Here’s a delicious WikiLeak revelation. The Galileo project – an attempt to launch an EU satellite system that would, as Jacques Chirac put it, challenge the “technological imperialism” of America’s GPS – was described as “a stupid idea” and “a waste of taxpayers’ money” by the Chief Executive of the German company that was about to be awarded a €566 million contract to develop 14 satellites for, er, the Galileo project.
The CEO has since been fearlessly sacked by the company. But what he said is hard to argue with. When Galileo was first mooted, we were told it would cost €7.7 billion in total, with the private sector bearing most of the cost and taxpayers being liable for €2.6 billion. Now, we learn that it will cost €22.2 billion, with the entire sum coming from taxpayers (hat-tip, Open Europe). For once, the word “astronomical” seems entirely apposite.
Eurocrats woodenly repeat that there will be commercial benefits, but the private sector plainly doesn’t think so: all the companies that were originally interested in investing in the scheme have pulled out. The only other source of funds is, slightly alarmingly, Red China.
The wonderful Labour MP, Gwyneth Dunwoody, when chairing the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, described Galileo as “not one pig flying in orbit, this is a herd of pigs with gold trotters, platinum tails and diamond eyes”. Britain’s projected share of the cost has risen from £385 million to £2.95 billion. This at a time when our debt has swollen to a trillion pounds, and is rising by £7,000 a second.
What makes the whole scheme so idiotic is that there is no need for it whatever. The whole world gets to use GPS for nothing. Galileo, as the now unemployed German CEO correctly says, is there so that a handful of French politicians can indulge their Gaullist fantasies of challenging the US. Which is all well and good but, as I hope David Cameron said to François Fillon in a different context last week, it’s not our business to pay for it.