The article examines some conceptual and practical tensions related to the application of the external governance framework to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in less motivated states, such as Belarus. First, it critically analyses the foundations of the external governance framework – from M. Smith's perspective – in order to suggest that the failure of the ENP to legitimize in Belarus should not be solely attributed to the vices of Lukashenko's regime. Second, it argues that an understanding of specifically Belarusian ‘boundaries of order’ – geopolitics and culture – is essential for tailoring a more nuanced policy that will be able to accommodate the needs and interests of ‘less motivated’ ENP partner states. In conclusion, it is suggested that a new policy framework – of extended partnership – should be more technical and less political, based on horizontal networks of cooperation rather than on hitherto hierarchical governance by conditionality that has found little appeal in the less motivated neighbourhood. Can an Eastern Partnership framework become such an alternative?