Since the end of the Cold War, European Union (EU) efforts in transforming Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have been enormously successful. The 2004 enlargement is widely regarded as the single most effective foreign policy strategy in the Union's history, and the recent European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was designed to repeat that success in countries located on the EU's new Eastern borders. Although the ENP has been the subject of substantive discussion in European academia, Belarus is the one country in Eastern Europe that has largely escaped scholarly attention. This article takes stock of recent developments in EU—Belarus relations and seeks to explain the very limited leverage of the EU over the country. We first examine the EU's relations with Belarus through the theoretical lens of external governance. By taking for granted the EU's ability to transfer its norms and values, however, the governance perspective does not account for the EU's very limited success in changing Belarus. We therefore revisit Michael Smith's notion of `boundaries of order' to highlight the impact of legal/institutional, transactional, cultural and geopolitical factors on EU—Belarus relations. We argue, in particular, that the existence and the construction of boundaries between the Union and its neighbouring states are essentially mutually constitutive processes. Besides shifting its own boundaries (and thereby extending its rules to outsiders), the EU is itself subject to the boundaries enacted by neighbouring states. In our conclusion, we juxtapose the notion of external governance as `rule transfer' with `partnership' as a more suitable mode of interaction between the EU and Belarus.