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Graduate Student Conferences

The Graduate Student Conference (PhD students of the 38th cohort) was held on 10 October 2023.

Evaluation Committee​


  • Stefano BENATI;

  • Paolo FORADORI.

14:00 - 14:30 

PhD student: Francesca COLLA
Supervisor: Anna CASAGLIA
Title: Uninhabitability and relocation in the context of climate change. Post-disaster discourses and practices in the case of Barbuda
It is widely suggested in academia, policy circles, and the media that climate change will lead to mass migration and displacement as its impacts affect livelihoods and places’ inhabitability. The mass climate migration theory is increasingly being critiqued and disproved by research demonstrating how populations affected by climate change respond to its impacts in complex ways, engaging in a myriad of different kinds of (im)mobilities. This research focuses on one type of climate (im)mobilities, namely climate relocation, and on the concept of uninhabitability, in the context of climate change-related extreme weather events and connected disasters. Relocation entails the movement of a community as a response to the impacts of climate change or in anticipation of those impacts. Declarations or predictions of uninhabitability in relation to the location of origin are often mobilized to justify climate relocations. Critical literature in human and political geography is raising concerns over increasing relocations, implemented on the basis of places’ uninhabitability declarations, and justified as climate change adaptation or mitigation, to advance private interests. As climate change impacts will continue to increase, researching climate (im)mobilities and uninhabitability becomes increasingly important. 
Through the selection and in-depth analysis of one case study—Barbuda, especially post
Hurricane Irma in 2017—, the aim of this research is to gain a grounded understanding of how concepts of “uninhabitable”, “climate adaptation”, “relocation”, and “disaster” are continuously shaped and contested. The research will investigate, through fieldwork and critical discourse analysis, the discourses and practices developed around these concepts in Barbuda on the one hand by institutional actors, and, on the other, by the local population. A particular focus will be on understanding whether discourses and practices reveal the occurrence of dynamics of disaster capitalism. The research will contribute to a grounded and nuanced view of the relevant theoretical frameworks—climate justice, mobility justice, and critical disaster studies—, and will advance the growing stream of literature in the social sciences around climate (im)mobilities as a matter of (in)justice.

14:30 – 15:00 

PhD student: Lorenzo LOMBARDI    

Supervisor: Emanuele MASSETTI, Co-supervisor: Francesco NICOLI

Title: Tracing the Evolution of Financial Solidarity from the Eurozone Crisis to the COVID-19 Crisis. An Inter-level Analysis
During the Eurozone crisis, the provision of financial solidarity between members of the European Monetary Union (EMU) proved to be a very difficult exercise, also due to political contestation over what the term meant. However, when the COVID-19 crisis burst out, the economic governance of the European Union was resolute in adopting extensive instruments based on much stronger premises of financial solidarity. Such discrepancy reveals a radical shift in the institutional attitudes and positionings on solidarity, that calls for explanation. However, the institutional intricacy of the EU does not help in identifying a clear pattern of evolution; the research therefore analyzes how domestic and supranational levels, representing equally different patterns of change, interacted over the decade to eventually converge on strong solidarity measures in 2020, arguably via shifts of preference at the intergovernmental level. The research will look at discursive interactions between levels to investigate the background processes behind institutional change, and the narratives that were built upon it. A mixed approach between Quantitative Text Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis will be undertaken. By interpreting financial solidarity as a staple of further economic integration, the research aims at shedding light on its future trajectory and remaining challenges. Moreover, it expects to expand theoretically the New Institutionalist (NI) literature on institutional change and test the theories from a communicative, rather than explanatory, perspective.

15:00 - 15:30 

PhD student: Elena MIOLO

Supervisor: Antonino ALI'

Title: Economic Wars Through Instruments of Trade Control. The relevance of distinct legal basis for trade restrictions and trade sanctions
The control of trade is equally essential and strategic both in peacetime and in wartime. From ancient times, the exchange of goods and services affected the survival of sovereign states while the enactment of measures restricting trade guided both states’ protectionist approach to the economy and their strategic aims. Nowadays, sovereign states frequently engage in economic wars through measures of prohibition or restriction of trade, such as tariffs and sanctions. Although often entangled,
trade restrictions and trade sanctions differ for many reasons, among which is their legal basis. Differences in legal basis mean differences in ways to balance powers within an entity or a group of states. Indeed, a legal basis is not a mere reference to an article of a source of law but, instead, contains decision-making procedures, the role of involved institutions, the voting quorum, and the type of the
legal act to be enacted. This dissertation analyses the international, the European Union, and the domestic legal framework of these measures and studies the use of these instruments by four main players: the European Union, the United States of America, the People’s Republic of China, and the Russian Federation.

