1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Fed Up With Industry

Matt Hermann (als)May 8, 2007

Tired of the bickering and lack of progress on one of Europe's premier projects, the European Commission has decided to take the reins of control for the Galileo satellite navigation system away from private industry.

Galileo is Europe's answer to GPSImage: AP

The European Commission has proposed that the public sector, rather than industry, assume the responsibility for a European Union satellite navigation system that has been stalled due to legal, financial and technical problems.

German Transportation Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, who currently serves as the responsible EU minister for the program under Germany's EU presidency, expressed his exasperation at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

"This monumental project must not suffer any more harm by falling further behind the competition, or, by being threatened altogether," Tiefensee said.

Little headway

Almost two years after being named, a private consortium of industry giants has made so little progress on the project that it is threatening to end up in the Airbus A380 category of botched industrial endeavors.

The umbrella group of industry heavyweights includes AENA and Hispasat of Spain, Thales and Alcatel-Lucent from France, European aerospace company EADS, Italy's Finmeccanica, Britain's Inmarsat, Deutsche Telekom and the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

The EU Commission's preference now is to take over the project and issue a new tender to operate the system once it is built and launched into space. This would get the system operating by the end of 2012 -- a year, or even two, faster than any other option.

Dr. Hubert Reile, program director for space operations at the German Aerospace Center, said this will not affect control of the navigation network by the DLR from its Oberpfaffenhofen Space Center in Bavaria.

"For the DLR and for Germany, this decision won't make much of a difference," he said.

"It is foreseen that we will have a control center near Munich in Oberpfaffenhofen, and it makes no difference if it is financed purely by a government or by a private group," he added.

European version of GPS

Galileo is supposed to be the European answer to the US GPS system used as a navigation aid in cars, boats and aircraft. The four-billion-euro ($5.4 billion) system has suffered a number of setbacks, due to technical problems, which can be solved, said Reile, and financial and legal responsibility issues, which none of the private industry participants are willing to shoulder.

"What is really difficult for this project is that more partners are on board than in a normal, big European project," said Reile.

The industries involved have voiced their dismay at such a late change of plans, but they have no one to blame but themselves. A letter of new demands which the consortium sent to the EU Commission only last week made Monday's decision a foregone conclusion. An EU official close to the project said new conditions, more time and more money would delay satellite orders.

Galileo Satellitenprogramm
Tax payers will primarily cover Galileo costsImage: AP/ESA
GPS Navigationssystem Auto
Getting around at the push of a buttonImage: AP