Gregor Kreuzhuber, spokesman for the executive European Commission, on Monday said no new satellites would be launched to provide Earth surveillance information. Instead the service would pool existing data from across the 25-nation bloc, taken from nationally run satellite services.

"This will help the EU to ensure that a crisis situation can be better anticipated and managed," Kreuzhuber said. A joint European approach definitely adds value."

He said some $269 million had been spent so far in setting up the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security network, which should be running by the end of 2008.

Kreuzhuber said the system's initial job, would be to provide emergency management, land monitoring and marine services. That would include the monitoring of fish stocks, floods and forest fires.

Ambitious plans

The EU head office future plans include gradually expanding and improving the Earth monitoring system for its use in, for example, border surveillance and security monitoring.

The system is separate from the EU's new Galileo satellite navigation project, which is set to launch the first of its 30 satellites into orbit in December.

It will provide the EU and partner nations its own satellite navigation system rivalling the US based Global Positioning System.

Galileo will more than double the coverage provided by GPS, providing satellite navigation for everyone from motorists to sailors to mapmakers.