15:30 - 16:00

PhD student: Marco NICOLO' 

Supervisor: Matteo BORZAGA, Co-Supervisor: Louisa PARKS
Title: Just Transition as a legal principle and sacrifice zones: the case of lithium extraction in Chile
Just Transition was developed by the North American workers’ movement in the 1970s to reduce the social costs of transitioning to a low-carbon economy. After being included in the preamble of the 2015 Paris Agreement, Just Transition became a popular principle in environmental and climate change discourses among international organizations, governments, and civil society organizations. This popularisation enriched its original meaning. Just Transition has been paired with labour rights, the right to a healthy environment, Indigenous Peoples' rights, and concepts like environmental, climate, and energy justice. This research will build on Just Transition legal literature to answer the question “Is Just Transition emerging as a legal principle?”. This question stemmed from the increase in litigation challenging climate change strategies for failing to address key injustices.
Particularly, this research will look at the contribution coming from sacrifice zones. The existence of sacrifice zones in which socio-environmental damage is concentrated to allow other areas to green their economy contradicts the basic tenets of Just Transition. First, this research will look at the emergence of Just Transition as a legal principle at a global level, by looking at case law, legislation, and policies at the international and national levels. Documents produced by civil society actors like Indigenous Peoples’ councils, and trade unions will also be considered. Second, this research will analyse the case of lithium extraction in Chile to explore what are the main features of Just Transition developed within a sacrifice zone. The outcome of this work will expand the existing literature and will help reflect on the evolution of Just Transition and its role to address injustices linked to the green transition.

16:00 - 16:30

PhD student: Maddalena VALACCHI
Supervisor: Umberto TULLI
Title: Solidarnosc 1980-1989. International perception vis-à-vis domestic role
Retracing the role of Solidarnosc in the late Cold War and in European construction shows the absence of a single shared and common understanding of the Polish movement. Solidarnosc has been portrayed through various perspectives in both the literature review and political speeches. The varied interpretations of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) are contingent upon three key factors: the vested interests of Western actors, the international image cultivated by Solidarnosc itself, and the heterogeneous nature of the movement's composition. The different perceptions of Solidarnosc will be investigated here, focusing on how international actors understood the Polish movement and why these understandings sometimes did not coincide with Solidarnosc’s actual domestic role. Solidarnosc’s history will be studied following a transnational and critical approach trying to balance the international presence of the movement with its national roots through archival resources. This analysis will question the very nature of Solidarnosc, by highlighting its evolution over the years and the mismatch between what the movement wanted and what Western observers and governments projected over it. Overall, this project will shed new light on the end of the Cold War in Europe and the European construction after 1989.

The Graduate Student Conference (PhD students of the 37th cohort) was held on 18 October 2022.

Evaluation Committee​: 

  • Stefano BENATI - chair;

  • Emanuele Massetti;

  • Umberto TULLI.


14:00 - 14:30 

PhD student: Munqeth OTHMAN AGHA
Supervisor: Anna CASAGLIA
Title: Urban Basis of Political Division in Syria From Dual Cities to Divided Cities

