Recent scholarly literature on the EU’s development policy has argued that the Union is using its provision of development cooperation to advance its geo-strategic interests. This paper investigates whether there has been an equivalent rupture with the EU’s core normative commitment, namely to conduct a human rights-based approach to development. Contrary to the hypothesis of change, I find that continuity characterises the EU’s mandate for a new partnership with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group of states. In fact, the EU’s commitment to a rights-based approach to development shaped the EU’s negotiating directives for a post-Cotonou agreement. In particular, the EU sought to make sure that human rights commitments in the self-standing EPA trade agreements were not lost, as these relied on references to the Cotonou-acquis. However, drawing on a concept of justice as impartiality, I also find that there are ambiguities to the EU’s rights-based approach. I find that national executives’ delegated authority to initiate and conduct dispute settlement on violations of the Cotonou-acquis comes at the cost of promoting individuals’ and civil society’s right to autonomy. Arguably, the EU’s political conditionality policy prioritises support to dutybearers (states) to uphold their obligations over the empowerment of rights-holders (individuals) to claim their rights.