On 19 November 2021, Switzerland participated in the Intermediate Session of the European Space Agency (ESA) Council at Ministerial Level, which took place in Portugal. At this session, which brought together the ministers responsible for space affairs of the 22 ESA member states, the Council set the stage for ESA to boost Europe's role in space. This will include addressing issues that tackle society's needs, such as climate change, and launching a number of inspiring initiatives.
The ESA Intermediate Ministerial Meeting adopted a resolution acknowledging the priorities set out in ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher’s Agenda 2025. The resolution also makes recommendations on the need to pursue a number of priorities that address the needs of society. These thematic ’accelerators’ include the contribution that space can make to a green future, rapid and resilient responses to crisis situations and the protection of space assets. These will be backed up by a series of inspiring initiatives, such as a mission to return samples from an icy moon and human space travel and exploration missions.
This meeting set the stage for ESA to launch new initiatives complementary to the programmes to be proposed at the ESA Ministerial Council at the end of 2022 in France. The ministers present mandated the Director General to submit these proposals to the ESA Council. The initiatives are to be implemented in accordance with the terms of the ESA Convention and form part of an inclusive approach that will provide long-term benefits to all ESA member states. The ministers also recalled that the member states can pursue their activities in all areas of space studies, particularly those addressed by the ESA Convention.
Space infrastructures are now essential for the proper functioning of modern societies. On behalf of Switzerland, SERI vice director Silvia Studinger underlined that it is crucial to promote innovation and good ideas in an open manner in order to strengthen Europe’s space sector in a rapidly changing space environment and in the face of increasing global competition. Leadership in innovation and an inclusive approach are vital going forward.
Switzerland is a founding member of ESA and makes an annual contribution of CHF 185 million to the Agency’s programmes and activities. Thanks to this investment, the Swiss higher education institutions and the Swiss industry can contribute to space missions at various levels. Scientific excellence and technical innovations in the space sector at national level, as well as the close collaboration between research institutes and industry, are important factors for economic growth. Having been a member of ESA since it was founded, and thanks to its participation in EU programmes, Switzerland makes an indispensable contribution to European space affairs and remains globally competitive in this sector.