Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ex-cosmonaut warns over space funding

A cosmonaut-turned-MEP has hit out at proposals to change the funding of a key part of the EU's space programme.

Czech communist Vladimir Remek spoke during a debate on 16 February on the future of the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) Project.

It is currently funded out of the main EU long term budget, known as the multi-annual financial framework.

GMES is the EU's proposal to build the world's largest environmental monitoring programme and will pull together satellite data to undertake a continual "health check" of the Earth, such as looking at climate patterns.

However the European Commission - which jointly runs the project along with the European Space Agency - wants to create a separate "GMES Fund", which would receive financial contributions from all member states based on their Gross National Income.

The Commission says this would ease funding pressures on other areas of the EU's budget, however Mr Remek said the amount of money required for GMES "is quite low compared to the amount we are prepared to spend on saving the banks".

The Czech MEP was the first man in space not to be from the US or the Soviet Union.

His criticism was echoed by British Conservative MEP Jacqui Foster who warned that removing GMES from the long-term EU budget could mean that the benefits of the GMES project, such as early warning of climatic disasters, would not be spread equally, if different countries paid in different amounts to the GMES fund.

It is due to be fully functional by 2014 with initial testing of the project already underway.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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