Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme that has the ambition to be “Europe’s eyes on Earth”. The Programme has two main goals: to provide European policy decision makers with critical geo-information and to promote growth and competitiveness in the EU. Copernicus collects data from multiple sources – including earth observation satellites and in situ sensors. It is coordinated and managed by the European Commission (EC) and implemented by several partners.
On 5 April 2019, Copernicus published the report “Study on the Copernicus data policy post-2020”. The report aims to investigate options that could improve the current legal, technical, economic, and strategic elements of their “free, full, and open” (FFO) data policy and concludes that the current one is still the better option. The alternatives that were explored would have limited the openness of the Copernicus data and, in doing so, they would have clashed with pre-existing EU regulation and international commitments. Moreover, even if a legal way was found, limiting access to the data would have entailed significant operational costs, requiring developing access control and enforcement mechanisms. Finally, the benefits for some stakeholder groups could not balance either the negative socio-economic impact to citizens, nor how the EU would be exposed to strategic risks, especially in relations with third countries.