The purpose of this article is to contribute to the debate on the Europeanization of new member states by discussing the impact of European Union (EU) regional policy on Polish regions. Analysis of the institutional setting connected to the regional policy proves that the general lack of social trust in Poland determines the unjustified complexity of procedures affecting the absorption of structural funds. In this investigation we adopt the social capital perspective to explain regional variation in the capacity to implement EU regional policy. The conclusions contradict the mainstream thesis that it is bridging social capital that correlates positively with regional economic development and administrative capacities. On the contrary, among the case study regions the one with higher bonding social capital proved more efficient in the absorption of EU funds. The following question remains — does the pace of absorption correspond to allocation decisions that would support the development of a region in a long‐term perspective?