This Special Issue seeks to better understand the role of communication and perception in EU crisis diplomacy. In a recent Special Issue in this journal, Catarina Kinnvall, Ian Manners and Jennifer Mitzen argue that, “ … the greatest security challenge facing people across Europe is not physical, despite the threats of Putin and ISIS, but is a sense of fear and anxiety over their daily lives” [2018. Introduction to 2018 Special Issue of European Security: “Ontological (in)security in the European Union”. European security, 27 (3), 249–265]. We take an interdisciplinary approach to widen the scope of studies on European security and offer new avenues for further research into how citizens in the EU’s neighbourhood understand the security challenges they face and the role the EU plays in addressing these. Through this, we aim to bring theoretical and methodological innovation to understanding the role of the EU as an external actor.