Czech Ministry of Transport Hails EC Decision to Host GSA in Prague
[Satellite News 12-14-10] The European Commission (EC) has selected Prague as the future location of the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Agency (GSA). The decision will see the first major European institution hosted on Czech Republic soil.
Czech Ministry of Transport and Information Spokesman Tomáš Dombrovský told Satellite News said that representatives of the Czech Republic would soon have talks with GSA and EU to establish concrete conditions of the transfer of GSA from Brussels to Prague. “The Czech Republic will also sign an agreement with the EU about the financing of this transfer. We expect that GSA might be moved to Prague during July and August 2011, but it depends on the arrangement with representatives of GSA and EU,” he said.
The location of GSA eventually became a two-horse race, an EU spokesperson who asked not to be named for this story told Satellite News. “Although the location of the GNSS Agency has been on the agenda since 2006, the debate only re-started in earnest a few months ago. Of the initial (2006) eleven candidate cities, only two – Noordwijk in the Netherlands and Prague in the Czech Republic confirmed their continued interest. Prague was unanimously chosen as the future location of the GNSS Agency on the basis of the quality of its proposal.”
Czech Minister of Transport Vit Barta hailed the move as a success for both Prague and the Czech Republic as the country will now be at the center of the Galileo Earth observation program. “For the first time one of the EU’s major agencies will be situated to one of the new member states from Central and Eastern Europe. Prague and Czech Republic will gain not only international prestige, but also many opportunities for local companies both in developing applications and services for Galileo. Prague will also become very interesting place for many international meetings for specialists, politicians and other professionals,” said Barta.
In a statement, EC Vice President Antonio Tagani said the GSA would play a key role for the Galileo initiative. “It is responsible for security accreditation and the operations for the GNSS security and monitoring center. The decision on the seat of the GSA is another important step on the road to making Galileo, Europe’s state-of-the-art satellite initiative, a strategic and independent reality for our citizens. Galileo will help us maintain and develop our know-how in the space and related sectors, securing growth, jobs and welfare.”
Dombrovský says the decision can only boost the space industry in the Czech Republic. “For example, GSA will provide certification for components and services in the Galileo system. It is a great opportunity for local universities and their laboratories to participate in these testing processes. If I could give a further example, Galileo will offer many guaranteed services for drivers, carriers, aviation, as well as public regulated services such as secured access for state administrations, police, firemen etc. All of this offers many opportunities for local companies, which can start developing applications.”
The Czech Republic has been a member of the EU since 2004 and a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2008. Dombrovský said its relatively new status was a reason for not taking a bigger part in the development and realization of the space segment of Galileo itself. “The contracts for Galileo were divided into six major groups, which was taken mostly by four of the world’s biggest space industry companies under the condition that anyone of them could not get more than two groups of contracts. Czech companies now participate only as subcontractors to them. But for the future there is a big opportunity for Czech Republic and our companies to develop and bring to the market applications for any of the services offered by Galileo.”
While the decision is a major step, Dombrovský said challenges still remain for the Czech space industry to grow in 2011. “The main challenges for Czech space industry in 2011 are to participate in EU and ESA space projects as contractors or subcontractors, not just for Galileo but for other programs such as GMES, for example. We want to support innovation in terms of space applications. It is important to have an environment, where there is a well-balanced cooperation between state, academic institutions and companies,” he said.