Whereas the european union (eu) has had some effect on political and economic reforms in the ukraine and moldova, it almost completely failed to impress the regime and population of belarus. Despite growing consensus at the eu level that the union's policies for eastern europe cannot succeed without belarus, few attempts have been made to account for the failure of eu governance in belarus. Having recalled the current legal and institutional set-up of eu–belarus relations, this article introduces the notion of the ‘values/security nexus’ to explain the limited impact of eu governance in belarus. It argues that the highly contradictory normative objectives in the union's current neighbourhood policy towards belarus effectively undermine the eu's credibility in the country: idealist values of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of the belarusian population increasingly collide with traditional realist goals of protecting eu interests and the stability of the belarusian state. By way of conclusion, the article highlights the challenges facing the eu's new eastern partnership, including belarus.