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By [email protected] - 17th September 2008 - 11:05

European Commission vice-President Günter Verheugen announced the new brand name for the European GMES Programme (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) programme â Kopernikus - at the GMES 2008 Lille forum on 16 September 2008. But what does this signify - what is in a name?
Why \"Kopernikus\"?Nikolaus Kopernikus was a famous astronomer born in the Hanseatic city of Thorn, (today Toruń), who greatly advanced the science of astronomy in his time by postulating that the Earth revolves around the Sun. His works and the current initiative therefore have a fundamental objective in common: improving the knowledge about our planet. Moreover, Kopernikus was a true European. It is therefore appropriate to use his name for an initiative that will be implemented within a partnership which includes the EU, its Member States and others.What is Kopernikus (formerly GMES)?Much was made of Kopernikus as being the âsecond flagship of the European Space Policy following Galileo, the first flagship.â While all partners of the initiative expressed strong political support for Kopernikus, the real decisions on its near term future will be made at the 5th Space Council in Brussels at the end of September 2008 â especially in relation to the additional 1.2 billion euro funding that vice-President Günter Verheugen announced in his opening address. No one expects the Space Council to take any decisions that will negatively impact on Kopernikus at that meeting â since the space industry needs Kopernikus just as much as do the several user communities identified in the five service sectors, i.e. land information, oceans, atmosphere, risks, climate change and security.Several presentations at the GMES 2008 forum stressed the âpublic needâ nature of these services, including those by senior EC and ESA officials, underpinning more strongly the call for public funds to be used in moving from pre-operational to full operational service satus, capable of long-term sustainability. A parallel was drawn between the GALILEO GNSS system as providing a needed public service for positioning, with Kopernikus operational services serving a range of information services for the public good.Yet the question of true long-term sustainability has not been answered and includes some difficult data policy issues not yet fully elucidated let alone agreed with all actors and stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. Certainly where private companies are the operators of these services, either now at pre-operational stage or later, when full operations start (2011-2013), questions of payment for the raw data arise. Industry, of course, feels that the data should be made freely available, as has often been the case during the GMES Pilot projects and some pre-operational services. The true test of how much European politicians â especially Member State governments â feel about long-term sustainability of Kopernikus will come when the next financing round of discussions take place for EU funding, post-2013.In the meantime, there are other parallels that could be drawn with GALILEO, regarding funding, which saw a prolonged battle between programme supporters, industry and EU funders - over a shortfall of 2.4 billion euro in the GALILEO budget at this time last year. Two-thirds of that amount was to have come from private industry â but then did not materialise. To keep the programme alive, the EU then agreed to provide an additional cash input of 1.7 billion euro - by diverting unused farm subsidies from the 2007 budget and re-working research and industrial spending.At Lille, the European Commission (EC) stressed ESAâs role as coordinator of the Kopernikus Space Component with its development and procurement role for the Sentinel Satellite series, as well as its role of coordinator for contributing missions by Member States and other relevant partners of Kopernikus, such as the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). Over the last 30 years, ESA has been developing Earth Observation satellites, notably all the European meteorological satellites in cooperation with EUMETSAT, but also the ERS-1, -2 and Envisat satellites, which are mostly oriented to perform measurements relevant for environmental and climate research. ESA is now developing five new âSentinelâ missions that will feature radar and multi-spectral imaging as well as ocean and atmospheric monitoring capacities. The industrial phase of the first three of the five satellites is already underway. The European Commissionâs role in GMES has been one of coordinating research and pilot projects from the information user side, mainly by funding provided within the EUâs Research and Technology Development (RTD) Framework programmes, FP6 and now FP7. The EC maintains a special GMES Bureau within DG Enterprise, launched in 2006, with a pan-Commission role, with staff drawn from several Directorates-General, including users of GMES services, such as the Agriculture and Rural Development, and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs DGs. One important goal of the Bureau is âto federate user needs, define the overall strategy for GMES and ensure coherence between objectives and resources of GMESâ, according to Valère Moutarlier, head of the EC-GMES Bureau, who describes GMES/Kopernikus as being âuser-drivenâ, hence the focus on determining what the user needs are, both inside (and thus for) the Commission and for Europe as a whole.The Bureau is guided by a Steering Committee comprising users such as the Directorates-General for Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, External Relations, Development, Humanitarian Aid Office, European Aid Cooperation Office, Energy and Transport, Justice Freedom and Security, Regional Policy, Taxation and Customs Union, Anti-fraud Office but also Directorates-General for Research, Information Society and the Joint Research Centre. An important role for the Bureau is to understand the needs of different EU policies for the fine-tuning and evolution of GMES/Kopernikus services, which generate information in support of those policies.Who is Kopernikus for?Not surprisingly, given the size and complexity of Kopernikus - as an initiative, a programme and a collection of projects and services â some confusion remains to outside observers (including this journalist!) as to just what Kopernikus is, what goals it serves â and for whom? For the space industry, represented by ESA and various industry groups, Kopernikus/GMES provides the rationale for building, launching and operating ever more space-based sensor platforms. For the in situ sensor development industry, Kopernikus is equally important, and for the same reason, i.e. to spur innovation and development of new technology, and help fund its deployment and operation. For industry, Kopernikus will hopefully create new employment opportunities and provide services for safer and more efficient operations in a number of sectors â agriculture, marine pollution and transport, etc. In regard to its âpublic serviceâ goals â and providing support to the European Commission in policy implementation â Kopernikus services are intended to ensure a better quality of life for European citizens in regard to climate change, environmental management, public security and safety, etc.Photo credit: CNES - Fabien Ploegaerts.

Author: Roger Longhorn

Bio.: Editor, GEO:connexion International

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