July 1st marks the start of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union. As the host country of the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), it’s safe to say that space will play a key role in achieving some of the presidency’s top priorities.
The Council presidency rotates among the EU Member States every six months. During this time, it chairs meetings at every level in the Council, helping ensure the continuity of the EU's work in the Council.
With the Czech Presidency starting in the midst of growing global instability, it will use the next half year to focus on strengthening Europe’s defence capabilities and cybersecurity. As to the former, the presidency aims to pay particular attention to reducing the EU’s technological dependence on third-party countries and enhancing the EU’s own capacity for building disruptive technologies. As to the latter, the Czech Presidency plans to reinforce the Union’s cybersecurity infrastructure.
At the centre of both is the EU Space Programme.
EU Space for European autonomy
At the heart of the EU Space Programme is European autonomy. Before Galileo, GNSS users depended on other countries’ satellite signals. With Galileo, Europeans now have a reliable alternative that remains under civil control.
This is important as satellite positioning has become an essential service that is often taken for granted. Just think what would happen if GNSS signals were suddenly switched off. Truck and taxi drivers, ship and aircraft crews and millions of people around the world would suddenly be lost. Furthermore, financial and communication activities, public utilities, security and humanitarian operations and emergency services would all come to a standstill.
Galileo helps minimise the risk of any of this happening.
EUSPA answers the cybersecurity challenge
While the EU Space Programme has given the European Union a new level of autonomy and independence, by no means does this make it immune to cyberattacks. As the number of critical services and everyday devices that depend on satellite-based data continues to increase, so too does the cybersecurity risk.
Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of space data against cyber threats is a challenge that EUSPA takes very seriously. In addition to its service provision, EUSPA also serves as the security gatekeeper of the EU Space Programme – a role that includes, amongst other things, keeping Europe’s GNSS signals secure.
Building an even more robust EU Space Programme
Because security is such a critical issue, and one that space is playing an increasingly bigger role in, the EU is developing several new security-oriented, space-related initiatives. One of those is GOVSATCOM.
As the fourth pillar of the EU Space Programme, GOVSATCOM bridges the gap between the need for assured and secure communication and the capabilities already offered by Copernicus, Galileo and EGNOS. A user-centric programme, GOVSATCOM is designed to meet the unique requirements of governmental applications, including those used for crisis management, surveillance and the management of key infrastructures. The programme will provide a means of communication that is robustly protected against interference, interception, intrusion and other risks.
EUSPA has been entrusted with procuring the secure operational ground segment, its operations and the coordination of the user-related aspects of GOVSATCOM, all in close collaboration with Member States and other involved entities.
Complementing GOVSATCOM and the rest of the EU Space Programme is the EU’s Secure Connectivity Initiative. This new asset is set to provide secure communication services to the EU and its Member States, as well as offer a new level of connectivity for European citizens, private companies and governmental authorities. The initiative will build a resilient, ultra-secure space- and ground-based system that will put an end to dead zones and offer high-speed broadband to everyone in Europe and even some areas of Africa.
With the addition of the Secure Connectivity Initiative and GOVSATCOM, the EU and the Czech Presidency continue to ramp up Europe’s own space resources and infrastructure, strengthening its sovereignty and security.
EUSPA looks forward to working with the Czech Presidency. Together, we can leverage the many benefits of the EU Space Programme to keep European citizens and interests safe and secure.
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