Abstract: Abstract: During the Syrian uprising in 2011, most of the communities were divided politically. Still, after the uprising descended into an armed conflict, division lines have taken a territorial shape, but simultaneously drawn upon other historical divisions including socio-economic, urban, and ethno-sectarian. This research aims to grasp the spatial component of the transformation from a social movement to a civil conflict across different urban settings. It will specifically answer the question of how place-specific characteristics (urban and demographic) shaped the political affiliations of its inhabitants, or, in other words, determined the ability of each neighbourhood to mobilise, sustain mobilisation, and then transfer that into territorial control.
The Site-Event Nexus will be employed to answer this question, involving a three-step model: examining the site (neighbourhoods), the event (protests), and then the interaction between them. The main argument of the research is that each stage of the interaction between the action and the space has different effects across neighbourhoods, including or excluding new neighbourhoods from the movement according to the compatibility of their place-specific characteristics with the dynamics of the current stage.
The research will apply an explaining-outcome case-centric process tracing model to trace the complex conglomeration of theorised and non-systemic mechanisms that provide a sufficient explanation for the outcomes of each stage of the event. The relationship between the dependent variables derived from the causal mechanisms and three independent variables (mobilisation, resistance and control) will be measured by logistic regression.

14:30 – 15:00 

PhD student: Laura Chiara CECCHI    
Supervisors: Sara LORENZINI
Title: Renewing Eurafrica. Euro-African relations between enlargements and Cold War, 1969-1989

Abstract: According to most common narratives in European integration historiography, the
European integration project was driven by two overarching concerns: securing peace among European states and creating a West European bulwark against the Soviet menace. Recently, an emergent body of literature has shown that a third, powerful driver of European integration was the desire to perpetuate colonial ties with Africa. In an attempt to expand this
historiographical perspective to the more mature years of the European Economic Community, we aim to reconstruct Euro-African relations from 1969 to 1989, investigating the persistence of colonial forma mentis and modus operandi in the European approach to African newly-independent states.
In order to do so, the inception and evolution of the Lomé Conventions – the agreements that would regulate Euro-African relations from 1975 onwards – are considered in relation to the Community institutional level, Member States’ interactional arena, and their position in the international system. The African states’ perspective is taken into consideration as well, so as to reconstruct their agency in the negotiation processes that shaped the Lomé Conventions.
Given the multipolar nature of the subject, sources are drawn from a variety of archives. The Historical Archives of the European Union in Florence are extensively consulted. In light of Paris’ centrality in shaping the European approach to Africa since 1957, we consider French national archives as well. British national archives provide sources that let us investigate how the other major colonial power affected Euro-African relations from 1973 onwards. Finally, we consult Senegalese and Ghanaian national archives in order to reconstruct the composition of Francophone and Anglophone African positions. By bringing together such diverse sources and approaching them through an original theoretical framework, this reconstruction of Euro-African relations could provide a new understanding of European integration history and European external relations.

15:00 - 15:30 

PhD student: Valeria FAPPANI
Supervisor: Luisa ANTONIOLLI
Title: Evaluating the Business and Human Rights frameworks of the EU and China: Comparative legal perspectives in a geopolitical framework

Abstract: The EU and China have been considered partners and collaborators as well as rivals. The impact of all these concepts has changed throughout the years. Although their trade relation still remains strong, both regions have some constraints on trade in terms of values to be shared abroad. For the EU, trade is also a channel to foster human rights. While the preferential channel for this fostering human rights was traditionally a series of institutionalised dialogues, business can also be considered an area affected by human rights. 
Business and human rights are an area of significant regulatory developments, both at the international and local levels. The regions have important differences in this area: the EU relies on due diligence to impose appropriate behaviours on firms; China relies on a mandatory form of Corporate Social Responsibility (qiye shehui zeren) to push businesses to contribute to social progress. These two frameworks conceive the important role of human rights in the field of business in dramatically different manners, the different elements that constitute them must be investigated, focusing on their structural and functional differences. The main aim of this research will be to test the two different approaches in a comparative legal manner, to check whether these two frameworks can contribute to their strategy on human rights and try to respond to the question “Which role do business due diligence and corporate social responsibility play in the EU, in China, and in their relations?”

