Law students from the European Union are reporting for JURIST on law-related events in and affecting the European Union and its member states. Tara O’Sullivan is a law student at Maastricht University. She files this dispatch from Maastricht, Netherlands.
Last Friday, March 10th, the European Commission and the High Representative for the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy released the first-ever Joint Communication on a European Space Strategy for Security and Defence. The functioning of today’s society, economy and public policies rely on information, data and services related to space. Modern security and defence and even more space-dependent.
The Strategy aims to ensure a shared understanding of space threats across the EU. It hopes to enhance the resilience and protection of space systems, services, and data, strengthening the collective ability of the EU to respond to threats and attacks. Finally, it aspires to develop and maintain the EU’s relationships with its global partners.
With the use of this Strategy, the EU will be taking active steps to defend the EU’s space assets, information, and systems. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell explained the importance of security for the EU’s space assets. He said:
Space has become a key enabler not only for our European societies and economies, but also for security and defence. Without security, there can be no future in Space. As highlighted in the Strategic Compass, space is a strategic domain. For the first time, we are putting forward a strategy that will pull together all our tools to protect EU space assets and ensure that everyone can benefit from space services.
To enhance the EU’s ability to respond to threats in a collective and well-informed manner, the Strategy highlights co-operation between Member States. Individual Member States obtain their own information and data regarding the space domain. Combining Member States’ capabilities will assist in complementing information that can be used as a whole to better protect the EU’s space assets. These assets are at risk of interference and attack from competitors.
Furthermore, the Strategy states that the Commission will consider proposing an EU Space Law. This will provide commonality between Member States and ensure each country is on the same page when it comes to security, safety, and sustainability in space. Currently, Member States have their own individual national laws on outer space. They address issues such as satellite proliferation, congestion, collisions, and threats against orbiting infrastructure. However, with the introduction of a collective framework as EU Space Law, there would be fewer differences between Member States’ law, better security of EU assets, reduced competitiveness within the EU States and additionally, a larger influence on the global stage.
Finally, the Joint Communication on a European Space Strategy for Security and Defence aims to enhance coherence and co-operation with the EU’s global partnerships. The strategy mentions that the EU will act side by side in discussions with Member States regarding outer space. Moreover, space-related ties between the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) standards will be encouraged. The reason why the EU Space Strategy for security and defence is needed, even though NATO is available, is because the EU owns its own space assets which need to be protected. NATO however uses and relies on assets owned by other Allies. The third Joint EU-NATO Declaration of 10 January 2023 and this Strategy both identify space as an area in which organisations and institutions will need to develop and deepen their co-operation.
The introduction of the Joint Communication on a European Space Strategy for Security and Defence has brought to light many aspects of the space domain that I think are unknown to many . The possible introduction of a true EU Space Law will furthermore strengthen the relationship of the EU States and in turn avoid fragmentation of the EU. Overall, the Strategy provides a clear path to a safe and secure outer space for all EU members.