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Europe needs less naïve space policies, says Sarkozy

Europe must develop a clearer industrial strategy to support the space industry, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has said.

Speaking in Toulouse to mark the 50th anniversary of France’s space agency, the CNES, Sarkozy warned that Europe must move away from some of its more “naïve” policies on space.

“No American satellite is sent into orbit by a launcher that is not also American,” he said. “I’m not insulting anyone by saying that.”

He said that Europe must stop opening its markets unilaterally and that “reciprocity” was no bad thing. Europe must protect its strategic interests when working with the US, China and Russia on space programmes, he said.

Sarkozy charted the history of the agency, which was born out of the tensions of the cold war. France had not taken conquering space seriously before the Russians and Americans launched programmes, he said, but the emergence of space as a geopolitical arena led it to put space at the top of its research agenda.

President Charles De Gaulle then took the decision to create a space agency in 1961 and to develop a French satellite launcher. This led to the establishment of the CNES and the launch of Diamant, a rocket used to launch the first French satellite into space in 1965.

The CNES’ success over the decades was thanks to an “original model” that depended on the alignment of civil and military space work and on programmes aimed at supporting commercial applications, said Sarkozy.

France would continue to support space endeavour, the president said, by increasing the CNES budget by 16 per cent between 2007 and 2012. This was in recognition of the sector’s essential place in the French economy.