he main purpose of this Special Issue is to interrogate the role of the European Union (EU) as a state-builder in its Near Abroad.1 It aims to make a three-fold contribution to the existing literature. Firstly, it provides working definitions on contested statehood and state-building, paying particular attention to how their properties map onto the EU’s own policy tools and the (diverse) nature of the conflicts with which it seeks to engage. Secondly, it engages with three sets of distinct conceptual literatures that are not often cross-fertilised: (i) the international relations scholarship on contested statehood and state-building; (ii) conceptualisations of EU ‘actorness’ in international affairs; and (iii) the literature on the external dimension of Europeanisation and the use of conditionality as a tool of projecting EU power to partner countries. Thirdly, it borrows from the literature on political geography in order to build an interdisciplinary perspective on EU geopolitical imaginations and the geographical dimensions of the EU’s border expansion and crisis management. In this context, we aim to open a dialogue with political geographers whose valuable insights in this field are often overlooked by political scientists (Agnew 2013; Murphy et al. 2004; O’Loughlin 2000; Clark and Jones 2011). Thus, the central aim of this collection is to explore how the hybrid setup and the unique set of institutional, ideational and policy attributes of the EU affect processes of state-building in its near abroad.