This article focuses on the recent attention in the European Union for fragile states, as expressed, among others, in the European Security Strategy of 2003 and the European Consensus on Development of 2006. It is demonstrated that most understandings of the notion of state fragility concern limited state capacity, the inability of institutions to deal with social and political tensions or problems of state legitimacy. The European Union is no exception to this general trend of seeing state fragility in terms of governance deficits. The EU’s approach of preventing and responding to state fragility, which was adopted by the European Council in 2007, is being tested in six pilot countries. This article analyses the governance-oriented measures that have been adopted in the Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) agreed between the European Commission and five of the six pilot countries. The paper concludes that there is a profound gap between the political-economic analyses of the CSPs and the support policies implemented by the EU. The approach of the European Commission revolves around attempts to reconstruct state capacities in fragile states through technocratic measures. Fundamental problems of state capture, ethnic relations, human rights violations and extreme inequalities are beyond the purview of policy makers in the European Union.