Thursday, 7 July 2016

ESA extends its family with Cyprus and Slovenia

On the 6th of July 2016, Cyprus became the 11th country to sign the European Cooperating State (ECS) Agreement, strengthening its relations with ESA. One day before, on the 5th of July, Slovenia signed an Association Agreement with ESA. 

The launch of the “Plan for European Co-operating States” (PECS) was decided by ESA Council on 21/22 March 2001.  Before the introduction of the PECS, the usual path of co-operation between ESA and an interested State was the conclusion of a general Cooperation Agreement that eventually led to full membership. However, the gap between the general agreement and full membership was deemed far too big to be bridged easily by the interested countries. To this effect, the PECS was proposed as an intermediate step.

The ECS Agreement allows the State to participate in ESA programmes and activities. These activities are defined in a five-year work plan (PECS Charter), jointly agreed between ESA and the country concerned. Unlike general cooperation agreements, a minimum financial contribution of 1 million Euro per year is required for each ECS. 90% of this contribution returns back to the ECS in the form of projects. The five years spent under the PECS Charter enhances ECS’ knowledge on the procedures followed by ESA and enables the country to develop its space industry system.

A first Cooperation Agreement with Cyprus was signed in 2009. The Cooperation Agreement, enabled the creation of appropriate links and contacts with ESA, as well as the organization of several conferences and trainings in Cyprus. A technical visit by ESA in 2015, demonstrated that Cyprus' companies, institutes and universities are capable of undertaking ESA projects in earth observation, space science, navigation, telecom and integrated applications, and space situational awareness. The selection of potential PECS projects is anticipated to start soon.

The Association Agreement signed with Slovenia is one step closer to full membership. At the end of the PECS’ five-year period, countries can either begin negotiations to become a full member state, an associated member or sign a new PECS Charter. The Association Agreement gives the country concerned direct participation in ESA optional programmes. Even though the country will have to use its own financial resources to join the ongoing ESA programmes, a large share of these payments is being reimbursed.

You can find more information about PECS here and about Slovenia’s new Agreement here.

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