A member of the European Parliament is travelling the United States to promote the development of a European space legislation and improve space policy cooperation.
Niklas Nienass, a German member of the European Parliament, met with officials in Washington this week, including those from NASA, NOAA, and the White House, before travelling to Denver and Houston, where he met with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), who chairs the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, and toured the Johnson Space Center.
“The very first task is to build up good relations and have somebody to talk to” In an interview, he stated that the European Union’s prominence in space policy is growing as a result. While there is tight collaboration on space issues between American and European agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency, he noted that it is absent between the United States and the European Union at a higher level. “If you look at the political level, there’s just not so much in terms of coordination and working together.”
He attributed a portion of this to the large number of European stakeholders, including ESA, national space agencies, and the European Commission. “We definitely have to work on that so we have one coherent strategy in which all these things can go.”
He stated that the European Union and the United States must work together more closely on issues such as space traffic management and the usage of space resources. He stated that American attempts such as the Artemis Accords, which were signed by several EU governments, are insufficient to solve these challenges. He has previously questioned the resource use provision of the Artemis Accords, saying that the Moon Agreement may provide a more equal allocation of resources.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be the Moon Treaty,” he said. “But I think there has to be a more comprehensive text that brings together multiple stakeholders, whereas the Artemis Accords are not even a treaty.”
He said, Such an international agreement, could cover issues like space traffic management and space resources. “There are a lot of points where I think we could go further in international relations and where we need an update anyway, because the Outer Space treaty is not sufficient enough,” he said. “The Artemis Accords are just not fitting to solve the problem.”
Nienass is also striving to enhance European space policy. He is a strong proponent of an overall European space law to address concerns that have hitherto been handled by a patchwork of national space laws among E.U. members. This, he maintained, will make it simpler for European enterprises to operate across national borders. “I want to have this harmonized so that they can easily work together.”
Among the components of the proposed law are obligations and registrations that are now managed at the national level. The proposal would address assistance for the European space sector, encompassing both new and established businesses. Another issue will be space sustainability, such as mandating the deorbiting of satellites at the end of their useful lifespan.
“I think it would set a really strong precedent for international legislation to show what is possible,” he said, adding that by giving firm guidance to Europe’s space industry “they will really accelerate.”
He stated that work on the space law is still in its infancy. A hurdle for the measure, according to him, is that the treaty establishing the obligations of the European Union specifies that no harmonisation is necessary for space and other scientific activities across members, but that it is required for commerce. “Now that space is going from research toward more private, commercial activity, the European Commission is wondering which direction should it go.”
Nienass stated that the European Parliament will consider a resolution calling for a European space legislation the following week. However, commissioners must then recommend a statute for consideration by the legislature. “I want to go forward and make them do that for the next two years,” he said, because his mandate in parliament ends in 2024.
According to him, there is substantial support for a European space law, notably among businesses that favour the harmonisation of national space legislation. “Everybody agrees that it’s a good direction to go, but everybody’s skeptical whether we are allowed to do it.”