This article highlights the role of external audiences and their perceptions in analysing the politicization of EU development policy. We analyse how EU foreign assistance is understood in two different intermediary arenas of politicization – elites in different societal sectors and media – within Ukraine, a major recipient of EU aid. By investigating to what extent EU assistance is perceived to be politicized, in terms of salience and polarization we contribute to the debate on outside‐in politicization. Applying a perceptual approach to EU foreign policy studies, we focus on Ukrainian images of Self in its relation to the EU as a development actor and on Ukraine’s evaluations of EU assistance. We consult the theory of framing and propose an operationalization of salience in terms of visibility, cultural congruence and emotive charge. We use the typology of cognitive, evaluative and affective images from political psychology to operationalize the notion of polarization.

Chaban, N., and Elgström, O. (2021) Politicization of EU Development Policy: The Role of EU External Perceptions (Case of Ukraine). JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 59: 143160. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.13137.