15:30 - 16:00

PhD student: Elif Cemre BEŞGÜR 
Supervisors: Arlo POLETTI, Andrea FRACASSO
Title: Understanding the Determinants of Investment Screening Mechanisms

Abstract: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is traditionally perceived as an indicator of competitiveness and opportunity for the recipient country regarding growth. However, this positive view has been challenged by the increasing volume of inward FDI from non-OECD countries in strategic sectors of the European Union (EU). Thus, it can result in a loss of critical infrastructure and its impact on specific sectors such as health, and transportation, elements which have sharpened member states’ focus on FDI on the grounds of national security and public order. To address these concerns, the EU has adopted the FDI Screening Regulation (2019/452) to enhance cooperation among the member states to identify and assess risks deriving from FDI. However, the Regulation presents a loose cooperation framework that the member states could agree on. There is abundant room to analyse the determinants of member states’ national preferences for FDI screening mechanisms. This research examines the variation in the design of FDI screening mechanisms across the EU member states by considering two main dimensions: legal sectoral scope and threshold. It will analyse the conditions under which member states decide to adopt a broad/specific legal sectoral scope or high/low threshold. It will articulate the different combinations of threshold and legal sectoral scope by conducting four different case studies: Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Finland. This analysis will provide a richer understanding of how investment screening regimes fit into the broader picture rather than basic national security concerns. 

16:00 - 16:30

PhD student: Ayaz RZAYEV
Supervisor: Paolo ROSA
Title: In the Shadow of the Bear: Alignment Dynamics of Former Soviet States

Abstract: The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in to the emergence of  fifteen independent states. Having achieved their independence, these small states were confronted with the challenges of being autonomous political actors in the international system. Critical among these challenges was the quest for security. Threatened by the conditions of anarchy and having limited internal resources to confront emerging threats to their sovereignty, former Soviet republics had to rely on others in order to ensure their own survival. Although these newly independent states had similar launching positions, they chose divergent paths in terms of strategic alignment. On one hand, some states like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Armenia have opted for strategic alignment with their former imperial center and joined the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). On the other hand, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania started developing closer political, economic, and military ties with Europe and the United States, eventually joining NATO and the EU. While applicable to a degree, current theories of balancing and bandwagoning alliances do not adequately explain the wide range of alignment outcomes in the post-Soviet space. The alignment choices of former Soviet states still remain a theoretical puzzle that needs to be solved. This research aims to tackle the theory-driven challenge of alignment behavior of former Soviet states by focusing on the following question: what explains the diversity of alignment outcomes in the post-Soviet space? The research project has two interrelated objectives. First, there has yet to be a study that gathers all major arguments of balancing and bandwagoning theories under one roof to be empirically tested. The aim of this research project is to test traditional theoretical explanations of balancing and bandwagoning empirically to find out under what conditions small states will balance or bandwagon. The second objective is to present an alternative theoretical model for explaining alignment patterns of small states and then test that theoretical model against empirical behavior of former Soviet States. It aims to advance cumulative knowledge on alignment outcomes and assist academics and practitioners alike by improving their understanding of small states’ alignment patterns.

16:30 - 17:00

PhD student: Raffaele VENTURA
Supervisors: Paolo ROSA
Title: The depletion of renewable natural resources and its effect on interstate disputes: the case of Africa

Abstract: The depletion of renewable natural resources and its effect on
interstate disputes: the case of Africa This research aims at contributing to a broader understanding of the relationship between environmental and climate threats and their impact on interstate interactions. I want to demonstrate how transboundary renewable resources have been affecting interstate relations in a period of increased climate and environmental changes. This project seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of how threats resulting from natural resource variation are addressed by African states. Based on the proposed methodology, it will be possible to determine whether the depletion of one type of renewable natural resource will increase the likelihood of disputes.
According to the IPCC Sub-Saharan Africa is the area of the world most vulnerable to climate change and has experienced an increase in intense competition for natural resources in the last decades. Economic and political instability, demographic growth, and climate change have been shaping African internal and external security agendas. However, the scholarship on the environment and conflict nexus is contested, especially regarding the security implications of the depletion of renewable natural resources. The project will consist of two parts. The first one will try to understand the correlation between different types of renewable natural resources and the levels of cooperation and conflict, using ordinal regression models, time series, and spatial econometrics. In this phase, I will try to integrate models borrowed from natural sciences, population ecology, hydrology, and forestry sciences. The second part will attempt to test the results of the statistical analysis in the cases of South Africa and Botswana. Process tracing will be used to comprehend the decision-making processes that led to cooperation or conflict in these two countries. The processes that causally link environmental degradation and the political decisions on interstate conflict or cooperation will be meticulously addressed. The main hypothesis of the project is that cooperation will be more likely than conflict if the resource remains renewable. Conversely, once a resource ceases to be renewable, its depletion will lead to greater levels of interstate disputes. In conclusion, by incorporating natural science theories in the study of the impacts of environmental degradation on international politics, this project will contribute to the environmental-conflict nexus scholarship.


