ESA could become an EU member

Paris
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This story is sourced from Flight International
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The European Space Agency could be a European Union body by 2014, if plans by the organisation's director-general succeed.

The idea has radical implications for how ESA's €2.9 billion ($3.7 million) budget is funded and for the membership of some states. ESA members Norway and Switzerland are not EU states, nor is Canada, which is also only a co-operating ESA member.

Issues to be overcome include shifting nations' budget contribution calculations from ESA to EU methods the future status of non-EU states the conflict between ESA's geographical-return policy for contracts and the EU's strict competition law and the legality of European-level governance of space activities.

Space was to become a competency of the EU under the European Constitution treaty that was ratified by 18 member states, but rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands. The constitution may now be resurrected.

But an EU ESA is not welcomed by all states with membership of both entities. A senior British National Space Centre official says an unwelcome aspect of the EU funding arrangement would be that ESA activities the UK has traditionally opted out of - manned spaceflight and launchers - would no longer be optional.