Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2009
The increasing use of instruments that are not explicitly envisaged by the Treaty on European Union is one of the recent trends in the EU external relations. ‘Action plans’, ‘partnerships’, ‘road maps’, ‘agendas’ and the like have proliferated, particularly in the glossary of the Union's international action. Such atypical devices have in common a non-legally binding nature, a relative immunity to the usual competence-squabbling that characterises the EU system of external relations, and, yet, they have an ability to stimulate change in the existing relationship between the EU and its partners. However problematic it can be in terms of legal certainty, transparency and accountability, the use of unorthodox formula of external action may allow the EU to carve out more coherent and effective foreign policies, thereby fulfilling its general objective of ‘assert[ing] its identity on the international scene’.
The ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’ (ENP) is a particularly glowing example of this trend. Initiated jointly by the External Relations’ Commissioner and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the ENP has developed in a piecemeal fashion outside the Treaty framework, to become one of the key EU external actions. It is a comprehensive policy whereby the enlarged Union seeks to ensure security, stability and prosperity around itself, by stimulating political and economic reforms in its neighbouring countries, in return for closer relations.