EU countries have to follow strict rules when issuing licenses for searching for, drilling for and producing oil: the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive (94/22/EC) ensures a competitive, non-discriminatory and transparent European market and improves the security of supply.
National governments can determine the geographical areas for prospecting, exploring for and producing hydrocarbons. However, they have to follow a specific procedure when granting licences: an invitation for applications has to be published in the Official Journal of the EU at least 90 days before the closing date for applications. This notice should specify information such as the geographical area, the type of authorisation and selection criteria for applicants. All interested companies can submit applications.
In their annual reports, EU countries have to inform the European Commission (EC), amongst others, on the geographical areas opened and the licences issued to companies.