Abstract This paper provides an overview of the programming, administrative and financial management requirements of the European Union’s Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) – and compares them with those of EU cohesion policy. In so doing, it evaluates IPA’s potential to contribute to the accession process in Chapter 22 – regional policy and the co-ordination of structural instruments – as well as some other related negotiation chapters. The result of that critical assessment indicates that IPA is perhaps better placed to assist IPA countries in their efforts to prepare for accession in this area than the PHARE programme – the comparable financial support instrument for Central and Eastern Europe between 1990 and 2007 – was. At the same time, IPA’s potential is still largely untapped. More could, and should be done by both the EU and the IPA countries to make more of the EU’s financial assistance as a catalyst to develop national development policies. If that were to happen, despite its limited budget, IPA could make a meaningful contribution to economic development and social cohesion in all potential candidate and candidate countries, and enhance stability and co-operation across the entire region.