The European Space Agency and European Union are to negotiate a security accord for the exchange of classified information. The agreement will aid work on the joint Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme.

GMES will provide a range of Earth observation services using existing and future satellites. It will be fully operational by 2015 but initial services, for EU governments only, are planned to start next year.

GMES will support European security and defence policies with data services such as images of disaster zones or theatres of conflict, hence the need to exchange classified information.

ESA already handles classified information internally and the EU has its own information classifications, which are confidential, secret and top secret. The agreement will be recognition that the two organisations’ information security procedures are compatible.

“ESA already has a secure area for Galileo [the satellite navigation system],” says ESA policy and security official Thomas Beer.

A key action under the joint EU/ESA European space policy to be agreed this week is for the EU’s Council to identify European security and defence policy framework requirements relevant to GMES services by the end of this year.