Arianespace was founded back in 1980 to implement launch solutions using the European launcher, Ariane, with its core mission being to guarantee independent access to space for Europe.
From the outset, it was decided Arianespace would also address the commercial space transportation market to complement the limited volume of European institutional orders.
This way, it would reach launch rates high enough to achieve reliability and availability targets while bringing the recurring launch costs down to affordable levels.
Over time, Arianespace has become the leader in the commercial space transportation market and is a prime example of a European success story. Its 20 shareholders represent the entire European launch industry, with the European Space Agency as a censor.
Many things have changed since our foundation in 1980, particularly in our markets and competition. This has required our offer to be constantly adapted to match our customers' expectations.
However, one thing has not changed: providing Europe with a reliable and independent access to space remains Arianespace's primary objective. This is why we now operate a family of three vehicles: Ariane 5, of course, but also Soyuz and Vega.
This family enables us to address the full scope of space-based applications, from the heaviest missions with Ariane 5 - such as cargo delivery to the International Space Station - to the lightest ones with Vega - like those to Sun Synchronous Orbits for Earth observation.
This makes us perfectly suited to the needs of European institutions and particularly to those of the EU, whose flagship space programmes, Copernicus and Galileo, rely on the Arianespace's three launchers for deployment.
Regarding Galileo, we expect to have launched a total of 18 satellites by the end of 2016, taking us more than halfway to completion of the 30-satellite constellation required by the global navigation system.
Our continuous dialogue with the European Commission enables us to accommodate Galileo requirements with flexibility and robustness.
And it was a great honour for us to welcome Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska in Kourou in December, and present to her the results of our close cooperation through a visit of the European spaceport and the launch of Andriana and Liene, the two last birds of the constellation to reach orbit.
Today, the Commission is our first institutional customer, through contracts awarded by ESA. Space is definitely an invaluable tool for European citizens in tackling outstanding challenges in at least three areas of concern: namely climate monitoring, security and defence and global connectivity.
I believe that the EU could foster further initiatives in these areas with the development of ambitious programmes, fully complementary to Galileo and Copernicus, initiatives that could be of paramount importance in the perspective of Ariane 6 and Vega-C.
These new vehicles, due in 2020 and 2018 will drive a leap forward in terms of competitiveness, to the benefit of both commercial and institutional customers.
Nevertheless, they require to be fed with a minimum set of institutional missions. This will provide both stability and long-term visibility, but most of all it will establish a level playing field with our competitors outside Europe.
Should this condition be fulfilled, Ariane 6 and Vega-C are undoubtedly the appropriate answer of Europe to maintain its reliable and independent access to space at an affordable cost.