Two years of Polish membership in ESA

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On the 19th of November two years have passed since Poland joined the European Space Agency

Poland joined the European Space Agency (ESA) on the 19th of November 2012, as the third country from the post-socialist block, after the Czech Republic (2009) and Romania (2011). Prior to the membership several integration phases had been completed:

  • first cooperation agreement in January 1994,
  • European Cooperating State (ECS) agreement in April 2007,
  • the five year Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS) in April 2008,
  • ESA convention signature in September 2012,
  • Full membership starting at the 19th of October 2012,

At the end of the PECS phase, between 2011 and 2012 Poland and ESA conducted the membership negotiations. On the technical side the negotiations covered topics such as optional programmes, which Poland intended to join and the budget size for these optional programmes. The technical part of negotiations with ESA concluded in February 2012. Later the final decision from the Polish Government was waited for, which was initially not agreeing to join ESA due to economic reasons. However, the successful “Poland in ESA” action (and other similar activities) convinced the government to agree to join the European Space Agency. On the 12th June of 2012 the government agreed to proceed and five months later Poland became the 20th ESA Member State.

Currently the Polish ESA membership fee is almost 29 million EUR per year. Most of those funds should return to Poland in form of dedicated projects. Detailed statistics on the first two years of ESA membership are not available yet, still it is known that in the next year the membership fee will grow (among others due to the rise of the GDP, which is linked to the obligatory fee), which in turn will further develop advanced technologies in Poland. It is worth to mention, that ESA finances mainly sustainable projects, ie. which should result in entry to the European and global space market. “One time” scientific projects will be less frequently financed.

In 2013 and 2014 two dedicated calls for R&D projects and preparatory studies for Polish entities were announced. In both calls over 60 projects were selected, with a total budget surpassing 10 mln EUR. Those calls will be announced until 2017, when the Polish “transition period” in ESA will end.

At the same time Polish companies and entities compete with foreign ones for other available ESA projects with noticeable successes. Although the Polish ESA budget seems rather small when compared with the German or French ones, it already brings financial return to the country. One example of it is the rising interest of Polish companies in joining the space industry and a bigger number of investment into entities conducting space-related projects.

Entry to ESA in 2012 was a very important and good step for Poland. At the end of that year a Ministerial Council of ESA Member States was held, which determined the short and mid-term goals of the European space policy. Poland participated in those talks.

Soon ESA will be joined by two new member states: Estonia and Hungary. At the end of the decade also Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia and Cyprus, maybe even Turkey, should become ESA member states. In a way Poland “surpassed” those countries and has a chance to master a few “technological niches”, before other countries start investing bigger funds into the space industry.

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