The EU's Marine Science and Technology (MAST) research programme currently supports a series of projects contributing to the strengthening of European participation in ocean drilling. Drilling is the only method that can properly investigate the ocean floor surface and subsurface and may provide information which could have substantial economic and environmental consequences, such as new energy sources or information on past and future climates. This approach requires expensive facilities, however, and the EU aims to encourage cooperation in this field in order to strengthen scientific ocean drilling in Europe. Major projects currently underway include: - The CORSAIRES concerted action for Coring Stable and Instable Realms in European Seas, established in 1996. This action aims to facilitate the access of European researchers to drilling means, and has a strong educational and training dimension; - The European North Atlantic Margin (ENAM II) project, due to end in 1999, focuses on quantification and modelling of large-scale sedimentary processes and fluxes. ENAM has explored new submarine sedimentary structures known as carbonate mudmounds and cold water reefs, and mapped a deep-sea sedimentary prism in the Bay of Biscay; - The Hydrate Autoclave Coring Equipment System (HYACE) was established in 1997, a technological project, which aims to develop and test a prototype of an autoclave corer. In the framework of research carried out within these projects, the latest finding of extensive and hitherto unknown deep-water reef formations off the south-west coast of Ireland may show that Europe hosts the world's most impressive cold water coral reefs in the world. These projects and their findings were discussed at the MAST Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 23 to 27 May 1998.