ESA Opens up to Ten EU Nations, Eyes Poland as Newest Member

Ten European Union nations that are not members of the European Space Agency have been invited to sit in on deliberations of the ESA governing Council and its subordinate bodies, the space agency announced in a press release. The move is a sign of deepening ties between the EU and the independently-run space agency.

The ESA Council has also authorized “the ESA Director General to conduct negotiations with Poland for that country to accede to the ESA Convention by March 2012 and thus become the 20th Member State of ESA,” the press release added.

The nations granted observer status include: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. The council currently has 19 full members with Canada sitting in under a long-standing cooperative agreement.

“These countries’ status as observers allows them to follow discussions within an ESA context on ESA–EU matters and to learn first-hand about the processes involved in ESA decision-making,” ESA stated in the release.

“The new observers attended their first Council meeting on 12–13 October at ESA Headquarters in Paris. Eight of these states had already established formal cooperation with ESA, either as part of the European Cooperating State Agreements or general Cooperation Agreements…In addition, Bulgaria and Malta are discussing Cooperation Agreements with ESA,” the space agency said.

Poland has had a Cooperating State agreement with the space agency since 2007. That agreement typically lays out a five-year plan under which the nation will join ESA as a full member. Other current cooperating states include Hungary (2003), Estonia (2009), and Slovenia (2010). Romania and the Czech Republic are former cooperating states that are now full ESA members.

Four other European nations on the observer list have signed more general Cooperation Agreements with ESA. These nations include Latvia and Cypress in 2009, and Lithuania and the Slovak Republic in 2010. Israel also signed a cooperation agreement in early 2011.

“The increased number of delegations in ESA’s Council indicates a growing willingness among European states to invest in space programmes and Council’s key role in European space matters,” ESA stated.