When the public-private partnership that was originally envisioned to pay for the development of Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system fell through earlier this year, it became clear that if Galileo was to continue, it would have to do so entirely at the expense of European taxpayers. Now it appears that EU has found a way to make that happen: it “found” over €2.4 billion (US$3.3 billion) needed to finance Galileo from other programs, notably “Preservation and Management of Natural Resources” (aka agricultural programs), which has a sizable surplus. Proponents of Galileo say that this approach allows them to continue the program without seeking additional money directly from national governments or cutting other programs.
The decision has to be ratified by EU member nations, and it appears from media reports that there will be at least some opposition to that approach. Ordinarily any budget surplus would be distributed back to EU member nations, and some farmer groups want the money spent on additional agricultural programs, not Galileo. The International Herald Tribune also noted that, in the eyes of some, Galileo has become “a personal quest” for EU transportation minister Jacques Barrot.
The EU transport ministers are scheduled to meet again in early October to review the proposal, although it may take much longer to win over some governments. In the meantime, one wonders if it was any coincidence that, on the eve of the EU announcement, the White House announced that equipment designed to degrade GPS signals would no longer be included on future GPS spacecraft. “Although the United States stopped the intentional degradation of GPS satellite signals in May 2000,” the White House statement read, “this new action will result in the removal of SA [selective availability] capabilities, thereby eliminating a source of uncertainty in GPS performance that has been of concern to civil GPS users worldwide.” Like, for example, in Europe.