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Space policy

Published on January 11, 2013
Excerpts from the speech by Mme Geneviève Fioraso, Minister of Higher
Education and Research, during the CNES’s New Year greetings ceremony

Paris, January 9, 2013
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(…)

This is an opportunity for me to take stock and reflect with you on the challenges ahead.

The CNES [French space agency] made a perfect start to its second half-century, since 2012 produced impressive new successes: 10 successful launches, including the first Vega launch, and the ESA [European Space Agency] Ministerial Council in Naples, which among other things confirmed the Ariane 6 programme. (…)

France’s success is built on the various players’ convergence of efforts and in particular on its space agency, the CNES, which is unique in its kind in Europe.

It is obvious – but sometimes it’s right to state the obvious – that France does not wish to water down the CNES’s role. Europe, the ESA, the CNES – each of these echelons has relevance.

On 19 December 2012, I had the pleasure of witnessing – via link-up with Kourou, like today – Ariane 5’s last launch of the year, with all the partners who contributed to it. It was a splendid launch which I think perfectly sums up the success of this European launcher industry, which the CNES instigated and continues to be an essential player in: the success of a European adventure begun on 24 December 1979, with the first flight of the Ariane 1 rocket.

We are bound by these successes.

We have just gone through some very important times for the future of the European space industry.

Indeed, despite the tough economic context, important decisions were taken at the last ESA Ministerial Council, held in Naples on 20 and 21 November 2012. They are allowing us to map out an exciting way ahead for Europe.

In accordance with her mandate, France has given priority to sectors in which her research and manufacturing excel, in line with her space policy. We got results which consolidate an ambitious European space policy.

- a decision on Ariane 6: Ariane 6 was officially endorsed and a first phase of work for 2013-2014 was decided, with a strong synergy between an adapted Ariane 6 and adapted Ariane 5 ME. So the European launch system has been strengthened for the medium and long term;

- maintaining Europe’s level of excellence in weather and Earth observation satellites;

- strengthening the competitiveness of the European telecommunications satellite industry

- continuing a high-quality scientific programme;

- continuing to operate the ISS, while keeping the costs under control.

It was possible to achieve these results thanks to intensive work by all the European players involved – government, the CNES, the ESA and manufacturers –, demonstrating once again that the European space industry is a concrete example of a Europe that is moving forward.

I’m particularly keen to stress the exceptional quality of the work done by the ESA, the CNES, Arianespace and the manufacturers in preparing and directing this council, which, as you’ve emphasized, wasn’t a done deal.

From the Naples council, I learnt a few modest lessons for industry and the French ambition for this space industry in Europe.

If we managed to get our European partners to accept our approach – and believe me, it wasn’t easy – it’s because we stuck to a few conditions which it seems to me essential to bolster in future:

- the expertise of a complete research sector, key to positive thinking and transferral to industry, large groups, mid-cap companies, SMIs and SMEs;

- the solidarity of Team France, which acted together and whose members were able to set aside their specific interests and agree on a coherent shared project. This was the collective understanding that prevailed in Naples;

- anticipating the future and always remaining ahead of the game, because we’re in a world of rapid transformations with a very changing market;

- a concern to protect and develop employment and industrial expertise, through a search for solutions avoiding breaks in production and job insecurity;

- building a unifying project for France and Europe. (…)

The space industry is an example from which the major industrial sectors can usefully take inspiration. Thanks to the spread of state-of-the-art technologies in many industrial sectors, it contributes to the country’s recovery through innovation and quality-based competitiveness.

The EU’s increasing power in the space field is a major asset. We desire and support it, while seeking to clarify the different players’ roles in governance. Discussions have begun – on the part of both the ESA, at its council in Naples, and the EU, at the Competitiveness Council of 12 December. They will have to continue in 2013.

The national component of France’s civil space activity comes within the CNES’s “multilateral” programme and that of the Future Investment Plan. It’s been possible to maintain the annual subsidy in the “multilateral” programme at a very substantial level, despite the tough economic context – a sign of the government’s strong interest in the industry. (…)./.

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