Balancing and bandwagoning are concepts that realists return to again and again – yet neither concept is well suited for explaining the complex issue of Europe's growing role as a security and defence actor. Europe will confound realism as long as realism is based on assumptions of anarchy as conflictual and as long as non-systemic factors remain under-developed. Moreover, I suggest that Europe confounds all mainstream IR theories, because neither realism, liberalism, or constructivism have taken serious account of the purposive role played by agents and although they all see crises as sources of changes, they do not account theoretically for the role of the continuous occurrence of events as sources of change. I suggest that to understand Europe's development as a security and defence actor, it is necessary to consider how the construction of agent-level identities and narratives takes place in agent-level self-constitutive processes within a fundamentally changed structural environment. Doing so is the key for understanding the background motives and preferences that have resulted in ups and downs in the integration process and in the different positions adopted by European member states despite them being subjected to the same structural conditions and the same events.