French Economy minister Bruno Le Maire stated that Europe must stand together to compete with China and the US in space.
According to Le Maire, Europe has to increase its strategic autonomy in order to challenge countries like the United States and China.
The minister said that governments need to invest in “independent access to space” as ministers amongst the 22 nation members of the European Space Agency gathered in Paris to finalize a record-breaking €18.5 billion budget for the next five years.
Although Europe’s distinct satellite systems help track climate change and provide geolocation services, the EU is unable to launch astronauts into space or provide services like satellite communications.
The European Space Agency’s summit is taking place at the Grand Palais Éphémère, beside the iconic Eiffel Tower, as NASA’s test flight circles the moon in preparation for returning humans to the lunar surface this decade.
The event will feature discussions on funding for a variety of initiatives, including research, weather satellites that track global wind streams and additional funding for a safe and secure satellite communication system recommended by the European Commission.
However, the bargaining is taking place amid skyrocketing inflation, which puts space spending in public focus. Le Maire stated that his government intends to fulfil fresh budget demands from ESA. “There is a price to pay for independence and we stand ready to pay the price”, he added.
France traditionally leads Europe in aerospace, but at the most recent ESA summit, Germany overtook France as the biggest single contributor.
Le Maire and his counterparts from Germany and Italy, Adolfo Urso and Robert Habeck, reached an agreement to contribute to the funding of the delayed Ariane 6 and Vega C rocket systems, which are to be launched from French Guiana.
The agreement heads off differences among the three nations over the most effective way to advance rocket technology. “This is a very good starting point for Europe and for the space ambitions that we all want to share and move on over the next years”, Le Maire said.