The European Commission is planning to come up with a legislative proposal,in 2022 to build an EU space-based global secure connectivity system. That was one of the key announcements during the EU Space Conference on 10 November 2021, which brought together key players from the European Commission, the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the European Parliament, Eurospace, the European Satellite Operators’ Association (ESOA) and space-related SMEs (the Young European Enterprises Syndicate Space).
“Connectivity is a major structural change. It will condition our economic power and digital sovereignty and societal resilience. Europe must not be left behind. It is imperative that the EU launches its own highly connected initiative,” said Thierry Breton, the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market in relation to the defence industry and space.
The system, known as the ‘EU Secure Connectivity Initiative’, will be designed to provide reliable, secure and cost-effective governmental connectivity that supports protection of critical infrastructures (energy, health, data centres…), external actions and crisis management (incl. humanitarian aid), maritime and air space surveillance, etc.; and enable high-speed broadband availability throughout Europe, removing dead zones and ensuring cohesion across Member State territories and addressing digital inequalities in view of a fully functioning Single Market.
Citing many areas, including government services, commercial services, crisis management and border surveillance, Commissioner Breton made the point that “reliable and resilient fully secured connectivity has become an imperative”.
It represents the third pillar in the EU space programme, complementing Galileo/EGNOS satellite navigation systems and the Copernicus Earth observation system, and will ensure that the EU maintains its global space leadership.
The system will be crucial in helping the EU to communicate in a way that prevents others from eavesdropping or intercepting information that is vital, sensitive and confidential to the and its Member States. This will be done via highly secure connectivity and communication technologies for governmental and commercial services, based on quantum encryption.
It will also provide protection against cyber-attacks on the internet and hybrid threats, and will keep the continent connected, including during attacks to or reduced performance of terrestrial infrastructures. Other objectives include better connecting key infrastructure, and supporting crisis management, surveillance and potential mass-market broadband applications. In terms of geopolitics, the envisaged system is poised to contribute to the strategic partnership between EU and Africa by offering broadband capacity to African governments.
The strategic and economic benefits to European governments, businesses and citizens, provides a major economic opportunity for SMEs across the EU as they can bid contracts to help build the system. Zdravko Počivalšek, Slovenia’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology, described it as “an important opportunity for SMEs, a priority area for the Slovenian Presidency of the EU”.
“We intend to move fast. 2022 will be a pivotal year. We count on the French Presidency of the EU to push this ambition,” said EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, adding that the Commission will submit a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council in early 2022 and expressing confidence that it will deliver “an ambitious initiative central to the EU’s digital sovereignty”.
Mr. Počivalšek stressed the importance of involving all key actors in the process and explained: “EU Member States should first agree on how to finance this project in a sustainable way”.
- 10 November 2021