Johann-Dietrich Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), suggested it would depend on Slovenia what it gained from membership of the organisation, as he visited the country on Wednesday to assess Slovenia’s cooperation so far with a view to achieving full-fledged membership.
Slovenia has been an associate member of ESA for five years, during which time 19 Slovenian science institutions and six companies have been involved in the programme, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told a joint news conference with the ESA boss. “Through this programme EUR 4.5m has come to Slovenia.”
Slovenia asked to be admitted as full-fledged member this year and Woerner expressed the belief the country could benefit greatly. “It will be vital for the Slovenian academia as well as for companies and industry,” he said.
Explicating, the ESA director general added: “Space today is no longer a matter of experts in one field, but a global infrastructure – for navigation, telecommunications, monitoring the Earth and research,” he said.
According to business daily Finance, Slovenia has so far spent more than EUR 6m on membership fees to ESA, which means it has paid in more than it has gained.
Commenting on that, Woerner said that contributions by the member states were mandatory and that it would cost Slovenia some EUR 1.4m a year. A proportion of the funds then flows back to the countries.
Then there are optional projects that the countries interested can take part in. In this way countries can pool the resources to achieve goals they might not on their own.
The country will thus pay into ESA according to the optional projects it decides to participate in. “If you only participate in the mandatory programme, it will not fetch much.”
Počivalšek commented that full membership would enable the country to access all programmes, something that it could not as an associate member.
“Our realisation does not depend on the membership fee but on how successful our involvement is. We haven’t been successful enough so far, but full membership will get us a broader scope of opportunities for cooperation for all of our economy.”
Slovenia is interested in the scientific as well as economic sections, “although we are more down to earth, so we’ll try to focus on this Earthy, economic part“.