Companies such as APCO Technologies, Beyond Gravity and Thales Alenia Space Switzerland have equipped the EarthCARE satellite, which will be launched in May on behalf of the Copernicus program of the EU and the space agency ESA. Image provided by APCO Technologies/Martin Steiger

Swiss government rejects participation in earth observation programme

02 May 2024 12:57

Swissmem SSIG

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Bern - Switzerland will not be participating in the Copernicus programme of the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA) in the period up to 2027. The Swiss government made the decision with reference to the costs. It jeopardizes the further participation of Swiss companies in the programme.

The Federal Council, the Swiss government, has decided not to participate in the Copernicus programme of the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA). It justified its decision in a statement with reference to the necessary additional expenditure. There is no room for manoeuvre “due to the federal government's tight financial situation”, it writes. 

Participation in the programme would have required the negotiation of a bilateral agreement with the EU. Nevertheless, the Federal Council wants to examine participation for the next programme generation from 2028.

Copernicus is based on several specially developed and other commercially and government-operated satellites as well as ground stations. The programme provides numerous geodata, in areas such as environmental protection, security, and disaster and crisis management. The first special satellite, Sentinel-1A, was sent into space in 2014. Almost 20 more satellites will follow by 2030. 

Swiss companies including APCO Technologies from Aigle in the canton of Vaud, Beyond Gravity and Thales Alenia Space Switzerland in Zurich are supplying components and solutions for the satellites and ground stations. Their participation in follow-up contracts is now jeopardized due to the Federal Council's decision.

In 2020, the Swiss parliament referred a motion by the then Ticino Center National Assembly Councillor Marco Romano to the Federal Council. The motion called on the Federal Council to “take the necessary steps for Switzerland to participate in the Copernicus programme”. Romano justified his motion by arguing that without participation, “the expertise and technologies developed over the past decades (not only in industry, but also at universities) would be lost”.

In January 2022, the Federal Council instructed the relevant departments to enter into technical discussions with the EU concerning Switzerland's participation. ce/stk

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