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  • Where is Paradise? The EU's Navigation System Galileo -Some Comments on Inherent Risks (or Paradise Lost)

    Paper number



    Dr. Lesley Jane Smith, University of Lueneburg, Germany



    The European Union’s Global Navigation Service is currently undergoing its operational testing phase, estimated to become fully functional in 2011. Establishing a regulatory structure for Galileo constituted the initial challenge. Nevertheless, the process of preparing the Galileo construct has left a few imponderables that are now being addressed. 
    It is the risk dimension of the Galileo programme that is currently attracting attention. All technological systems carry a degree of risk, and Galileo is no exception. Constructing a liability regime, geared to operative failures, that can be financed on a sustainable basis but nevertheless matches the level of prestige which the project claims for itself, is the immediate challenge for regulators and industry alike.  
    A variety of international liability regimes offer prototypes for major disaster or damage situations, akin to those conceivable within Galileo’s complexities. The best known of these relate to maritime (oil) pollution and nuclear accidents. Given that Galileo services are accessible beyond the EU, damage can occur on a global scale. Any forms of damage regulation projected must therefore include considerations for EU and foreign claims alike. A sustainable liability regime requires clear grounds of liability; in the field of high technology, a non-fault system has distinct advantages. Most important of all, however, is that liability be channelled onto those best suited to bear it. This may be the public hand, or the industry itself, or a mixture of both. Within Galileo, however, this issue is likely to constitute the most difficult task: the public-private nature of the cooperation does not have a background similar to that under the US Commercial Launchers Act which, despite operator insurance and public fund models, still retains a claim of last resort against the industry. Even if the US has different insolvency laws, Europe must look for a system that does not antagonise the varying interests, but that does contain clear liability rules. It is worth recalling that its commercial space history has also developed on a different tack to its US counterpart. 
    This paper focuses on a possible liability regime for the Galileo programme and its various Uses. It examines the legal relations between all parties concerned, identifies contractual and tort liability structures within the project and examines the liability regime options open to the EU in the light of its international predecessors.
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-07-E6.4.05.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.