Law, College of


Date of this Version



Frans G. von der Dunk. 2017. The European Union and the Outer Space Treaty: Will the Twain Ever Meet? In Fifty Years of the Outer Space Treaty: Tracing the Journey (Ajey Lele, ed.), pp. 75–90. New Delhi: Pentagon Press.


Copyright © 2017 Frans G. von der Dunk. Published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and Pentagon Press, New Delhi. Used by permission.


In spite of the envisaged Brexit and other crises and problems currently threatening the European Union (EU), that half-way house between a group of cooperating states and a single quasi-federal union of states remains an important player in today’s world, also – at least from a bird’s eye view – in terms of outer space. Its member states Germany and France have the largest space budgets of all European states (discounting the Russian Federation as a European state), and the European flagship projects Galileo and Copernicus, with the European Commission on behalf of the Union in the driver’s seat, are among the most challenging and interesting space infrastructures currently being developed.

That, obviously, then also raises the issue of the EU’s ‘relationship’ with, views on, and involvement with the Outer Space Treaty, the most comprehensive and generic international convention setting out the legal framework for all space activities. It should be noted at the outset that the Treaty itself, drafted in the middle of the Cold War and focusing on military and scientific aspects of space activities, is very much targeting its legal regime towards sovereign states, not towards a unique ‘phenomenon’ such as the Union.

Prior to going into the specifics of any ‘relationship’ of the EU with, views on and involvement with the Outer Space Treaty, however, it is important to understand the proper place of the Union and its predecessor in the broader European space endeavour – as it is by no means the only, or even the first European body within the European ‘spacescape’.