The European Union (EU) is the world’s biggest donor of aid to developing countries. The provision of EU aid is conditional on respect for human rights and democratic principles in the recipient countries. This article questions to what extent norms always yield to interests in decisions over whether to sanction breaches of human rights and democracy. Building on a theory that allows the simultaneous consideration of different norms, the article suggests that rather than interests being the determining factor when the EU takes decisions on implementing sanctions, the weighing of various norms and the choice to follow one of them can explain why sanctions have been avoided in certain cases in Rwanda. The article shows that this weighing of different norms plays an important role in foreign policy decisions and can have concrete consequences with regard to sanctions. In so doing, it advances the literature on the EU’s global role by developing a theoretical account of the evaluation process and the ultimate decision to act in accordance with one norm in particular.