The Graduate Student Conference (PhD students of the 36th cohort) was held on 12 October 2021.

Evaluation Committee​: Stefano BENATI; Carlo RUZZA; Umberto TULLI


14:00 - 14:30 

PhD student: Mario GIAGNORIO
Supervisors: Anna CASAGLIA, co-Supervisor: Dr Marc Lanteigne, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Title: Constructing EU Actorness in the Arctic: The Role of Domestic Dialogue in Shaping EU Capability
Abstract: The Arctic is not a white space for international politics. On the contrary, its vastness and the plurality of regional stakeholders, from Indigenous People to Arctic States, have produced several geopolitical visions and interests, which may be conflicting. This is true also for the European Union (EU), which has produced two policies for the region so far, in 2008 and 2016. However, its entrepreneurship has neither met the favour of other stakeholders, as in the dispute about the ban on seal products with Norway and Canada, nor advanced domestic integration, since the three Arctic Member States – Denmark, Finland and Sweden – have kept separate their regional competences from the EU’s. The upcoming update of the EU’s Arctic policy will need to strengthen the dialogue with Arctic stakeholders, especially the EU Members.
The purpose is to study how the EU’s political entrepreneurship, which aims at external recognition and internal coordination, is affected by differences in identities and geopolitical understandings among the Commission, the EU Parliament and the Arctic Member States. More specifically, the interest lies in how domestic pluralism influences EU capability, meaning the formulation of purposive actions and the identification of the necessary means to pursue them. The features of capability display the essential elements for an entity to act politically in a social environment, determining therefore its actorness. The analysis of policy instruments and élites interviews will provide information on identities, roles and expectations for the EU as an actor in Arctic governance.

14:30 – 15:00 

PhD student: Shubham KARMAKAR    
Supervisors: Sofia GRAZIANI
Title: China’s soft power and public diplomacy in India: The role of the media
: The purpose of this study is to explore China’s public diplomacy in the context of Sino-Indian relations, with a focus on media diplomacy. Public diplomacy is understood as a government's process of communication with foreign publics to bring about understanding for its nation's ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture, and its national goals and policies. 
The study will examine China’s perception of public diplomacy through the use of discourse, both in official documents and media. The practice of public diplomacy is designed by the actor according to political, cultural and economic equations between the actor and the targeted country. As in the Asian Century, Sino-Indian relation is often perceived as a big powers competition, it has not been researched through the framework of public diplomacy. In order to fill this research gap, this study will contribute to the scholarship on China’s perspectives on Sino-Indian relations through the lens of Chinese public diplomacy practices towards India. 
The case study of Chinese public diplomacy will be inductively observed while analyzing three different data sources. The first source will be official documents, speeches, and visions from the Chinese leadership as a framework that is supposed to guide foreign policy actions. The second source will be empirical evidence of public diplomacy activities involving the media and practitioner’s interview. The third source will be the Chinese media discourse on Sino-Indian relations. Content and discourse analysis will be employed and accompanied by framework methods while observing qualitative and quantitative elements. 

