 2003
Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security - 30th June 2003, 22.12

This is the system known as GMES, designed to provide the European Union with an independent system that would provide the Continent with greater security. In the meeting held in Athens on the 8th and 9th May 2003, Greek Defence Minister, Yiannis Papantoniou declared that the war in Iraq had spurred those who wished to unify European security policies.

"Recent events in Iraq have highlighted the importance of being able to protect our own interests. Europe must commit to a more united approach to defence and we must support closer ties between defence and industry. Space is the fourth domain in defence, multiplying our power at every other level - on land, at sea and in the air."

This fits with the calls from the European Convention for a common defence and security policy that would involve a European Agency for Armament and Strategic Research whose remit would include construction of a space based defence. The supporters of this policy include Greece, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy. The smaller they are, the louder their voice...

As Lt Colonel Alexandros Kolovos, Head of the National Centre for Space Applications at the Greek Ministry of Defence, explained, Greece has been among the loudest voices calling for the inclusion of defence aspects within the European Space Policy.

This policy has been advanced by Star21, the Aerospace Advisory Group for the European Commission. Taking note of the aerospace companies presented at this meeting demonstrates that the Nordic countries and especially Britain were not represented. The omission of BAe is very noticeable.

The industrial community, represented by speakers from Eurospace , Alcatel , Astrium , OHB Systems , Alenia Spazio and Thales , agreed that the European space industry is up to the challenge of meeting Europe's space defence requirements, including the production and operation of advanced military satellites systems.

Where does GMES fit into all this?

The GMES initiative aims to implement an integrated European approach for the collection, dissemination and analysis of space information and to co-ordinate the structures of the systems which produce space information.

The website focuses on the environmental benefits of this integrated system but, as the above meeting demonstrates, the security aspect is given more emphasis in politics than in public. Can we believe that this system is just designed to help farmers plan ahead in wartime?

Finally, GMES will make a fundamental contribution to the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) to which the EU is now clearly committed. The space tool is today essential to peacekeeping missions, such as the Union's commitment in Kosovo. In 1999, for example, an observation satellite system developed by the Commission's Joint Research Centre made it possible for the ECHO humanitarian aid agency to evaluate the impact of military operations on regional agricultural production.

Their agenda is very clear, and gratefully, the British military-industrial complex does not appear to have signed up.


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