Report: The EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence: Towards Strategic Autonomy? (EUNPDC 2023)

European Union Focuses on Space Defense

The European Union has unveiled its first ever space strategy focused on security and defense. The EU Space Strategy aims to strengthen the bloc’s strategic autonomy in outer space through harmonizing legislation, transforming civilian assets into dual-use, and deepening cooperation with allies.

Space has become increasingly important in defense capabilities, providing essential services like communications, navigation, surveillance and intelligence. Recognizing this, the EU strategy focuses on protecting existing EU space assets like Galileo and Copernicus and exploring their potential defense applications. It also aims to boost Europe’s independent access to space through launchers and support the space industry.

The strategy represents a shift for the EU from purely civilian space uses towards prioritizing defense needs. A key part is transforming the Copernicus Earth observation program into a dual-use system that can support military operations. The EU also plans to conduct military exercises in space and establish space domain awareness capabilities for monitoring threats.

While ambitious, experts note the strategy has limitations due to constraints on EU defense mandates. The language is more muted compared to national defense strategies, and plans for EU-wide space legislation face legal hurdles. Technical upgrades are needed for Copernicus and other programs before dual-use is possible. Concerns also remain about relying too much on US cooperation versus achieving true strategic autonomy.

Overall, the strategy signals the EU is moving to actively acquire defense capabilities in space. By boosting Europe’s space industries, operations and security, the bloc aims to become a more robust space power while upholding norms like peaceful use. Implementing the strategy will require overcoming legal and technical barriers, and striking a balance between cooperation and autonomy.

Reference: EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium, “The EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence: Towards Strategic Autonomy?”, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Papers no. 83, June 2023,

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