In February 2000, 14 EU Member States collectively took the unprecedented step of imposing bilateral sanctions on their Austrian EU partner. How can this be explained? Was it, as the 14 governments argued, because the inclusion in the Austrian government of Jörg Haider's extreme right FPö opposes many of the ideas making up the common identity of the EU? Or, were the sanctions motivated, as the Austrian government argued, by narrow-minded party political interests that lurked beneath the rhetoric of shared European norms and values? Our analysis suggests that, without the particular concerns about domestic politics of certain politicians, it is unlikely that the sanctions against Austria would have been adopted in this form. On the other hand, without the recent establishment of concerns about human rights and democratic principles as an EU norm, it is unlikely that these particular sanctions would have been adopted collectively by all member governments. Thus, while norms might have been used instrumentally, such instrumental use only works, in the sense of inducing compliant behaviour, if the norms have acquired a certain degree of taken-for-grantedness within the relevant group of actors or institution. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]