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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 20:27 GMT
US warns against European satellite system
Galileo project website, WWW
The US warns Galileo could infringe its security
The United States has warned the European Union not to proceed with its plans for a satellite system, saying it could be abused by future enemies.


They feel that the enemy could use some applications of Galileo and that they could not impede that

European Commission spokesman

In a letter to EU defence ministers, US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the EU's Galileo global positioning project could complicate America's ability to provide satellite information to its own forces in times of crisis.

Galileo is a flagship EU project aimed at establishing a rival to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) system - a device which allows the user to pinpoint his location anywhere on the planet.

The EU is keen to have a system which is independent of US influence, but America fears this would hamper its ability to control unauthorised access to this important military tool.

'Vassals'

At present, the US is able to stop or distort the GPS signals in times of crisis to prevent enemies from accessing accurate information.

Galileo would give America's adversaries an alternative system.

"[The US considered] that in times of conflict, they would have problems because of Galileo. They feel that the enemy could use some applications of Galileo and that they could not impede that," European Commission spokesman Gilles Gantelet said.

GPS watch
The GPS system pinpoints the user's position to within around 10 metres
On top of America's objections, the project has also been criticised from within the EU as a waste of money as the United States provides GPS free of charge to its allies.

But some EU members, particularly France, are adamant that Europe should not be reliant on the US.

"The United States spends six times more public money on the space sector than Europe. Failure to react would inevitably lead to our countries becoming first scientific and technological vassals, then industrial and economic vassals," French President Jacques Chirac said in a recent speech.

Galileo was singled out last week by European Commission President Romano Prodi as an example of the EU's inability to implement its big ideas.

Squabbles over how the $355m system should be funded have delayed the project, despite broad agreement on it in principle.

Already the debate over the project has lasted four years and cost $164m.

See also:

12 Dec 01 | Europe
Prodi demands action not words
07 Dec 01 | Business
EU satellite project may never fly
04 Dec 01 | Business
Funding doubts for Galileo project
04 Dec 01 | Business
EU eyes German budget deficit
21 Sep 01 | Business
EU finance ministers in crisis talks
15 Nov 01 | Business
Niue's astronomical economic plan
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