13 Sep 2011By JULIAN HALE Defensenews
BRUSSELS - The European Union is stepping up its efforts to persuade other countries to sign an EU voluntary code of conduct on outer space activities, a senior official said Sept. 13 at an annual space conference hosted by the French think tank the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales and the Secure World Foundation.
The code aims to improve security in space for all nations, to prevent an arms race and to limit space debris.
On the same day, meeting in the EU's Political and Security Committee, national ambassadors for foreign affairs to the EU agreed to move from bilateral to multilateral consultations with non-EU countries. The idea is to hold a first multilateral experts' meeting in November or December.
The U.N. is conducting a similar exercise, the senior official said, but it "would start work in July 2012" and is expected "to take years to get to a text." He explained that the EU initiative was being taken outside the U.N. framework to "do something quick so that [the issue] is not blocked for several years."
An analyst at the conference indicated that space debris is a growing problem, while another stressed the importance of preventing an arms space race.
A draft of the EU code of conduct was adopted in October 2010 but "is not set in stone" and is "a living document" open to comments from partners, the official said. As it stands, signatories would agree to "resolve to promote further security guarantees within the appropriate fora for the purposes of enhancing the security of outer space activities by all states and the prevention of an arms race in outer space," and to "refrain from the intentional destruction of any on-orbit space object or other activities which may generate long-lived space debris."
The official said that the EU has had most detailed discussions with the U.S., which was "supporting the EU," while consultations with China in July had been "very difficult."
"China thinks that space debris shouldn't be one of the main objectives of the code," he said.
The code also provides for signatories to share information on their space policies and strategies, including basic objectives for security- and defense-related activities in outer space. For China, it would be "impossible" to give information on security and defense activities, the official said. Developing countries fear this is a Western initiative designed to block them from access to outer space, he said.