The countries of the Western Balkans during the 1990s were dominated by competitive authoritarian regimes that combined multi-party elections with nationalist rhetoric and the privatisation of the state to affiliated business interests. After a move towards democratisation in the early 2000s across the region, authoritarian practices began re-appearing in the late 2000s and have now firmly taken root in many of these countries. This article will argue that the current competitive authoritarian systems (Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan A. Way. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism. Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) are structurally different from those of the 1990s. These new regimes draw on the failure of reformist governments during the early 2000s to decisively break with authoritarian practices and establish independent and democratic institutions, thus facilitating the return of competitive authoritarian regimes. The current pattern in the Western Balkans is part of a global trend, but is also one embedded in the particularities of democratic transformation of the region. This article argues that the return of competitive authoritarianism is the result of weak democratic structures, facilitated by the weakening and insufficient transformative power of external actors, first and foremost the EU, in incentivizing continued democratisation.