In 2011, European politicians, diplomats, media, and publics enthusiastically embraced the so-called Arab Spring. The EU pledged to generously support transformation processes initiated in the region. Yet, Europeans – as other third parties – have not lived up to their promises. Against the backdrop of the Arab uprisings turning into violence and civil war in some countries and authoritarian restoration in others, the EU and its member states have been largely reduced to being bystanders, dealing with the symptoms of crises rather than impacting – let alone shaping – the path of developments. Indeed, rather than the EU impacting on the dynamics unleashed by the Arab Spring, these dynamics have strongly impacted on Europe. In order to explain this phenomenon, this paper analyzes the EU's approaches, instruments and priorities – and how the latter have changed over the course of the last years.