It was rather sure, that ESA will participate in ISS for additional years. But official agreement finishes time of assumptions and opens next period in cooperation with NASA on Low Earth Orbit.
It should not be surprising, that Charles Bolden, Administrator of the NASA, expressed his joy after official confirmation of participation of ESA in ISS with following words:
“I’m excited all the International Space Station partners have now joined us in committing to the operation of this invaluable resource through at least 2024,”
ESA was last organization from group involved in ISS project and which have expressed their will to continue cooperation under ISS program until 2024. Finally, during ESA Council at Ministerial Level on 1-2 December 2016 in Lucerne, Switzerland, 22 representatives of Member States, along with delegates from Slovenia and Canada supported plan of extending operational service of International Space Station for additional years until 2024. Along with engagement in Orion-1 spacecraft project (ESA is also partner of NASA in case of new spacecraft; it is responsible for design of service module of Orion) and Mars exploration project InSight, it confirms that ESA is biggest NASA partner in LEO and Deep Space projects. For ESA this decision means, that Agency will spent only for keeping Station operationable at least 807 million Euro (Orion service module is already count as part of this cost) with next 153 million for science research. This budget of course is not including any additional or extraordinary expenses.
It is another time, when end of operational life of ISS is prolonged in time. End of mission of International Space Station was originally planned for the second decade of 2000, but in fact it is limited only with technical condition of modules. In 2010 it was evaluated that ISS can serve until 2016. Another evaluation of costs and potential benefits moved end of ISS to 2020 and later for 2024. Now as far as technical condition is concerned it still possible that end of mission will be postponed for the end of 2020s.