The reduction of this ambition is a clear indication of Germany's reluctance to engage in a genuine European space policy, at a time when the BDI, the powerful federation of German industry, held its Weltraumkongress on October 18 in Berlin to present the implications of space for the economy of the future. It called on the German government to raise its investments in space to the same level as France, to strengthen European strategic autonomy and to address the symbolic dimension of space policy. However, the Franco-German Council of Ministers in Toulouse made it possible to define a common roadmap for the European Space Agency (ESA) ministerial conference to be held next November, during which the two countries are expected to present their plans for a joint robotics mission to the moon, using artificial intelligence to demonstrate the power of European technological leadership.
Finally, the Toulouse Council of Ministers recalled the support of both countries for the establishment of the European Commission's new Directorate-General for Space and Defence Industry, announced in September by Ursula von der Leyen, and which Paris is strongly committed to maintaining in the portfolio of the next French Commissioner.
Given the current institutional crisis in Europe, the Franco-German Council of Ministers could have appeared to be a purely formal exercise. The difficulty of the two countries in achieving a common ambition is thus expressed in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), insofar as the Franco-German centre project for AI is now relegated to the simple networking of national centres and the financing of joint projects. By making some significant progress in strategic areas, this Council has nevertheless demonstrated the ability of the Franco-German couple to lay the foundations for a new European dynamic.
As the European Council of 17th and 18th of October showed, Europe is still largely a "source of misunderstanding" for France and Germany (Luuk van Middelaar). On the question of the enlargement of the European Union to include Albania and Macedonia, on the question of the long-term European budget or the establishment of a stabilisation budget for the euro zone, on the question of the use of the Chinese Huawei to equip Europe with 5G, France and Germany are still far from having agreed on a common position.
However, there is one noteworthy development: at the end of the Council of Ministers, the French President and the German Chancellor received the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Toulouse. The meeting of the three executives, highly symbolic, perhaps outlines the new European leadership: that of the French and German governments seeking to overcome their differences to move forward on concrete projects in order to support the strategic agenda of the future Commission.
Copyright : Guillaume HORCAJUELO / POOL / AFP