Historic Conference on space cooperation with the Latin American continent at the Italian Aerospace Research Centre with 28 delegates from 12 countries on a three-day mission in Italy
From Tijuana to the Tierra del Fuego and from the 32nd parallel north to Cape Horn, nearly the entire Latin American sub-continent has taken part in the first big Conference on space cooperation with Italy. Sent by their governments on a three-day mission to our country, twenty-eight delegates, representing 12 different nations, arrived at the Italian Aerospace Research Centre - CIRA - in Capua yesterday.
"I believe this to be the first time that Italy, as a national economic system, meets almost the whole of Latin America, intended as a system of countries”, commented the president of the Italian Space Agency, Roberto Battiston, who wanted the event to take place and promoted it along with ICE*, CIRA and AIAD**. “In my opinion, - he added - this is the best way of making industrial policy in our sector".
The three-day event, which is part of the Italy in Latin America Year programme organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was preceded by last year's three international missions in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. One of its fundamental premises is linked to the 7th Space Conference of the Americas that ended in Managua, Nicaragua, on 19 November 2015. ASI was invited to and participated in this conference.
In fact, on that occasion, the interest in establishing a supranational continental body for coordinating space activities was reiterated. This would be a sort of Latin American 'ESA', based on an approach with cooperation as its model of reference and, in political terms, the European Union's functional model. Quite significantly, the first 'political' action to follow the Conference in Managua is this visit to Italy: the largest Latin American international mission in our country.
It is no coincidence that leading the delegation from overseas was the representative of the country that took over the Pro-Tempore Secretariat of the Space Conference of the Americas last November: namely Nicaragua, which sent its Vice President, Moisés Omar Halleslevens Acevedo, to Italy.
"I am here - said Acevedo - upon the specific wish of President Daniel Ortega, as he considered this an extremely important occasion and asked me to lead the delegation".
“The same common thread running through our presence here and now - he added - began with the Managua Conference in November 2015 and leads to the IAC in Guadalajara in September 2016.”
In his speech, Ambassador Massimo Gaiani, who represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the CIRA, placed great emphasis on the presence of the Nicaraguan Vice President. “As we all know, we live in an increasingly globalized world - said Gaiani - and this is particularly evident in the Space sector. However, in this scenario of globalization, relations between Italy and Latin America are truly special, solid and deeply-rooted.”
"I was very impressed by the broad participation at this event - the ambassador added - and I believe that this visit creates the conditions for an always greater, lasting relationship.”
The concept of cooperation was of course the main focus of almost every speech at the conference, opening with a space for Italian companies in the sector - including the presentation of technologies and also of single products -followed by two thematic panels, organized by ASI and dedicated to the activities of earth observation - with the application of the COSMO SkyMed system - and to the perspectives on small satellites and enabling technologies for small missions.
"Italy and Latin America - said Battiston - are two `pieces of the world' that have a great deal to tell each other and to do together. I like to think that one of the roles of the CIRA is, like today, to act as a 'host' venue for events of this level and importance.”
These words were echoed by the 'host' of the event, the president of the CIRA, Luigi Carrino, who said “I am very happy that our Centre was chosen to host such high-level meetings” and pointed out that this visit “is an opportunity to establish important relationships with the countries of Latin America regarding the use of satellite technologies for monitoring the territory, safeguarding the environment and combating environmental crimes”.
In fact, it is important to note that although major competitors like France and Germany have been moving in these markets for some time (but not only: Nicaragua too has recently signed an agreement with Russia on the Glonass navigation system), an international conference of this size, with the whole of Latin America as an interlocutor, is unprecedented.
On the other hand, it is still hard to outline an economic framework - in terms of subjects, turnover and prospects - for the space industry in the American sub-continent. This is because, even though this is one of the world's most dynamic economic areas, based on levels of development also in social and political terms, it has only recently entered into this sector.
For example, none of the Latin American countries are part of the OECD ‘Space Forum' (previously 'Global Forum on Space Economy'), which has been publishing the 'The Space Economy at a glance' econometric report every year since 2007. Or rather: none until yesterday. In fact, starting next year, Mexico will be entering into this organization.
This autumn, as previously mentioned, Mexico will be hosting one of the most eagerly-awaited events in the sector: the International Astronautical Congress (IAC, 67th edition). Indeed, Mexico sent 5 delegates to Italy. Among these, there was Rosa Ramírez De Arellano, director of the Agencia Espacial Mexicana, who made a long speech within the afternoon panel on Earth Observation, underlining the “value of cooperation” and the “newly signed partnership agreement with the Italian Space Agency in this specific field, also through joint training initiatives with the ASI Centre in Matera”.
Among other things, Ramírez De Arellano also spoke of a somewhat unexpected linguistic requirement, pointing out that our languages have numerous common traits and emphasizing that what is almost a 'lingua franca' based on Spanish and Portuguese has been in use in the sub-continent's international relations for quite some time now. Conclusion: all the work at the Conference held at the CIRA was carried out in Italian, or in both of the guest delegates' languages. For once, the English-speaking translator had a rest.
* ICE - Agency for the promotion abroad and internationalization of Italian businesses
** AIAD - Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace, Defence and Security