15:00 - 15:30 

PhD student: Silvia PEIROLO
Supervisor: Alessandra RUSSO, UNITN; co-Supervisor: Lotje de VRIESWageningen University
Title: Teach them how to fish: Problematizing EU security assistance to the gendarmerie in Mali and Niger
Abstract: Security assistance has and continues to be the focus of considerable investment by the EU in third countries. Most debates on European security assistance assume that a peaceful end-point can be reached if appropriate policies are implemented or if the right conditions are constructed. 
Framing away from normative evaluations of security assistance programs, the proposed research aims to examine how police norms are constituted and negotiated during EU capacity-building training and how they are ‘translated’ and ‘localized’ into local contexts. Building on the norm diffusion and state building literature, the research will analyze the dynamics of norm contestation and the processes of translation and localization of externally-driven police norms in non-EU countries. The proposed research is guided by an interdisciplinary international political sociology approach and examines the EU civilian training missions EUCAP Sahel in Niger and in Mali. The two countries have been a laboratory for the experimentation of internationally based policies that aim to support the strengthening of local policing and national sovereignty. 
The proposed research employs a qualitative methodology using a combination of desk research and site-intensive techniques of inquiry such as semi-structured interviews and participant observation. The proposed research aims to contribute to security studies by analyzing the fragmented character of European security assistance and offering new theoretical insights into the knowledge production process that forms the core of the EU security assistance in third countries. 

15:30 - 16:00

PhD student: Thomas ROMANO
Title: Contested inclusion: political conflict over external boundaries in the EU
Abstract: The EU is being increasingly challenged in its international environment, in a way that puts in question the cosmopolitan values supposedly at the basis of the EU foreign policy. External boundaries, by delimiting the EU polity, affect not only the EU’s external relations, but also its internal legitimacy: openness and inclusion are important cosmopolitan principles, but many political actors advocate that the EU should defend itself from these challenges through greater boundary ‘closure’, e.g. in the fields of trade or migration. However, there is still little research on how external boundaries are internally contested in the EU, and how such contestation represents the diversity of views on the foundational values of the EU polity. 
The proposed research seeks to grasp the increasingly disputed nature of EU boundaries by focusing on how parties contest them. Taking the policies of migration and enlargement as examples of EU external boundary regulation, it employs a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods for text analysis of parliamentary debates in the European Parliament and in Italy, Germany, and Poland, to answer the following questions: how is inclusion framed and contested in Europe? Has there been a recent shift towards ‘closure’? The research would contribute to understand changing patterns of party positioning towards European integration and, more broadly, to grasp how, by contesting external boundaries, parties convey their views on European values and identity. 

16:00 - 16:30

PhD student: David Marcel SIP
Supervisors: Pejman ABDOLMOHAMMADI
Title: Brothers in the Axis of Resistance or Pawns? Iranian proxy warfare 1979-2019
Abstract: Since 1979 the Islamic Republic of Iran has developed relationships with non-state allies, often using them to engage in proxy warfare with its enemies. While the proxies themselves are well researched, there remains a debate about the factors behind proxy warfare. This research will contribute to this debate by analyzing what drives Iran in using these proxies to wage war on its enemies and under which and under which circumstances Iran develops lasting and deep relationships with its proxies.
Three main hypotheses will be tested: firstly that Iran is primarily driven by its identity, feeling compelled to help fellow Shias and the Palestinians in their struggles against Sunni oppressors, the West and Israel. Being driven by a responsibility to protect them, born out of a mix of Shia Islam and Khomeinist revolutionary ideology. Secondly, that Iran's main concerns are to defend and secure itself and its sphere of influence, making proxies Iran’s pawns. Lastly, an alternative explanation will be tested, that sees the competition between the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Foreign Ministry has caused the former to engage with proxies. By testing these three hypotheses in a broad set of case studies from the Middle East, Europe and Africa from 1979 until 2019, this proposal presents a comprehensive approach to analyzing the motives behind Iranian proxy warfare. But will also contribute to the growing literature on proxies in general by using a constructivist and a competitive approach, rarely used in this field.


The Graduate Student Conference (PhD students of the 35th cohort) was held on 6 and 13 October 2020.



