Friday, June 15, 2007

Tories? Defence? Strategy? Don't make me laugh

(Long post warning)It's taken a bit of time but the Tories have finally noticed that the EU has given up on thee idea that business will fund their ambitions when it comes to the Galileo satellite system.
European Space Agency should rescue GALILEO, not British taxpayers funds within the EU budget, say Conservatives

Oh boy, and who do they think funds the European Space Agency - Father Christmas?

The Commission has proposed a wholly publicly financed construction phase, paid for out of the EU budget. Conservatives are not in favour of this idea because it implies raiding existing budget lines to divert funds from existing programmes with the Commission assuming a project management role which could be characterised as empire building.

Well spotted, sad that UKIP got there a little before you, back in March and again seven days earlier on the Today programme, the day that the announcement was made.
"Giles Chichester MEP, Conservative Industry Spokesman, said:
This whole project has been poorly handled and the victim of conflicting national interests acting by proxy through the companies in the sector.

Yup, in absolute agreement with you there Giles.

We need to manage and finance the scheme via the European Space Agency (ESA), on an intergovernmental basis. The ESA is the only body with the experience and expertise to run Galileo and is not under the thumb of the Commission".

And where do you think the ESA gets its cash from, lets look, why here it is
Where do ESA’s funds come from?
ESA’s mandatory activities (space science programmes and the general budget) are funded by a financial contribution from all the Agency’s Member States, calculated in accordance with each country’s gross national product.
Or in English, the British taxpayer, alongside the taxpayers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Oh yes and "not under the thumb of the Commission". Giles get real. What do you think that the this is all about? Window dressing?
"We don't want the nasty New Labour habit of trying to spend the same money
twice by relabelling and re-announcing to undermine this project."
Being thick here but I just don't understand the point. This isn't a case of reselling, if indeed that is what you think it will be Mr Chichester you are going to get a big surprise. The meeting last week was, another, heads of agreement. Essentially the EU transport ministers agreed that the private sector had bailed out, recognising a turkey when they saw one. However due the vast amount of money poured in and the vast amount of political capital expended, not withstanding the hubris of it all it was obvious that they couldn't draw a line under the whole affair.

So what did they do? Well the national representatives made it clear that no new money was coming in. Thus they have to find the money for the project from pre agreed cash. (We are talking 2.6 billion Euros here - or thereabouts, not the sort of stuff you can find down the back of the sofa). The target is the Framework Program Budget. Which is big enough, but here be dragons. Most of this money has already been allocated to projects. Nobody is willing to see their pet project, from tidal power to the European Institute for Technology being mugged. Queue big row and stalemate. Worse for the supporters of Galileo is that this budget was only agreed after one of the most acrimonious Council Summits in modern history (December 2005). Amongst its highlights was the big row about the British rebate. Everybody here fears that that great can of worms could be reopened. Which means they will revisit the whole sorry affair in October.

Conservatives believe intergovernmental is the only way Member States and other European countries would be willing to put their hands in their pockets for new funding.
No the Tories don't want countries to put their hands in their pockets, they want them to put their hands in our pockets. Sophistry, pure sophistry. Giles you are behaving like some ghastly socialist. The private sector won't do it (because they recognise it won't work, but you being a politician understand the workings of the world so much better than they do that you think it acceptable to plunder the private citizens for Europe's vainglorious ambitions.
For Shame.

And there's more. For years the ESA and the EU has sworn blind that there is no military application for Galileo. Now after they have failed to get private backing they are falling back on the military. This system will be used for military purposes,. Which is splendid. In today's 3d battlefield it is vital to be in simultaneous coms with your allies, in order to minimise the possibility of 'blue on blue' attacks,. Currently our forces use the American GPS (encrypted) system. Currently Galileo and the GPS system are co-operational, but that agreement was signed back in the days when Europe was promising no military use (I recall one American General saying that the US would blow the satellites out of the sky if the US felt that Galileo would compromise US security). However the US is updating its GPS system (tabled for the year after Galileo is to come on stream - so in reality up and running beforehand). There are no guarantees that the current co-operability will be retained, especially seeing as how the Chinese have a significant stake in Galileo.

This could therefore be crunch time for the UK. We can only fight in theatre if our kit talks to each other. If our defence procurement is driven for the need to be Galileo compatible (because we have to fund the blasted thing) that will in effect mean that we will only be able to fight with our continental allies, and here is the rub, not with our historical allies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. This is why the MOD has on a number of occasions stated that the UK would pull out of Galileo if there were to be a military aspect. There is one now. No noise from Whitehall but I suspect there is some serious thinking going on.

Unlike in the Tory party, who, in the person of Giles Chichester is so desperate to appease their European friends that they are putting at risk the future security of the nation. The thing is I very much doubt Giles has the faintest idea about all this background stuff, so I shouldn't be too harsh on him. He just wanted to stand up for the taxpayer, have a pop at the Commission, but in a not to aggressive sort of fashion and leave the field. I wonder if he talked to Geoffrey Van Driver their defence spokesman about his cheerleading of the Galileo project.

Maybe, but I doubt it.


The Aunt said...

Yes, this one's going to be interesting, isn't it.

It's not just FP7. All sorts of DG's have been approached and encouraged to show even the slightest bit of interest, on the offchance that they might be forthcoming with a bit of dosh.

I doubt FP7 will be able to find much for Galileo. I reckon the Reserve will be tapped.

Elaib said...

I suspect you may be right, but that is altogether another can of worms