This paper examines the EU’s external power through the prism of perceptions by non-EU countries, as shown in the case of this paper in the Western Balkans. The paper argues that the EU’s policy in the Western Balkans lacks a strong normative justification, which affects the degree of compliance with the EU’s demands in areas related to state sovereignty. The perceived lack of legitimacy opens up political space for domestic actors to contest the positions taken by the EU on normative grounds. The Western Balkan countries have responded by giving preference to internal sources of legitimacy and asserting domestic reasons for fake compliance, partial compliance or non-compliance with the EU’s conditions, with the latter provoking imposed compliance. The EU’s transformative leverage in the region has been much weaker to date in comparison with that in Central and Eastern Europe prior to EU accession. The paper also makes the case for widening the debate about EU foreign policy to include contributions that focus on the external impact of the EU’s actions. It links the study of EU foreign policy to the literature on Europeanisation that developed in the context of the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe.