An ongoing analysis of the 27-nation bloc's environmental rules has revealed gaps, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik told journalists after a meeting between several EU commissioners and oil industry representatives in Brussels.
"It seems to me that we have a choice between two options. Either we put in place specific instruments [for offshore drilling] or we extend the scope of our existing tools," he said, without giving a timeline for the proposals.
The bloc's environmental liability legislation and its "polluter pays" principle, which now only covers coastal zones, could be extended to all marine waters, Potočnik said.
The Commission could also propose the mandatory use of financial security instruments by oil rig operators, which is an idea that EU governments have previously rejected, he said.
The bloc's energy chief, Günther Oettinger, said EU governments should follow Norway's recent example and issue a moratorium on new deepwater drilling until the causes of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico were known.
"Norway is our most important partner in the North Sea, and I think what is good for Norway should be good for EU member states as well," he said.
Strengthening licensing procedures
Oettinger stressed that industry must triple check their practices, training programmes and technologies and that companies must convince regulators that they have checked and improved their safety culture.
The Commission plans to work on several key areas to improve safety of drilling, including strengthening licensing procedures.
"Only companies that have demonstrated technical capabilities to stop eventual leaks under given conditions and that have the financial capacity to handle unexpected situations, including the capacity to fully live up to liability claims should be in the position to obtain licenses," Oettinger said.
The EU executive also eyes strengthened prevention through "thorough checks and controls," strengthened transparency, and public scrutiny of the industry as well as of national regulators, Oettinger added.
Strengthened legislation on liability, promotion of EU-level technical standards and development of the European dimension of prevention and disaster intervention are also envisaged.
(EurActiv with Reuters.)