Transport ministers seek clarity on Galileo funding
The European Union’s transport ministers have asked the European Commission to justify its request for almost €2 billion more for the Galileo satellite system.
Antonio Tajani, the European commissioner for industry, said in January that a further €1.9bn would be needed to make the global satellite navigation system operational, on top of €3.4bn earmarked from the 2007-13 EU budget.
The €1.9bn sum needs to “be more thoroughly substantiated”, transport ministers stated in a communiqué, which was agreed unanimously at a meeting in Brussels this morning (31 March). The ministers also urged the Commission to identify potential savings and take action to avoid future cost overruns.
The final cost of the Galileo project has been moving upwards ever since it was first conceived as a way for Europe to compete with the United States’s Global Positional System. Although the ministers re-stated their support for Galileo to allow the EU “to compete in the global space technology market” and “achieve autonomy” from other systems, approval of the extra funding has been deferred until the EU discusses its next multi-annual budget later in the year.
Pál Völner, Hungary’s minister of state for infrastructure, who chaired today’s meeting, said: “The Galileo programme is at a crossroads and we must make important decisions about its future.”
According to one official, the Council of Ministers is unlikely to refuse extra money, because the project is already under way. “In general member states accept this [€1.9bn] figure, but they want to make sure there won’t be more cost overruns in the future,” the official said.
The Commission hopes that a first set of 18 satellites will be in orbit in 2014, providing services to police, border control authorities and search-and-rescue teams – a deadline set out as recently as January in a mid-term review of the project. However, today’s ministerial conclusions refer to “initial operational capability in 2014/2015”, suggesting that the launch could be further delayed.
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