SatCen Board Meeting Ministerial Level, chaired by HR/VP Borrell
On 6 May 2021, for the first time in the nearly 30 years of SatCen history, the Board of EU Member States convened at level of Ministers, chaired by the HR/VP Borrell. Key intention of holding the SatCen Board at ministerial level was to provide a political impulse to align the level of ambition for the Centre’s evolution with the EU’s increased level of ambition in the fields of space, security and defence.
Following an introduction by High Representative Borrell and an operational overview briefed by the SatCen Director, Ambassador Ducaru, the Ministers discussed the Centre’s unique mission of supporting CFSP / CSDP decision making and actions through its geospatial intelligence analysis capability.
As an operational agency, SatCen contributes with its products and services to the full spectrum of political planning and decision making in external action, including for EU missions and operations. The Centre’s activities provide “security from space” in diverse fields covering analysis of military capabilities, humanitarian aid, support to evacuation operations, monitoring of weapons of mass destruction, critical infrastructures, and security related to climate change.
With its function as the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Front Desk, SatCen is also engaged in “security of space”, supporting the monitoring of the situation in space in close cooperation with Member States. These two security dimensions provide operational complementarity and strong mutual synergies.
The Centre thus contributes directly the EU’s growing ambition in foreign and security policy. SatCen maintains strong institutional and operational ties with Member States and cooperates closely with the EU Commission as well as other European space and security entities, like EDA, Frontex, and ESA. The Centre also strengthens the EU’s multilateral agenda by providing support to international organisations like the UN, OSCE, and OPCW.
With almost 30 years of expertise, the Centre is a concrete example of EU strategic autonomy in action, contributing to the four “baskets” of the forthcoming Strategic Compass. While crisis management support represents the core of SatCen’s geospatial mission, the agency also strengthens resilience based on its own operational experience during the pandemic crisis, as well as through its role in the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST). The contribution to EU partnerships is reflected in the Centre’s support to international partners, and SatCen invests heavily into capability development to exploit the latest technologies, interlinked with its autonomous operational mission.
Despite drastically increasing output over the past years, user demand for SatCen services has continuously surpassed capacity. The Ministers thus confirmed their commitment to strengthen the agency to fulfil its unique mission of providing key geospatial intelligence support to EU and Member States, and agreed on a development scenario for the Centre’s evolution. In view of the rapid technological developments in space and IT, specifically in artificial intelligence and big data management, SatCen will have to continue to exploit the cutting edge of technology, in order to fulfil this demanding function.
The Board encouraged SatCen to continue its successful cooperation with EU entities, including with the Commission in view of the Centre’s role as an entrusted entity for the EU’s flagship space programme Copernicus, and also SST, and underlined the importance of exploiting synergies and of strengthening the nexus between internal and external security.
The Ministers confirmed their intention to meet again by the end of 2022 on the occasion of SatCen’s 30th anniversary, to follow up on the need to enable the Centre to keep up with fast-paced technological developments, in line with the EU’s augmented level of ambition.
When discussing the Ministerial Board HR/VP Josep Borrell stated:
"It is the first time that this Board takes place at the Ministerial level and it shows the importance that we give to this [Satellite] Centre, which is located in Madrid and which is our eyes to see what is happening in the world"
"SatCen is a very important asset for our institutions and agencies, for Member States, for our Missions and Operations, because it provides us with critical geopolitical intelligence analysis. It also provides to our partners an invaluable view of what is happening on the ground."
Following the Ministerial Board, SatCen Director Amb. Sorin Ducaru stated: “To quote the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, this first ministerial level SatCen Board was about placing the Centre on the “political orbit”. The ministerial discussion reflected the appreciation and support of EU Member States for the centre’s activity. It was key for providing the strategic guidance and setting the level of ambition for SatCen’s future development. I was honoured to present the commitment of the SatCen team to the unique mission of SatCen, and to generate a multiplier effect for all resources investment in the Centre.”
Additional content on the Ministerial Board:
Doorstep statement by HR/VP Josep Borrell: https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/permalink/225570
Preliminary remarks by HR/VP Josep Borrell: https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/events/20210506-foreign-affairs-council-defence-may-2021/130115-2-press-conference-part-2-20210506 (min. 4:20)