Law, College of


Date of this Version



Zeitschrift für Luft- und Weltraumrecht (2006) 55: 100-117.


Copyright 2006, Heymanns. Used by permission.


There is little doubt that one of the most interesting and revolutionary, but also complicated and challenging space projects of today is Galileo, Europe’s own full-fledged second-generation navigation satellite system. Developed jointly by the European Union through the Commission and the European Space Agency, Galileo should by the end of the decade have thirty operational satellites in middle-earth-orbits providing timing, positioning and navigation signals across the globe.

From the very beginning Galileo was envisaged in particular by the Commission as a public-private-partnership (PPP). On the one hand, a private concessionaire should operate the system as of full operational capability (originally scheduled for 2008, but more likely to occur not until a few years thereafter) and provide, market and sell its services – the Open Service (OS), the Commercial Service (CS), the Safety-of-Life Service (SOL), the Public Regulated Service (PRS) and a contribution to existing Search-and-Rescue services (SAR). On the other hand, a public body should monitor all such activities and the evident public interests in them – keeping them safe, secure and in mankind’s interest in general.

Such a public side to the PPP-equation was given its first embodiment with the creation of the Galileo Interim Support Structure (GISS) in 2001. The GISS was essentially a number of ESA officials being seconded under Commission funding (and control) to supervise and guide the various projects under the EU’s Fifth Framework Programme supporting the definition and development phase of Galileo. The major task of the GISS ended up to be dealing with the intricacies of what had become the GALILEI Study, a cluster of originally separate projects dealing with key Galileo issues.

A next level of institutionalisation was achieved with the establishment of the Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU), a unique daughter entity of ESA and the European Commission as the two principal international entities behind Galileo.3 The GJU kick-started the next phase of Galileo by, most fundamentally, initiating and supervising the tendering process for the private Galileo operator, which was to lead to the signing of a concession contract by the end of 2005 or shortly thereafter. In addition, the GJU should prepare the introduction of Galileo more generally speaking, which included responsibility for the guidance of a number of Galileo-related research projects under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme.

Currently, the third stage of institutionalisation has been given effect by means of the creation – at least on paper – of the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (EGSA) in 2004. With the proper start of operations of EGSA, expected by mid-2006 or shortly thereafter, the GJU will be dissolved. Contrary to EGSA, the GJU was from the beginning envisaged to be a temporary entity.

The current article tries to provide a first, rather preliminary and provisional evaluation of what EGSA will be able to do, by way of supervision of the private operation of the Galileo system – and hence also what it will likely not be able to do.