The article explores how policy actions generated by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) are enacted in partner countries as the result of cooperation between their governments and EU headquarters and between local actors and EU delegations (EUDs). By borrowing insights from the literature on EU democracy support and on external perceptions of the EU, the article considers the implementation of EU gender policies in Tunisia through the analytical lens of the ‘policy cycle model’. It adopts a ‘decentring perspective’ privileging local actors’ needs, expectations and viewpoints, which reveals that major disruptions in the implementation of EU gender policies derive more from the organization’s bureaucratic rigidity than from the way policy is conceived. The EU does not properly address these disruptions, because of a mix of procedural constraints and political prioritization, which affect the functioning of the ENP cycle. This risks undermining desired outputs at the local level and questions the so-called EU ‘local turn’ that accelerated especially after 2011. The article concludes that the ‘policy cycle model’ can be a useful analytical tool to examine other ENP policies, especially if combined with a ‘decentring perspective’.