Conferentie "Space for Europe, European Space in the World": toespraak van minister Reynders

Space for Europe, European Space in the World

H.E. Didier Reynders
Deputy Prime Minister,  Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and of Defence

22 January 2019
Egmont Palace


Didier Reynders

Dear Commissioner Bienkowska,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the onset, I would like to welcome you all to the Egmont Palace. I am delighted to see so many of you here today.

I would like to thank Business Bridge Europe, and Mrs. Vanderauwera, for her and her colleagues’ relentless efforts to bring together policy-makers, industry and the scientific community to discuss the ambition of Europe to fully take part in this fascinating journey which is Outer Space.

A few months ahead of the European – and Belgian – elections, this year’s 11th annual conference comes at a critical time for Europe’s role in the Outer Space. 

Today we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. It is dramatically changing our ability to respond to global challenges. Outer Space plays a central role in defining our capacity to successfully shape this revolution.

At the same time, the competition in Outer Space is rapidly increasing. New players are bringing new opportunities, such as the change of the economics of launchers. But new players also bring new challenges and threats, both in terms of quantity and diversity.

More than ever, it will therefore be critical for our continent to reaffirm our place in Space, and reach for the highest possible level of ambition.

The European Space Strategy of 2016 is a landmark. Yet it can only be a starting point. We need to show the ambition to match the Strategy with credible financial resources. If we want to get all scientific, economic and human opportunities from Outer Space, Europe needs open access and a strategic autonomy to act in Space.

Europe has already started to pave the way forward. We have put in place a Space surveillance and tracking program to face the growing space debris problem. We have introduced a code of conduct to strengthen security and sustainability in Outer Space. But we need to go further.

In close cooperation with ESA, the next Commission needs to continue the path paved under the leadership of Commissioner Bienkoswka and High Representative Mogherini. Our common achievements demonstrate that only the pooling of efforts, talents, knowledge, technological innovations and financial resources we will be able to sustain large-scale programs. No Member State can meet these challenges alone.

Just a few months ago, the launch by France of CSO - the Composante Spatiale Optique - is yet another illustration of effective European cooperation in the pursuit of an autonomous strategic capacity. It is one of the most advanced satellites ever launched, contributing to our common security. Belgium has made important contributions to CSO’s development and we are strongly committed to continue to its successful operation. To further support our strategic autonomy, Belgium is committed to strengthen the Space security cluster in Redu. These engagements reflect a changing reality where Space is more and more integrated in security operations, including with our NATO allies.

Indeed, since the 1960s, Belgium has made important contributions to the development of Europe’s space community. We have one of the highest global investment ratio per capita in the Space sector. We remain at the forefront of the development of launching equipment and satellites, as well as applications to monitor our planet. To sustain such contributions it is critical for Belgium to strengthen its governance structures for the Space sector, so we can respond more effectively to the structural changes the industry is undergoing.

But ultimately, national ambition can only lead to real success when the EU fully integrates Space in its international action, and when it is proactively engaged in global discussions about the way we govern Outer Space.

In 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first UN Outer Space Conference. It was an important opportunity to renew our commitment to this common cause. Belgium has participated actively in the first UN Conference on Space Law and Policy which took place a few months ago in Moscow. Together with our European partners, we have the ambition to participate more strongly in these discussions to work together towards an international framework recognizing both individual rights and collective interests in the exploration, utilization and exploitation of space resources.

Our common action also need to fully embrace the promotion of the New Space Economy. It holds a tremendous potential to support the creation of jobs, growth and investments in Europe. We need to use our trade tools to strengthen access to global markets, to ensure a global level playing field, and to promote regulatory convergence. We need to support investment, in particular from the private sector, towards developing and implementing technological and financial solutions. It needs to enable the exploration, the utilization and the exploitation of space resources for peaceful purposes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let there be no doubt about our ambition to continue making a difference in Outer Space.

That is why it so essential to keep Outer Space high on our agenda.

I can assure you that Belgium will continue to support your efforts at this important moment for your sector. [After all, what else could you expect of a country that celebrates in 2019 the 90th anniversary of Tintin, the first man to walk on the moon in 1954?]

To conclude, I have one last request. I would like to call upon all of you, where possible, to facilitate more young people to join the cause of Space.

Outer Space is as much about policy, research, business and the development of hard capabilities, as it is about competences and human capital. Young people’s openness and curiosity, and their creativity will be critical to help our continent addressing global challenges, and sustain your daily efforts into the future.

The concretization of all of these ambitions will be at the heart of debates today and tomorrow. I wish you insightful and productive discussions !

Thank you for your attention.

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