Law, College of


Date of this Version



Space and Defense (Winter 2010) 4(1).


Published in von der Dunk in Space and Defense (winter 2010) 4(1) Published by the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies


In the current timeframe, the relevance of discussions on the existing use of space for national security purposes and the potential of it to be used for non-peaceful purposes are clearly increasing. As a consequence, it becomes more important to address the role of Europe as a geopolitical, albeit far from monolithic, entity in this context.

From this perspective, the present paper analyzes some of the fundamental institutional parameters shaping the European presence in the space security domain, focusing on the two key players in space, which are truly European, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union (EU). Interestingly, the starting point for both entities was that the security domain was a “no-go” area, a starting point that only over the last two decades has begun to erode. That is why, in addition the Western European Union (WEU), Europe has a certain role in this context, precisely fromthe security perspective rather than from the space perspective.

Even the European Community, as the most tightly developed “pillar” of the EU, could not be considered a supranational entity let alone a federal state. In all cases therefore, the individual member states of those organizations are still relevant as players in their own right. These states continue to be essential to determining the shape of European actions and approaches in the field of space issues, and this is even truer for the security domain.

The resulting complicated institutional landscape represents the backdrop against which, as well as a set of crucial parameters within which, European policies in the area of space are developed. This applies to the space security domain, whether one takes a broad approach as with Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and the handling of space debris, or a more limited one, focusing on international terrorism or the handling of export controls over dual-use sensitive goods.