This article investigates whether EU accession can help Bulgaria and Romania limit state capture and the undue influence of business actors on the policy process. Particularly vulnerable to such influence, Bulgarian and Romanian institutions are monitored through the EU's co-operation and verification mechanism and the Commission and ECJ infringement procedures. We argue that, under certain conditions, these tools can improve the quality of democracy in both countries. The key conditions are the presence of domestic actors able to use the EU and carry over procedural policy requirements from the acquis to other policy-making. Analysing policy-making processes in the forestry sector, we find NGOs able to use EU links and governments sensitive to naming and shaming can result in a positive influence of EU rules on the policy process and quality of democracy. This is true even in least likely cases, such as non-acquis policy areas in Bulgaria and Romania.