Brussels: European Union officials on 16 March warned a consortium of eight companies responsible for building and running its new satellite navigation system to end infighting which they said was putting the euro3.6 billion (US$4.75 billion) project at risk.
EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot had written to the eight raising concerns that failure to agree a common commercial position could jeopardize the Galileo project, which the EU has hailed as one of its key goals to becoming a global player, said EU spokesman Michele Cercone.
“We are registering a series of delays in the signing of concessions contracts,” Cercone said. “These delays could have an effect on the schedule and agenda of Galileo.”
French companies Thales SA and Alcatel-Lucent, Spain’s Hispasat, Britain’s Inmarsat, Italy’s AENA and Finmeccanica, a German group led by Deutsche Telekom and European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., were sent letters ordering them to overcome difficulties, Cercone said.
The eight have so far failed to agree on a 20-year concession on how to divide up work to build and run the satellite system, which is supposed to be launched and operational in orbit by 2011. The consortium was given the go ahead by the EU in 2005 to bring Galileo to reality, on condition they sign an operations agreement to split the workload across EU nations.
Cercone said the group has also so far failed to set up a single entity and a director to speak on behalf of the group to get the satellites built and in orbit.
“We are still in time to avoid major repercussions but we have to move urgently,” he said, adding that EU transport ministers should evaluate the situation and put pressure on the business group to get their act together.
The EU hopes the project will generate at least 150,000 jobs and bring a return of investment of up to euro9 billion (US$11.9 billion). The private sector is to provide two-thirds of the funding and European governments the rest.
The Galileo project is to include 30 satellites and was originally to have started launching by 2008. However that date was pushed back to 2011 due to previous disagreements between EU governments on how to pay for the system.