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Investing up there for us down here - Elżbieta Bieńkowska

On June 25, the European Union successfully launched four new satellites for the navigation system Galileo. This will help it provide a more precise signal and is the next step in making Galileo the world’s best satellite navigation system by 2020.

But why should you care about what happens up there in space?

Part of the answer is in the palm of your hands. Thanks to Galileo, the maps on your smartphone will be able tell you where you are with 20cm accuracy. That’s better than GPS.

The economy is responding: about 75 million Galileo-enabled mobile phones were sold last year alone.

But Galileo is about more than maps and apps. Its signals are used for modern banking, satellite TV, traffic and railway management. Its data can help us locate the floor from which a person is calling for help.

And in the future, no autonomous car or artificial intelligence system will be developed without satellite navigation.

And this is just the start.

Galileo will lead to plenty of new applications and services which we can’t even imagine today. And beyond these practical uses, Galileo is a strategic project for Europe.

It gives us autonomy and independence, whether used for economic or military purposes. Investing in Galileo helps us keep pace with the US and not give way to Russia or China. And Galileo is only part of our space odyssey.

Europe has also developed the world’s best earth observation satellite programme: Copernicus. This gives us the capacity to monitor our planet, its atmosphere, its oceans and its continents.

So with Galileo and Copernicus, Europe has established itself as a true space power, the second in the world

With seven satellites in orbit today, it will soon be the world’s biggest data provider after Google.

Copernicus also gives us access to the most accurate climate and environmental data – free, open and available 24/7.

This data is used in rescue operations during forest fires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. The satellites help us in precise farming or monitoring climate change and urban pollution. And we want to go one step further.

Our ambition is to make Copernicus the world’s leading system in monitoring the commitments of the Paris climate accord.

It will give Europe the technology to match its leadership in the fight against climate change. So, with Galileo and Copernicus, Europe has established itself as a true space power, the second in the world.

The space sector is currently undergoing massive changes, from the arrival of new actors to disruptive technologies and novel business approaches.

We need to move just as fast.

That means investing in space, designing a new space approach and building on synergies with security and defence applications.

This is the thinking behind the European Commission’s proposals for a new €16 billion EU Space programme post-2020. Galileo and Copernicus will become bigger, better and stronger.

New security components will be developed, such as secured satellite communication and a space surveillance and tracking system. We will support autonomous access to space for Europe and help start-ups in the sector to thrive and grow.

Space is the perfect example for what successful European cooperation looks like. No member state could have done it alone. As we look ahead, we must continue what we have started.

With the proposal of the Commission for a space programme after 2020, the member states and the European Parliament have the opportunity to up our ambition to maintain our global leadership in space – for Europe’s benefit and your benefit.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska is European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

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