Space for Belgium

The Kingdom of Belgium is a lovely place covering 30,528 square kilometers (approximately the size of Maryland) and home to 10.3 million people. The nation offers, among many other things, 40 miles of coastline on the North Sea, medieval cities, castles, chocolate, beer and compulsory voting. (Not all of which are to be experienced at once.) Belgium is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch. Its capital is Brussels, the city also considered the de facto capital of the European Union. (Imagine all the lawyers and civil servants living in that town.) The official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French and German.

And if you'd like to visit, here's a great excuse. We are all invited to the first
Space Days in Liege, Belgium, March 28 & 29 2006 (free registration), courtesy of Wallonie Espace, "an association of industries, universities, laboratories concerned by space research and development in Wallonia and in Brussels." The members of Wallonie Espace want to show off their "expertise and excellence in space systems, services, applications, spin-offs."

Before you go, read Belgium's national space law. Ah. You didn't know Belgium had its own space law? On June 28, 2005, the Belgian Federal Parliament adopted the
Law on the Activities of Launching, Flight Operations or Guidance of Space Objects (unofficial translation).

The Belgian Federal Science Policy Office says the space legislation "aims particularly at: ensuring the legal and material safety of operational space activities performed under Belgian jurisdiction; developing an appropriate legal framework for the hosting of this sector in Belgium." And the Office graciously presents
questions and answers covering the legislation.

In a nutshell, the law, which references international law generally and applicable UN space treaties specifically, provides for engaging in space activities under Belgian "jurisdiction or control" subject to prior "authorisation" (the word "license" is not used) from the Minister responsible for space (Chapter II).

Under Art. 5. ยง1. "The King may determine the conditions for granting authorisations with a view to ensuring the safety of people and property, protecting the environment, ensuring the optimal use of air space and outer space, protecting the strategic, economic and financial interests of the Belgian State, as well as in order to satisfy the Belgian State's obligations under international law. The King shall determine to what extent the conditions set by him shall apply to the activities covered by a current authorisation."

The legislation also establishes a National Register of Space Objects for spacecraft of which Belgium is the launching state (Chapter V). And under the section, "Liabilities, counterclaims and measures in the event of falling space objects," it regulates assessment of and liability for damages caused by a space object, and limits liability of the operator (Chapter VI).

Indeed, the Kingdom is serious about its space law. Anyone who carries out space activities covered under the law (Art. 2) without authorisation, or communicates "intentionally false or incomplete information on an application for authorisation" "shall be liable to a period of imprisonment of between eight days and one year and a fine of between 25 and 25,000 euros, or to one of these sanctions." Yikes.

By the way, I understand a workshop on "the Belgian Space Legislation and other comparative examples of national space laws," will take place in April at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels. According to European Center for Space Law, "the programme will be finalised in the coming weeks and published on the
ECSL website." I'll look for that update.

Merci. Dank u. Danke.

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