This paper reviews the EU’s policies and strategies aimed at preventing conflict and responding to the crises of governance. It explores the difficult combination of democracy assistance and governance conditionality and its applicability to the prevention of democratic erosion in developing countries. While the EU mainly relies on a positive approach of support and inducement, it has also introduced, since 1995, provisions to suspend aid in the event of a sudden and persistent interruption of the democratisation process. The suspension mechanism enshrined in the cooperation agreement between the EU and ACP countries has made political dialogue the main strategic tool for achieving these varied purposes. Mainstreaming political dialogue into the cooperation forces the EC to focus more explicitly and more rigorously on issues of power, politics and democracy than it has done in the past.