For the past 10 years or more, governments of European states have sought to lay the scientific, legal and political groundwork for an agreed normative framework intended to govern decommissioning of deep-water offshore installations, many of which will shortly reach the end of their working life. The Brent Spar episode abruptly shattered any illusion of consensus on decommissioning issues. This article traces the main stages in the development of the current legal regime, including the recent overhaul and rebuilding of regional and international agreements. It examines the implications of the assertion of interest by the European Union in this area and also documents the outcome of the Brent Spar saga. The article concludes with an assessment of the OSPAR Decision of 23 July 1998, which appears to provide the long sought for international agreement.