This paper conceptualizes a framework of political steering that includes modern conceptions of power as formulated by Foucault, Habermas, Bourdieu and others and applies it to the empirical analysis of the EU neighborhood policies. Analyzing the promotion of human rights and democracy as part of a comprehensive security strategy in Morocco since 2003, the authors scrutinize the use and the resonance of hierarchic, indirect and soft steering modes in EU external governance in the Southern Mediterranean. The findings suggest that Europe employs a complex strategy that targets governing officials, civil society actors and society at large, each with a respective mix of steering modes. Whereas classic incentives failed to initiate reforms at the government level, they proved effective in empowering Moroccan civil society actors. Soft modes are shown to play a decisive role in shaping the self-image of the administration officials vis-à-vis the EU and the parameters of public discourse on human rights and democracy, thus allowing for non-governmental actors to encroach on the government and demand democratic reforms. The integrated perspective on steering mechanisms in EU neighborhood policies thereby reveals the need to further explore micro-techniques of power in external governance analysis.