From the International Herald Tribune, the EU branch of the NYT: EU’s satellite navigation system loses its way, by Judy Dempsey
BRUSSELS: Talk to satellite officials in Brussels and the mood is one of frustration and bitterness. The reason is that the European Union’s most ambitious technological project, a satellite navigation system designed to provide users with unprecedented accuracy, faces disaster.
Galileo, as it is called, was supposed to have challenged the Pentagon’s Global Positioning System. There were even hopes it would eventually provide a crucial security component for Europe’s defense ambitions. Galileo, alas, has become mired in vicious disputes among the eight companies chosen to build and operate the system.
As the article points out,
It is not as if the EU had no experience in big projects: witness the most recent example of Airbus and its new A380 aircraft.
Because it was initially subsidized, and because the EU needed companies to build Airbus, it allowed the biggest shareholders, France and Germany, to decide in which city and country parts of the aircraft would be built. The soaring costs and missed deadlines for the A380 recently forced the resignation of its chairman. Thousands of jobs are threatened and big international orders are at risk. Despite that, France and Germany are still squabbling over which will bear the brunt of job losses.
Then there is the Nabucco gas pipeline project, the EU’s attempt at having a common energy policy that would reduce its dependence on Russia. Conceived in 2002, the consortium consisting of Austrian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish companies has yet to deliver the final feasibility study that will allow financing to be arranged. Again, there is fighting inside the consortium. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány of Hungary prefers to support a Russian pipeline project that would undermine Nabucco. Ankara wants to use Nabucco so that Turkey can become an energy hub.
There is also uncertainty over orders for the Eurofighter jet, which is being built by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain. Austria’s new coalition is embroiled in a corruption scandal about placing orders and Saudi Arabia agreed to finalize a €14.7 billion contract this year only after the British government dropped a fraud inquiry into previous fighter jet sales to the kingdom.
And so to Galileo.
You’d think that after all that, someone would have thought of figuring out the financials ahead of time, would you?
Spain’s Hispasat and Aena have been chosen to operate the satellites. But Spain wants a big slice of the jobs and profits.
Now come the 5 stages of failed EU projects:
“What problems?” asked Marta Navarro, its spokeswoman.
“Get rid of them,” said one official.
“Let’s have enhanced cooperation,”
Commission officials who have spent years nursing Galileo said it was time to stop creating consortia whose members lobby more for their national interests than the bigger European goal.
Galileo, at some stage, will get off the ground because too much money, time and prestige have already been invested.
Good luck on that, folks.
(h/t No Pasaran)