Tuesday, May 24, 2005

France and Germany Squabble Over Galileo In Satellite Wars

The Galileo project - the EU's satellite navigation system, set up as a rival to America's GPS - has been described as "the Common Agricultural Policy in the sky" by critics sceptical of its economic and strategic validity.

Certainly it is one of those European projects designed to place the EU in competition with the USA. As President Chirac said, if the EU were to rely on the US GPS, it could be reduced to "vassal status".

In commercial terms, however, it is difficult to see how Galileo can make money: the US currently offers GPS free of charge to civilian users globally. Galileo's vaunted superiority to GPS may not be enough to motivate people to pay for an upgraded service. The picture is different at the political level. China, for example, is one of the countries, alongside South Korea and Israel, which are investing as partners in the project.

But now it is all souring, due to inter-European squabbling between the Germans and the French. Each champions a different consortium, as each wishes to retain control. The German government is threatening to stop funding the project, and today's Telegraph reports that it is considering all measures "short of warfare" to get its way.

This may not quite tally with the idea of a single Europe with a single European foreign and security policy - but, as voters in France and Holland seem to have recognised, that was always something of a specious myth anyway, one which will always fade into the background, like an embarrassed ghost, when national interests come into play.

Telegraph Money Germany declares satellite wars

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