I sometimes wonder if the whole idea of the European Union will ever really work smoothly. In fact, at times I seriously wonder if the concept will ever work at all. What happened to the original idea of the EEC, the European Economic Community with its commercially sensible and pragmatic mandate of making trade between member European countries easier and far less mired in numerous nationally contrived bureaucratic processes? Why didn’t we just stick with that? Why get sidetracked into a seemingly unworkable Union that at times does more to hinder rather than help commercial progress?
The latest Euro-squabble feeding my jaundiced view focuses on the Galileo Satellite Communication project being worked on by Europe. This superb system, comprising 30 satellites, will be Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, global-positioning service under civilian control. The joint initiative between the European Space Agency and the European Commission will be interoperable with GPS and GLONASS, the two other global-satellite navigation systems. It sounds good and technically it is,good—really good.
So what’s the problem? Well Europe has now got about 10 member countries squabbling over where the system should be headquartered. It’s a classic “old” Europe versus “new” Europe confrontation, with France, Germany and the United Kingdom each wanting the system headquartered within their territory. Meanwhile, the Czech republic and Slovenia want it much further East and nearer to or actually in their territories.
The real issue here is that Galileo will be an impressively accurate and highly versatile system. It will not only provide commercial required satellite monitoring services, but will be extremely capable of very detailed military surveillance work. From a security perspective, and rightly so in my view, this worries the Western European countries. It’s also a situation that doesn’t sit comfortably with Europe’s powerful ally across the Atlantic. The United States would, of course, prefer to have one of its wellestablished Western European allies looking after the system.
So the question remains unresolved, and given the very nationalistic stance the European member companies are taking on the issue, I don’t see any sign of an agreement on the political horizon yet. The only certainty is that a decision has to be made. Galileo is too good to waste, and as Galileo himself once said: “Where the senses fail us reason must step in.”