What ESA is up to you find at http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMMRH91M9H_index_0.html
. Actually German, French and Italian tax payers pay most. I am quite happy that we support the French Ariane rockets to put satellites into space.
Re ISS it is a pity that ESA gets involved with it in a rather strange fashion - to build the habitation module that is used to go to the ISS ... but not back.
To go to the ISS a US or Russian rocket thus sends a spaceship consisting of a service module, command module and habitation module into low Earth orbit, LEO, we are told. The service module has a rocket engine and fuel tanks. In LEO the asstronuts then fly up to the ISS and dock using the service module rocket engine and the habitation module is connected to the ISS with the command and service modules connected to the habitation module.
To get back to Earth, we are told, the kosmonuts go into the habitation module from the ISS and the hatch is closed. In the habitation module the kosmonuts change to space clothing and then go into the command module and close the hatch to the habitation module.
Then the habitation module is disconnected from the ISS and the three modules spaceship flies away from the ISS direction Earth. Speed increases because you drop down accelerated by Earth's gravity. Then the habitation module and the service module are disconnected from the command module some way or another and drop into atmosphere and burn up! Isn't it a waste with tax payers money?
The command module with three kosmonuts + paperwork + PICA-X heatshield do the famous re-entry without burning up in 10 minutes, deploys parachutes and lands after another 20 minutes.
If you ask the space travel experts why they cannot put heat shields and parachutes on the service and habitation modules and try to land them too or to keep the whole space ship together and land it in one piece, you will be told not to put the nose into this complicated biz.