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And yet it will be in Prague! The Galileo Agency is going to move next year

After six years of focused and joint efforts the decision was made on Friday, December 10, 2010. The administrative headquarters of the Galileo European satellite system will be located in Prague.

Prague compared favourably in the harsh competition with ten other countries. Finally, after lengthy negotiations, only two remained in the game - the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. On Wednesday, December 8, the Member States convincingly voted Prague the winner with 22 votes to 4. And on Friday, December 10, Prague received unanimous support from all EU countries.

Galileo is a name that has been mentioned more and more often this year, by diplomats in Brussels at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic and in the Embassies in all EU countries, experts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Transport including the Government Plenipotentiary for Galileo, as well as the Office of the Government, Members of the European Parliament, our ministers as well as the Czech Prime Minister. Friday's decision, adopted by the Ministers of EU Member States, brought a deserved victory to all.

As of next year, the building of the former Czech Consolidation Agency in Prague-Holešovice is going to host initially fifty experts from Brussels, a number which should eventually increase to one hundred. The administrative headquarters will control both the management and monitoring centres - one in the United Kingdom and the other in France. The Prague headquarters will be in charge of establishing the system itself, monitoring the Galileo project's progress, accreditation of the Agency's security features, organizing tenders and marketing. If the project is brought to life according to the current plans, in addition to the prestige, the Czech Republic will benefit from the European Union institution's functioning, from congress tourism, and in the wider context, Czech businesses in the vicinity of the Centre that are involved in the manufacture or development of space satellites will benefit.

The Czech Republic gained victory fairly. From the very beginning we focused our interest on a single agency. We consistently pointed out that countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and later should not be left aside when adopting decisions regarding locations of agencies. We organized dozens of accompanying expert events both in the Czech Republic and abroad. In autumn 2008, in front of the European Space Agency the Czech flag was raised alongside the flags of other Member States. Our membership in the European Space Agency also played an important role in the decision-making process for the Galileo Agency location. A high-quality proposal was prepared and we offered suitable premises for the Agency. Furthermore, we were helpful in terms of practical details, such as discussions concerning schools for children of the European experts. We are ready to arrange the move of the Agency in a manner that will not compromise the Galileo project. We all pulled together.

I remember a visit to the European spaceport in Kourou, Guyana, at the invitation of the French Presidency. It is from there that the Galileo space satellites are to be launched into the Earth's orbit. The satellites will refine our data for car or aircraft navigation, reduce our dependency on data received from non-EU countries, offer a number of important services, e.g. provide necessary information to rescue teams and help when lives are at risk.

All this will become true only if the European Union successfully completes a number of steps that are far from being easy. The management of large projects is not one of its strengths. Common European projects are usually costly, laborious and unable to find partners easily in the private sector. And above all, the European Union must successfully overcome all the turbulence of the financial and economic crisis we are going through at the moment. Let's put the celebrations off for a while. Modesty and forbearance are recommended. The Czech Republic has successfully managed the first step. Good luck with the next ones.

Milena Vicenová

Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the European Union

Brussels, December 10, 2010