Abstract This introductory article to the special issue on European Union, development policies and governance discusses how notions of ('good') governance have come to dominate development discourses and policies since the mid-1990s. The article argues that governance was part of the so-called Post-Washington Consensus, which understands governance reform as part of the creation of market societies. Although academics have commonly emphasised the fact that governance concerns the rules that regulate the public sphere, the dominant understanding of (good) governance in policy circles revolves around technical and managerial connotations. The second part of the article introduces some important features of EU development policy, and argues that this is essentially neoliberal in nature and favours a technocratic approach to governance reform. The EU's main instrument in relations with developing countries is the Country Strategy Paper, which includes a set of governance indicators for the assessment of the political situation in partner countries. In addition, the European Union has developed a 'governance profile', which consists of nine components.