6 October,
16:15 – 16:45 

PhD student: Giulia DAGA
Supervisors: Pejman ABDOLMOHAMMADI
Title: Constructing Oman’s Peaceful Identity: An Analysis of Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s Foreign Policy Discourse
Abstract: The Sultanate of Oman is often described by the international media as a neutral, mediating, and tolerant country that is a peaceful exception in the turbulent Middle East (Orient XXI 2018; Foreign Policy 2020; New York Times 2020). Because of the role that Oman has been increasingly playing, a better understanding of the evolution and conceptualization of its foreign policy is needed. This study investigates how Sultan Qaboos’s foreign policy contributed to constructing an image of a cohesive peaceful identity domestically and a stable neutral player externally.
IR studies on Oman’s—and on all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states’—foreign policies largely treat identity and structure as explanatory variables, often combining realist and conventional constructivist theories, while poststructuralist approaches are mostly applied only to domestic-level analyses. At the same time, studies on the links between neutrality and peace still tend to focus on small Western democracies, so that the terms appear historically and geographically bound, risking confusion, if not misinterpretation, when applying them to extra-European contexts.
The study aims to bridge these gaps by looking at the discursive construction and sedimentation of the concept of Oman’s peaceful identity. I will do so by analyzing Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s foreign policy discourse from 1970 to 2020 through an integrated intertextual analysis of primary documents, secondary texts and interviews. The aim is to contribute both to the theoretical debate on neutrality and peacefulness within the broader literature on small states and to the discussion on GCC states’ foreign policies and identities.

6 October,
16:45 – 17:15 

PhD student: Michele MAZZETTI
Supervisors: Matteo BORZAGA
Title: Poverty Anywhere Endangers Prosperity Everywhere: Social Clauses and the EU’s Commitment to Fair Globalisation 
Abstract: Protecting labour rights, fostering sustainable development, and boosting economic growth are the purposes of the social clauses (i.e., Trade and Sustainable Development or TSD chapters) embedded in the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) of the European Union (EU). These social clauses, which reflect the EU’s ethical commitments, are legal catalogues of conventions on labour rights and environmental protection that the contracting parties are committed to implementing. 
This research aims to determine whether and to what extent the EU’s social clauses are effective instruments for fostering the protection of labour rights. The study is divided into two parts: the first will focus on a legal doctrinal analysis of the existing clauses from a theoretical perspective, and the second will consist of an empirical evaluation of the effectiveness of the social clauses through the analysis of two case studies: South Korea and Vietnam. Specifically, I will analyse the EU–South Korea FTA to frame a scheme of the main issues in implementing TSD chapter social provisions. Using this scheme, and EU and ILO reports, I will forecast the potential, and the likely or expected development (prognostic assessment) of the TSD chapter of the recently ratified EU–Vietnam FTA to highlight its strengths and weaknesses. 
The purpose of this research is, on the one hand, to develop a replicable analytical framework for studying social clauses and, on the other, to assess the effectiveness of the EU’s TSD chapters and propose remedies to the main weaknesses that have been identified.

6 October,
17:15 – 17:45 

PhD student: Claudio Christopher PASSALACQUA 
Supervisors: Arlo POLETTI
Title: Competitive Advantages in Setting International Telecommunication Standards: A Comparative Analysis of China, the US and the EU.
Abstract:The technological race between China, the US and the EU has been intensifying around the development of international standards, a multilevel and consensus-driven process where standards are established by the interaction of competing firms. In this competitive process, the most cohesive industry coalition (defined as an alliance of firms) is likely to prevail as a standard setter by having a first mover advantage.
During the last decade, China has increasingly challenged the leadership of the US and the EU as a main standard setter. This challenge does not only reside in China’s growing economy and technological development, but also in its institutional arrangement towards the development of standards. The researchable problem is whether and to what extent China’s state-driven institutional arrangement provides its firms with greater competitive advantages than the US’s market-driven system and the EU’s public–private partnership framework.
In light of this, I plan to examine how different institutional arrangements in China, the US, and the EU affect the competitive advantages of their respective firms in setting the three latest generations of international telecommunication standards, namely 3G, 4G, 5G. I focus specifically on two domestic factors: variations in levels of coordination between public and private actors and in the levels of organizational hierarchy. The changing impact of these domestic factors will be analyzed comparatively with a process-tracing method that aims at tracing their casual mechanisms, by drawing evidence from primary and secondary sources as well as semi-structured interviews.

