The Galileo project, Europe’s five billion dollar satellite navigation system which isn’t quite working just yet but we’re almost there so halt die Klappe (shut up) and be patient already, finds itself “on a dead-end street,” says German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee. Speaking on behalf of the EU, he also sees little hope left that the consortium of companies from France, Germany, Spain, Britain, Italy and who the hell else knows where will end their infighting in time for the project to survive. Not without public funds, that is (this was the real reason for the statement). The consortium can’t seem to reach terms about who does what for how much and has even failed to respond to an ultimatum the EU commission made in March.

Been there, done that, haven’t we? All of this sounds disturbingly familiar. If you are a European taxpayer, that is. Galileo, Europe’s peaceful and enlightened answer to the evil and militaristic US Global Positioning System or GPS, sounds a whole hell of a lot like the Airbus A380 project, Europe’s peaceful and enlightened answer to the evil and militaristic Boeing 747. It’s deep in the red ink, too, in other words, and now it’s time for the public hand to pull them back out.

Though still on the drawing board, it looks like those behind the Galileo project have decided to go broke anyway (or is it go for broke?). A system consisting of 30 satellites in orbit, it was supposed to provide navigational data of unprecedented accuracy. But with only one satellite launched so far, it doesn’t appear as if the other 29 will make it up by the planned completion date of 2011, unless a whole lot of cash gets pumped down its gullet prontissimo.

Unprecedented accuracy? Now everybody is moaning about unprecedented failure. If you leave out what’s happened to the A380 so far, that is. But I can’t blame this consortium, can you? Why should it be prepared to carry any risks in one of these way special public-private partnerships when it knows that it can get European taxpayers to foot the bill instead?

Now that’s what I call a navigation calculation made with unprecedented accuracy.

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