VIA ESA PR — Malta signed a Cooperation Agreement with ESA on Monday, allowing the island nation to become more involved with projects being undertaken by the continent’s space agency. Meanwhile, Romania has joined ESA as its 19th Member State while ascension talks are being held with Poland to become the 20th member.
Malta signed the Cooperation Agreement on 20 February 2012. The objective of this agreement is to allow Malta and ESA to create the framework for more-intensive cooperation in ESA projects in the future.
Head of ESA Director General’s Cabinet, Karlheinz Kreuzberg, and Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando MP, signed the agreement in Valletta, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Malta, the Hon. Lawrence Gonzi.
Discussions with ESA started in 2004 through the Maltese Embassy in Paris. The Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), in charge of space affairs and also responsible for the National Strategy for Research and Innovation, was appointed as ESA’s counterpart.
The priority areas for Malta in research are telecommunications and satellite technology, as well as high-technology engineering (for example, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems and nanotechnology). The Department of Physics at the University of Malta has a number of research interests in space activities.
On 29 May 2009, Malta joined the Group on Earth Observations. ESA has now a formal cooperation with nearly all EU Member States. The Czech Republic and, more recently, Romania have become ESA Member States.
Accession talks are taking place with Poland. At a November meeting, the ESA Council decided to authorise the ESA Director General to conduct negotiations with Poland for that country to accede to the ESA Convention by March 2012 and thus become the 20th Member State of ESA.
The ESA Director General also initiated in 2011 a series of biannual meetings held at different ESA establishments with the EU Member States that are not members of ESA. Malta also attended these meetings and was given an opportunity to participate in a newly proposed National Trainee Scheme. Malta will send trainees to ESA in line with the capacities and competences of the island.
Prime Minister Gonzi insisted that his Government would give top priority to education. He said, “This cooperation agreement with ESA would result in new training and research opportunities for Maltese students and researchers, access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, as well as the possibility of networking with ESA researchers.”
He also underlined that, “Investing in research and innovation would create the right conditions to grow alongside manufacturing and other economic sectors.”
The New Year also saw the Romanian flag flying at ESA sites alongside those of ESA’s other Member States, after Romania officially became ESA’s 19th Member State on 22 December.
The Agreement on Romania’s accession to the ESA Convention was signed on 20 January 2011 in Bucharest, by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, Teodor Baconschi, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Marius-Ioan Piso, President and CEO of the Romanian Space Agency.
Following this signing, the process of ratification by the Romanian government began. This process was concluded last year and, as of 22 December, Romania deposited its instrument of ratification of the ESA Convention in Paris, becoming an official ESA Member State.
Romania’s cooperation with ESA is long standing. In 1992, Romania was one of the first Eastern European countries to sign a Cooperation Agreement in the field of the peaceful use of outer space with ESA, paving the way for Romanian participation in several research projects with other European countries.
Cooperation between ESA and Romania was strengthened further in October 1999 with the signing of a five-year Framework Cooperation Agreement, and the signature of the European Cooperating State Agreement in 2006.
Romania has participated in several ESA missions, such as Cluster, Herschel, Planck, SOHO and Gaia with co-investigators, and in Earth Observation activities (EDUSPACE software), microgravity and exploration (SURE) and technology activities (the IAP telemedicine project).