Longstanding concerns about the European Union’s (EU) quest for democratic legitimacy are ever more acute. Many think such concerns can be best addressed if European institutions would become more effective crisis-managers. Stronger performance supposedly reinforces the EU’s democratic credentials. This article rejects such ‘output’ oriented accounts as specious for assessment of the EU’s democratic legitimacy. Drawing on Oakeshott’s political theory, we argue that stronger performance addresses the desirability rather than democratic legitimacy of EU governance. We apply this insight as a heuristic device to consider the election of the Commission president and network governance.