Skip to content
Historical Archives of the European Union

New archival materials on ESA-EU relations at the HAEU

The Historical Archives of the European Union has opened a new series in the holdings of the European Space Agency. The series covers the years from 1974 to 2016, and sheds light on the ESA and Europe’s shared journey in space.

04 July 2022


The Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) is pleased to announce that a new European Space Agency (ESA) series is open for consultation. The series, accessible in the HAEU database, concerns activities between ESA and the European Communities (EC) during the period 1974 to 1992, and activities between ESA and the European Union from 1992 until 2007. The 30-year rule for the opening of documents to the public is in effect for the ESA collection.

Joint activities and agreements

The newly opened files shed light on early links between the ESA and the EC in the 1970s, the development of the first funding framework for ESA research in the 1980s, and the articulation and implementation of shared space policy and EC/EU-ESA collaboration in the 1990s.

Documents show that early activities between the ESA and the European Communities concerned telecommunications in the 1970s and earth observation in 1980s. In the late 1970s, the Euronet data network was a significant point of collaboration between the ESA and the EC. The Space Documentation Service (SDS) Database, managed from the European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) in Frascati, Italy, was one of the world’s largest in the1970s. Today, the ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation is based at ESRIN, as is the European Centre for Space Records (ECSR). The latter is in charge of the ESA Archives prior to the selection of files for historical archiving. 

The First Common Framework between ESA and the EC was approved in 1984 for the years 1984 to 1987. It introduced funding for research and development initiatives such as ESPRIT and BRITE, among others. Later that decade, in a meeting held on 7 February 1989, Reimar Lüst, ESA Director General, and Jacques Delors, the President of the Commission, decided to strengthen the relations between ESA and the European Commission. The idea to create Joint ESA-EC Working Groups followed that decision.

Further milestones in European space policy

By the 1990s, Europe was purposefully moving towards developing a coherent programme on space. The newly published files offer additional insights into the creation of space policy, enriching the series previously deposited by the ESA, such as those from its relations with the Council or the International Relation Committee. The files from the 1990s also illustrate the ESA’s competitive position within the European and global space environment.

Three major milestones impacting on European space policy were reached in the early 1990s. In the Fourth Ministerial meeting in Munich in November 1991, delegates emphasised the increased need for international cooperation and decided on the European long-term space plan (1992-2005). A few months later, the Maastricht Treaty was signed on 28 February 1992, creating the European Union. Finally, at the Ministerial Council meeting held in November 1992 in Granada, Spain, delegates approved a resolution on international cooperation. Just prior to that, in September, Lüst and Delors had agreed that the next, Fourth ESA/EC Framework Programme would include improvements between the space and the non-space sectors in Europe.

The main objective of the ESA meeting at Ministerial Level, held on 11 and 12 May 1999 in Brussels, was to elaborate a coherent European space strategy. This is evident in later years and in the files regarding the European space policy introduced in the Green paper, which was prepared by the European Commission in cooperation with ESA. Another set of files regards the White paper, prepared within the ESA/EU partnership.

Last but not least, the new ESA series reports on the ESA Brussels Bureau and it also discusses the cooperation between ESA and the Council of Europe, and ESA and the European Parliament. 

User Access

Persons interested in the ESA and EU’s remarkable shared journey into space may consult the files in the HAEU database or onsite, according to the 30-year rule. 

Last update: 04 July 2022

Go back to top of the page