Galileo is also the name of the future European version of the GPS satellite-based positioning system. The European Union (or, more precisely, the European Space Agency) feels that the GPS functionality is becoming increasingly important and useful for today's world, and there has been growing uneasiness about depending more and more on a system that is controlled by a foreign power (even if it is a friendly foreign power). In the words of the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi:
"What made us push with so much insistence for the launching of the Galileo projects is, quite simply, a matter of independence. Even on this subject the American position is difficult to accept; they ask us to depend on them, on a system that we do not control, that has been often modified or suspended and that, at the end of the day, is military hands. If they had proposed us to share in the managing of the GPS system, it would have been something entirely different. But of course they never offered that"
One need not think of terrible military scenarios - just consider the possibility of a trade war in a scenario where shipping of all type depends more and more on a facility that is entirely in the hands of one of the opponents.
The Galileo system, supported by Italy and France and not much appreciated by Great Britain and Germany, has a projected cost of 3.4 billion Euro (EU will pay for around 60% of it, private capital is expected to step in at a later phase); it will feature a constellation of 30 satellites, and it will be compatible with the GPS system. Galileo will be free for many applications, but users will have to pay for additional services (that will probably mean extra precision).
The Galileo Industries consortium, including Alenia Spazio, Astrium and Alcatel has been formed to build the infrastructure.