Despite the importance of egalitarian principles for realizing democracy, we have limited knowledge about the effect of international conditionality policies on the inclusiveness of democratic institutions. We address this gap by investigating the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union (EU). We argue that the design of EU conditionality, domestic actors’ self-interest, and limited state capacity impeded the development of egalitarian principles of democracy. Leveraging the generalized synthetic control method, a hitherto neglected methodological approach in democratization research, and the fine-grained Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) dataset, we identify negative effects of conditionality on egalitarian democratic quality in Eastern European countries. Our study suggests that EU conditionality contributed toward increased power accumulation of political elites, which might provide fertile ground for authoritarian-leaning behavior of political actors.