The implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy has drawn strong criticism. Commentators have highlighted its inefficiency and the weak institutional and legal frameworks that have so far characterized this domain. An especially vexed issue is the legal nature of the ENP instruments so far developed by EU actors. This article explores the impact the Lisbon Treaty has had on the definition of ENP tools. I observe that, although some clear features of the new primary-law framework suggest the need for "formalized" ENP tools, the ENP, and in particular its southern dimension, continues to be implemented for the most part by means of soft-law instruments. Despite an undeniable evolution of nonbinding ENP tools, a similar trend could jeopardize the development of the ENP as a whole. I argue that a broader recourse to multilateral or bilateral agreements could make the ENP more effective while strengthening its democratic accountability: a new ENP model based on treaty cooperation would exclude neither flexibility nor a complementary or parallel recourse to soft-law instruments, and would at the same time make the actors involved more accountable, all the while enabling stronger cooperation, at the EU level, between the EU's institutions and its Member States.
Revised version of a paper presented at the Lisboan seminar on "The European Neighbourhood Policy and the Lisbon Treaty: What has changed?", Rome, 22 March 2013.
1. The ENP in the pre-Lisbon era and the new legal frameworke
2. The dual approach to the post-Lisbon ENP: can we move on?