Policy Engagement on the Menu  

Policy Engagement on the Menu  

Members of the Europlanet Policy and Industry Team and Executive Board reflect on recent activities by Europlanet to engage with policy makers.  

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Europe has world-leading programmes covering all areas of space activities, and the largest international community of planetary scientists. Alongside governmental spending on space, interest and investment from the private sector are increasing. However, while Europe has enormous potential in this area, it lacks a common policy framework, legislative basis, and overall Space Strategy. If Europe is to fully exploit the resources at its disposal, it needs to build a coherent, well-networked and collaborative space community. 

To discuss the importance of a European Space Strategy, the status quo and common visions, Europlanet and Niklas Nienass MEP co-hosted a Dinner Debate in the European Parliament on 24 January 2023. This high-level event brought together decision-makers, academics and researchers to discuss the theme of ‘Promoting the Importance of Space Policies and a European Space Strategy’. 

The evening started with an introduction by Niklas Nienass, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Greens/European Free Alliance Group. A strong supporter of the European New Space economy, Mr Nienass sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), and is committed to establishing European space legislation and setting international standards for space traffic management. 

Europlanet’s President, Prof Nigel Mason, who was unable to attend in person, welcomed the participants and contributors through a pre-recorded video address. To set the scene for the debate, Prof Mason highlighted the importance of the European Union’s Horizon programme to underpin basic research and support a growing space industry that can provide new technology and industry opportunities for the benefit of humankind. 

The event started with a few invited introductory statements by guests, including: Marian-Jean Marinescu MEP; Rodrigo da Costa, Head of the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA); Josef Aschbacher, Director of the European Space Agency (ESA); Kai-Uwe Schrogl, President of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and Special Advisor for Political Affairs at ESA; Christoph Kutz, Head of the Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS); and Charles Galland, Policy Manager at ASD-Eurospace. 

An open debate followed, in which topics and ideas discussed included: 

  • The positioning of the European space industry within the global space race. 
  • The topic of policy and space law, particularly the challenge of regulating space at national and European level. 
  • Sustainability and how space applications can support greener policy. 
  • Benefits and challenges for a common European space strategy and policy. 
  • Collaborations between academia and industry as well as the contribution of the scientific/academic community to the development of space technology/industry in Europe. 
  • Addressing the lack of competition and strategy in growing the European launcher industry. 
  • Resilience, core interests and factual needs in these turbulent times. 

Ann-Carine Vandaele, President Elect of the Europlanet Society, highlighted that science also needs access to space within the framework of the private sector and international and national agencies. The scientific community and Europlanet need to ensure that the scientific use of space is something that is considered in high-level policy making. 

In addition to organising the Dinner Debate, Europlanet has sought opportunities to collaborate with other organisations that have similar aims and objectives in engaging with policy makers. In November 2022, representatives from Europlanet attended a dinner debate on Space Traffic Management, part of the ‘Making Space Matter’ initiative that Friends of Europe is running in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). 

In the last week of February, Europlanet also supported the European Astronomical Society (EAS), the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and ESA in holding a week-long exhibition in the European Parliament and an event on the theme ‘Are We Alone in the Universe? Understanding Exoplanets’. The activities were hosted by Lina Galvez Muñoz MEP and attended by officials, MEPs and their staff. 

Ms Muñoz, alongside EAS President Roger Davies, chaired an afternoon of presentations and a panel discussion on 28 February, which was followed by an informal drinks reception. Speakers included Francesco Pepe from Geneva Observatory, Laura Kreidberg from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Mariya Lyubenova from ESO and Theresa Lueftinger from ESA. The Europlanet Society Treasurer, Didier Moreau, of the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB), kindly contributed a collection of meteorites to the exhibition and was present throughout the week to offer MEPs, members of staff and visitors to the Parliament an opportunity to handle rocks from space. 

A clear message from all these activities is that organising and participating in direct opportunities to engage with policy makers are an important part of Europlanet’s sustainability strategy. To ensure that our community’s voice continues to be heard at the highest level, we need to work closely with related networks and organisations. Within our own community, we also need to broaden the pool of representatives that we can draw on who feel confident to participate in policy discussions. Starting with the recent policy session at the Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM) 2023, a priority will be to provide training and resources to share best practice in engaging with policy makers. Developing this expertise in the community is an important step to help us maximise the impacts of planetary science and ensure that they are recognised by all European Citizens. 

Find out more about Europlanet Policy activities.

Issue 5 of Europlanet Magazine