European Union governments agreed Friday to jointly complete the development of the much-delayed Galileo satellite navigation project after mollifying Spain, which had demanded a bigger stake in the venture. Spain was the lone holdout in a 26-1 vote at an EU meeting on moving ahead with the $5 billion undertaking. In seeking unanimity, the EU later won Spain's approval with a deal that said a secondary ground station - planned for Spain to monitor emergency services on Galileo channels - may one day be a full-blown ground control station if Spain pays for that upgrade.
The European Commission set a Dec. 31 deadline for final approval of the satellite program. When completed, by 2013, it is expected to rival the American global positioning system, which also is satellite-based. On Nov. 23, EU governments agreed to a taxpayer bailout for the project, several months after a consortium of private companies walked away from it in a financing dispute. Most of the $3.5 billion needed to complete Galileo will come from unused EU farm funds. In an 11th-hour move Friday, Spain demanded a ground control station as part of the network of 30 satellites that will beam navigation signals to earth. The Galileo program had only foreseen two: one near Munich and another near Rome.