Call for Papers: CLEER Conference on Informal Law-Making in EU External Relations Law - Thursday 8 April 2021 (online)

Call for Papers

CLEER Conference on Informal Law-Making in EU External Relations: Challenges and Prospects

Thursday 8 April 2021 (online)

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 January 2021

The Centre for the Law of EU External Relations (CLEER) invites submissions of abstracts for an (online) conference on ‘Informal Law-making in EU External Relations: Challenges and Prospects’ to take place on 08th April 2021.

One of the staples of modern global governance is the rise of informality. The proliferation of new actors, processes and instruments that escape the narrow confines of traditional ‘law’ has led to increased engagement with non-binding instruments – in their infinite variety. Informal law instruments in EU external relations may bear various labels, including Joint Communications, Joint Letters, Strategies, Arrangements, Progress Reports, Programmes or Memoranda of Understanding. Recourse to informal instruments, or soft law, is far from new in the field of EU external relations. In this respect, it has been noted in the literature that “[c]ompared to binding international agreements, at least two times more bilateral soft law tools are agreed between EU actors and international organisations or third countries.” (R. A. Wessel, 2018) There are many areas of EU external relations where informal arrangements play a significant role. Some classic examples include the use of joint action plans in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as other informal tools in policies such as the environment and energy. More recently, the use of informal instruments in the field of EU migration and asylum policy has attracted considerable attention, as the examples of the EU-Turkey deal and the emergence and proliferation of mobility partnerships and informal readmission arrangements attest to. But we find informal instruments in almost all policy areas of EU external relations, including security and trade.

While informal instruments have been a defining feature of EU external relations law for a long time, the challenges associated therewith still remain to a large degree unexplored. More particularly, the increased informalisation of EU external relations is not without problems. The choice to act outside the prescribed framework for concluding binding arrangements raises fundamental questions of legitimacy and rule of law. This shift to informality may facilitate the creation of a parallel world of instruments and norms - thereby facilitating the circumvention of questions of competence and threatening legal certainty.

In this light, this conference purports to explore the multifaceted challenges that arise from the increased use of informal instruments in the field of EU external relations. The questions that this conference aims to address include (but are not limited to): What does this shift to informality mean for the EU as a global actor with a particular fidelity to the rule of law? What are the particular challenges that the proliferation of soft law instruments brings in different sub-fields of EU external relations such as environment, energy, migration, security and trade? How does the increased recourse to informal arrangements externally impact internal law-making? To what extent do informal arrangements side-step existing procedures in the EU aimed to guarantee democracy or judicial protection?

We welcome abstracts (around 750 words) dealing with the conceptual, legal, empirical and substantive aspects pertaining to this turn informality in EU external relations law. Abstracts should be accompanied by a short CV. The deadline for submission is 15 January 2021.  The abstracts should be sent to: