In debates about democratic backsliding in the new Eastern member states, the EU is pictured as an internally divided weak regional institution, momentarily unable or unwilling to impose elementary norms of democratic governance on deviating member states. In this article I argue that the EU, with its integration strategies, is at least as much part of the problem. It acts as a gigantic machinery of institutional monocropping, imposing uniform policies and institutions on dramatically different economies and societies. In the absence of regional mechanisms that could help European requirements and domestic demands to get in sync, domestic political entrepreneurs are rewarded for experimentation and deviation from European norms. The article highlights the governance problems linked to institutional monocropping by contrasting two major experiences of regional normalization and describes the EU strategies before and after accession. It ends with two alternative scenarios and some of the policy implications of the discussion.