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Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)

The GMES system is a network for collecting and disseminating information concerning the environment and security obtained from monitoring the Earth from space and in-situ. This system will assist decision-making by public and private authorities in Europe and support research.


Communication from the Commission, of 10 November 2005 entitled: “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES): from concept to reality.” [COM(2005) 565 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) is an initiative aimed at streamlining European activities and funds in the field of Earth observation. It will provide the public authorities, European researchers and businesses with reliable and independent information concerning the environment and security.

The GMES system has four key features. It will provide services to public policy makers and individuals, provide observations from space and in-situ (including airborne systems), and will be able to integrate data and manage information.

The system will aid the evaluation and implementation of European policies which have an impact on the environment, particularly as regards Europe’s environmental commitments, agriculture, regional development, fisheries, transport, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), as well as other policies which affect European citizens such as border surveillance.

GMES services

The information services provided by GMES will be established gradually in line with the priorities jointly defined by the European Institutions (Commission and agencies), the European Union (EU) and the Member States, and depending on the level to which these services have been developed, their effective use and long-term continuity of supply and demand.

An initial series of priority services will focus on land and marine monitoring and emergency services. These services will be based on research and development projects which broaden and boost existing measures. They will also, eventually, make it possible to gather and disseminate data regarding, in particular, the distribution of urban areas and areas protected under the Natura 2000 network, changes in the temperature and composition of seas and oceans, areas which pose a risk, for example to man-made constructions, as well as data regarding major natural or man-made disasters. These services should be operational by 2008.

Other services are planned to follow on from these initial ones. They will focus, among other things, on atmospheric pollution, humanitarian aid, the prevention of forest fires and floods as well as global changes. These services will be defined in relation to specific political priorities and criteria, such as economic and social advantages, their Europe-wide utility and the availability of the necessary monitoring tools.

Observation resources

The GMES system comprises observations of the Earth taken from space and observations on or in the sites themselves. Observation from space involves using existing satellites as well as preparing the next generation of satellites, particularly as part of the European Space Agency’s GMES programme, with support from the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, and as part of the Galileo system and the INSPIRE initiative (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe).

In situ observation involves, firstly, all the networks of sensors used on land, at sea, in other bodies of water and in the atmosphere to measure and provide a comprehensive description of the Earth system and, secondly, all the studies aimed at collecting socio-economic data, land-use data (including aerial photographs), geology, the state of the soil, biodiversity and other geographical data such as altitude, administrative borders, transport and public service networks, etc. This side of GMES is to be strengthened both at EU level and worldwide.

Pooling and disseminating information

The advantage of the GMES system lies in the fact that it pools data obtained from a variety of sources and presents them in a user-friendly format. A structured framework is therefore needed to incorporate and manage this data, i.e. a single network which will gradually integrate all the networks which are currently not interconnected.

This presents certain challenges, in particular in terms of increasing the interoperability of data acquisition systems, harmonising and promoting the standardisation of structures and data interfaces, removing political obstacles to the exchange of data, etc. The INSPIRE Directive is a key initiative in removing such obstacles.

Funding and regulating GMES

The basic infrastructures and technologies needed for the initial series of services will to start with be funded jointly by the EU and ESA. Eventually GMES services should be funded by users.

The funding strategy for GMES will draw on ESA’s budget for the space component, the 6th and 7th Framework Programmes for Research, on resources pooled at Community, national and regional levels to fund the in-situ and data management components as responsibilities in these areas are fragmented, and on public-private partnerships.

The responsibilities will be spread between the EU (defining priorities), ESA (space component) and the Member States (coordination and implementation at local level). Furthermore, industry will also need to be involved in the actual implementation of GMES.

The management structure for GMES must be flexible and open-ended in order to adapt to the ongoing development of new services and the changing needs of users.


A large amount of data has already been collected and analysed, both at national and international levels. However, the coordination and provision of resources must be improved, particularly as regards streamlining requests for information, overall continuity, comparability and integration of the data obtained from space and in-situ, modelling activities and systems interoperability, easy and reasonably priced access to data, the provision of regular and reliable services, the dialogue between the actors involved in the information chain, safety aspects and sources of finance

The GMES system is the main European contribution to the implementation plan for a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The EU’s participation in GEOSS will facilitate data exchange with international partners and encourage the use of Earth observation, as well as the development of a system of worldwide observation systems.

The GMES concept was initiated in 1998 and then endorsed by the Gothenburg European Council and the European Space Agency in 2001. The space component of GMES is a key part of the European Space Policy and its leading programme after Galileo.

GMES is a geostrategic instrument which will make the EU able to independently evaluate its actions in a reliable and timely manner.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 12 November 2008 “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES): we care for a safer planet” [COM(2008) 748 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. The Commission proposes provisions relating to GMES funding, operational infrastructures and management, in order to achieve implementation of the project at a later stage. Pre-operational services were launched in 2008: marine and atmosphere services and land, emergency and security services. However, the Commission stresses that GMES services are not yet fully and permanently globally available. In order to do this, further investment is necessary.

While GMES services will trigger partnerships between the research and business community, and could in the long term be financed by the private sector, the Commission considers that GMES should remain primarily a public-driven programme, co-financed at European, intergovernmental and national levels. The financing needs will be subject to a detailed financial and budgetary analysis, led by the European Union. It also considers that European instruments in support of competitiveness and innovation should be deployed to stimulate the growth of the GMES downstream sector.

In addition, the Commission stresses the importance of the international dimension with regard to Earth observation and the necessity of exchanging observation data within the framework of cooperation schemes, and thereby sharing infrastructure costs with non-EU partners. It therefore proposes to establish an international cooperation strategy for GMES.

The Commission also notes that the implementation of GMES will necessitate the establishment of partnerships among the different players involved, under the leadership of the EU. It proposes to be responsible for the overall political coordination of the programme. Technical implementation should be entrusted to European entities which interact with public and private actors, in particular European agencies.

Directive 2007/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2007 establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) [Official Journal L 108, 24.4.2007]. The EU has established the INSPIRE infrastructure in order to facilitate the pooling of interoperable geographical and environmental information and to make this information available to interested parties via Internet sites.

Communication from the Commission, of 3 February 2004, entitled: “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES): Establishing a GMES capacity by 2008 - (Action Plan (2004-2008))” [COM(2004) 65 final – Official Journal C 94, 23.4.2004].

Communication from the Commission, of 3 December 2003, entitled: “2003 Environment Policy Review - Consolidating the environmental pillar of sustainable development” [COM(2003) 745 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

White Paper of 11 November 2003 – Space: a new European frontier for an expanding Union - An action plan for implementing the European Space Policy [COM(2003) 673 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission, of 23 October 2001, entitled: “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) – Outline GMES EC Action Plan (Initial Period: 2001 – 2003) [COM(2001) 609 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

See also

Further information can be found on the GMES website.

Last updated: 22.12.2008