Luxembourg in talks to launch military satellite
(CS/jag) Luxembourg's Defence Minister Etienne Schneider has confirmed that the Grand Duchy is in talks with satellite operator SES to launch a military communications platform for use by NATO.
The move comes after calls made by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for members to increase their contributions. Luxembourg currently spends 0.4 percent of GDP on NATO funding, well below a 2 percent defence spending goal, this year only achieved by member states US and the UK.
Schneider confirmed to the “Luxemburger Wort” that the government is planning to invest 50 million euros in the satellite, with another 50 million paid by SES Astra and a third such share acquired through a bank loan.
The 150-million-euro budget will be used to fund a new company, co-owned by the state and SES, which will then make available communications capacities to Luxembourg and NATO on its own satellite.
The minister said that this is the first time the Luxembourg government is treading such a path, but added that the project could even yield a profit while also opening up new business opportunities for SES.
Luxembourg's Pirate Party voiced concern over the plan, which has yet to be finalised, questioning whether NATO could use the satellite to control drones. In an official statement, the party said that the use of armed drones in conflict zones has led to unacceptable numbers of civilian casualties, with frequent target errors.
The relationship between NATO and Luxembourg should not be used to fund munitions causing civilian suffering, the “Piratepartei” said, adding that Minister Schneider and the government parties should take a clear stance and not invest in systems used to navigate drones.
Schneider said he plans to present the project to the government council this week. Other measures to increase defence spending, as recognised by NATO, include renovating the Diekirch military barracks. This would see at least some of the 300 million euros spent, up from 200 millions currently, invested in Luxembourg, with local businesses contracted to carry out the refurbishment.