Law, College of


Date of this Version



Published in Soochow Law Journal v. 4, no. 2 (2007), pp. 1-27. Copyright © 2007 Frans von der Dunk.


In November 2001, by means of a Resolution, the European Union officially launched 'Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security' (GMES), the second European space programme (after Galileo) essentially driven by the Union. The Resolution inter alia calls for the European Commission to coordinate with the European Space Agency (ESA) the realisation of "an operational and autonomous European capability for global monitoring for environment and security" by 2008, crucially involving a satellite system. Relevant data which are to form part of such a capability may, in principle, come from a number of different sources: space-based data, airborne data, and in situ-generated data of different terrestrial origin. However, non-space data almost by definition are generated within one national state or other, which means that applicable law and regulation in principle differs—and sometimes hugely so—from state to state, whilst generally not having developed with any specific consideration for the types of data involved in GMES either. By contrast, outer space is an international area outside of any state's international individual jurisdiction, where operational paradigms of a principally international, even global character apply. This also has a profound impact on the legal issues closely connected to the generation of space-based data, as opposed to data generated in other modes where national sovereignty remains fully visible. Moreover, the space-part is clearly the most distinguishing factor of any GMES operation, in view also of the envisaged fundamental role of satellites, ESA and likely EUMETSAT in this context. For the purpose of GMES the establishment of a core entity provisionally labelled 'GMES Authority' is envisaged. Legal basis, status, role and competencies of such a body are yet to be determined. The documents so far referring to such a GMES Authority generally discuss various types of bodies or organs that can be established under EC law. Thus, mention has been made of such options as a Joint Undertaking, an Executive Agency, a Community Agency, or a Joint Technology Initiative (JTI).

A final important point, of a more background/political nature but so far left largely unattended (at least in public discourse) concerns the involvement of GMES in security issues, in the field of outer space where traditionally 'defence' and 'security' have never been very far away. Whilst 'security' is broadly conceived so as to include civil security, involving not only terrorist threats but also the threats posed by natural or man-made disasters, it certainly also includes the more traditional security issues of a military and defence nature. GMES, whatever the 'GMES Authority' will come to look like, will have the European Union for a father and ESA for a mother.