The Bulgarian Parliament has approved a draft Cooperation Agreement with the European Space Agency, according to news reports. The vote authorizes the Minister of Economy and Energy to sign the agreement, which will allow formal cooperation on space projects between Bulgaria and ESA.
A Cooperation Agreement is the first step in a multi-year process of becoming a full member of the space agency, which currently has 20 member nations plus Canada as an associate member. Other steps in the process include:
European Cooperating State (ECS) Agreement: The nation increases its financial contribution and becomes eligible to participate in agency procurements. Under ECS, a country can participate in all ESA activities with the exception of the Basic Technology Research Programme.
Plan For European Cooperating State (PECS Charter): A five-year program of basic research and development activities conducted in cooperation with ESA. The PEC Charter can be renewed.
Full Membership: Negotiations typically begin at the end of the five-year PECS Charter, unless that agreement is renewed.
Bulgaria deepens ESA’s ties with European Union (EU) countries. Of the 28 EU nations, only Croatia lacks some type of formal agreement with the space agency.