This article examines the discourse of the EU’s relations with eastern Europe under the recently launched Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative. First, it evaluates the EaP’s conceptual framework to suggest that there seems to be more continuity than change in the EU’s modus operandi with its neighbours. More crucially, the notion of ‘partnership’, central to the new philosophy of cooperation with the outsiders, continues to be ill defined, causing a number of problems for the effective and legitimate realisation of the European Neighbourhood Policy/Eastern Partnership in the region. Second, drawing on the empirical investigations of the official discourses in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, the article reveals an increasing gap between EU rhetoric and east European expectations. In the absence of adequate partnership response to the needs and interests of ‘the other’, the policy is unlikely to find anticipated legitimation in the neighbourhood.