Space Policy and European Security: Response to Green Paper

May, 2003

By Dave Knight


The European Union should follow a policy of non-weaponisation of space and declare a Moratorium on the Development and Deployment of Weapons in Space while continuing to support negotiations for a Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space Treaty. Member States should also independently declare such Moratoriums.



The weaponisation of space is a clear and developing threat to the security of Europe and to the valuable and beneficial peaceful uses of outer space.


Advances in communication and observation technology which contribute to developing space user states as well as the major space powers could be attacked physically by, for instance ‘killer satellites’ and ‘space-based lasers’. Or they may cease to get off the ground for many states, ‘attacked’, through lack of funding and security due to the weapons in space deployed by one state, or a handful of states.


There is a real danger that most states worldwide could be denied access to space.


The anticipatory EU response to this danger should NOT be a space policy and a security policy which include the development or deployment of weapons in space.


The development and deployment of weapons in space would abuse the spirit of the present Outer Space Treaty, in some cases the word. In addition just the prospect of such deployment is having a detrimental effect on the international nuclear disarmament process and therefore the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, further threatening security.


The present Outer Space Treaty, while having a significant role, does not guarantee the prevention of an arms race in space. A new treaty is therefore needed with a wider view on the possible weapons and with effective provisions for verification, thus enhancing European security. However since the multilateral negotiation of such a PAROS Treaty is blocked at the Conference on Disarmament, albeit by less than a handful of states, other practical and intermediate steps need to be considered in order for progress to be made.


Independent Moratoriums

The greatest danger inherent in the delay in the negotiation and entry into force of a treaty is that, while at present there are no offensive weapons in space, by the time that multilateral negotiations are underway that could well not to be the case.


Independent Moratoriums on the Development and Deployment of Weapons in Space by space user states would maintain the option of the non-weaponisation of space and make the negotiation of a PAROS treaty significantly easier.


The aim of the Moratoriums would be to draw a line so that the situation regarding the militarisation of space would not be dramatically worsened by weapons in space. Such an interim step would also have value as a confidence building measure.

Possible Elements of an Independent Moratorium

The Preamble could contain references to:

  • common interest and benefit in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, for peaceful purposes
  • the present Outer Space Treaty and the UN Charter
  • the need for transparency and the benefits of confidence building measures
  • the value of the legal regime applicable to outer space
  • the contribution PAROS would make to international peace and security, in particular the enhancement of European security
  • the need for states to refrain from actions contrary to the peaceful use of outer space and to the prevention of an arms race in outer space

The Declaration would commit the state to:

  • ban the development and deployment of offensive weapons in space either in orbit, on celestial bodies or by other means
  • not assist such development and deployment by other states or organisations
  • respect the non-weapon space equipment of other states
  • promote the beneficial peaceful uses of outer space

At present there are no offensive weapons in space. A Moratorium by the EU and Independent Moratoriums by member states would greatly help maintain that position, thereby giving time for negotiations on a comprehensive treaty with verification procedures to stop the weaponisation of space.


This would be a major contribution to European and world security and enable the development of European access to space to continue in a co-operative and militarily safe context.


Effectively utilising the peaceful uses of space is surely expensive enough, and challenge enough, without the waste of resources and the dangers of violent conflict into, through and from space.


Dave Knight (Global Network U.N. representative)


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