(AFP) – Sep 25, 2007
BRUSSELS (AFP) — European Commission plans to bail out the European Union's troubled Galileo satellite network have already got a cold reception less than a week after being unveiled, EU officials said Tuesday.
The Commission proposed last Wednesday to tap into the bloc's joint budget to come up with the extra 2.4 billion euros (3.4 billion dollars), required to fund Europe's answer to the United States' popular GPS in the 2008-2013 period.
In particular, it proposed using 1.7 billion euros in 2007 and 500 million euros in 2008 in unused farm subsidies while the rest of the money would come from unspent funds earmarked for running EU institutions.
Work on Galileo, which was supposed to be a showcase for Europe's technical prowess, has stalled as cost over-runs pile up, the private contractors bicker and member states push their own industrial interests.
EU transport ministers are to give their response to the plan at a meeting next Tuesday in Luxembourg, but no big decisions are expected given the criticism the proposal has met with so far, officials said.
So far Germany is the main source of opposition to tapping the EU's joint budget since Berlin is eager for Galileo to be financed by the countries whose companies are building the network.
It is in particular wary about using unspent farm subsidies, which it fears could set a dangerous precedent in the future.
While France welcomed the proposal along with Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, Paris and Madrid also have reservations about using funds earmarked for EU farm subsidies.
Although France and Spain can live with tapping unspent farm subsidies from 2007 since it is almost over, they do not want to use money for 2008 while it is still not known whether it will be needed.
Another group of countries, including Britain and the Netherlands backs the idea of using money from the EU's budget, but are uneasy about juggling where the funds would come from within it.
While Europe has dithered over Galileo, Russia and China have been working on similar projects and at the same time the United States is updating GPS, which is already used widely in boats and planes.
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