13 October,
14:00 – 14:30 

PhD student: Valentina PIOL
Supervisors: Andrea DI NICOLA
Title: Ethnic Organised Crime Groups: Assessing Countermeasures Adopted by EU Member States
Abstract: Ethnic Organised Crime Groups (OCGs), such as Nigerian and Chinese, are deeply embedded in Europe and represent a threat to national and international security. They carry on a range of criminal activities, such as human trafficking and drug smuggling. Moreover, there is evidence of their potential connection to terrorist groups since they are involved in arm trafficking to fund terrorism. 
Existing criminal law, criminal procedural law, and investigative tools and techniques (hereafter, measures) at the EU and domestic levels, were initially established to counteract traditional OCGs and were tailored to specific economic, political, and social contexts. However, the network organisations, the inner structures, the criminal activities, and modi operandi of ethnic OCGs differ in many ways. The comprehension of these characteristics is necessary to understand which elements distinguish ethnic OCGs from traditional ones. Furthermore, there is a need to investigate the relation between ethnic OCGs, traditional OCGs, and terrorist groups. These originally separate groups increasingly work together to achieve common objectives.
My research will analyse the peculiarities of ethnic OCGs and will map the investigative and legislative measures adopted by EU Member States. By understanding these features, through in-depth interviews with experts (i.e., prosecutors, journalists, and researchers) and case study analysis, this study will fill gaps in existing knowledge by assessing whether the measures against organised crime are adequate to counteract ethnic OCGs. Finally, it will identify potential improvements that are needed to make these measures more effective.

13 October,
14:30 – 15:00

PhD student: Irene SERANGELI
Supervisors: Luisa ANTONIOLI and Andrea CRESCENZI (CNR)
Title: Are you a refugee? Refugee Status Determination in the EU response to the 2015 Refugee Crisis
Abstract: The 1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 New York Protocols enshrined asylum as a universal and fundamental right. Moreover, States committed not to refouler refugees, in any manner whatsoever, to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This commitment, better known as the non-refoulement principle, is considered to be a norm of customary international law, if not part of the jus cogens. 
Nevertheless, when confronted with mass influxes of people seeking asylum, States erect walls made of both barbed wire and legal provisions. While the images of people trapped on securitized borders are a tangible manifestation of the current asylum regime, reframing the definition of refugee is an equally effective deterrence strategy. Indeed, Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedures, designed as a space of confrontation between the claims of asylum seekers and the assessments of authorities, are critical to enacting States’ political interests in providing or refusing protection
Combining comparative legal analysis and ethnographic observation, my research will recompose the meaning(s) of the definition of refugee through a multi-sited analysis of the RSD procedures on the Eastern Mediterranean migratory route after the 2015 Refugee Crisis. By understanding who today is labelled as a refugee, my research will assess what remains of the original commitment not to refouler refugees and therefore reason on the juridical nature of the principle. This understanding is a necessary first necessary step in developing new paradigms for protecting refugees. 

13 October, 15:00 – 15:30 

PhD student: Andrei TARASOV
Supervisor: Emanuele MASSETTI
Title: Separatism on the Rise: Explaining the Sudden Increase of Secessionism in Catalonia and Scotland
Abstract: Increasing calls for regional independence are being made in many European countries that have growing public support for secessionism. Over the last decade, Catalonia and Scotland have enjoyed the highest level of political mobilization for secession in Europe. 
The aim of this study is to unpack the reasons for the support for independence in these regions by analyzing the public media discourse. The theoretical literature provides many explanations for increasing secessionism, and my research seeks to uncover empirically the link between the theoretical arguments about secessionism and their role in the public discourse.  
 Frame analysis and media analysis will be used to identify the main explanations for fluctuating sentiments because, as with any feeling, secessionism is subject to perceived changes in the minds of people. Additionally, the role of political parties and their strategies for building support for secessionist programs will be addressed. The research will employ four methods -  text mining, process tracing, quantitative frame and content analysis - to measure the rise of separatism and assess the strategies of political parties.
The results should identify the mechanisms which trigger sudden increases in independence sentiments and highlight the role of political communication in framing public attitudes towards secessionism. The aim is to trace the hidden links between the dependent variable of growing demands for sovereignty and independent variables, including framing the problem, directional bias in media, and strategies of political parties. The findings will provide local governments and EU institutions with a better understanding of public opinion on secession. 

13 October, 15:30 – 16:00 

PhD student: Vanessa UGOLINI
Supervisor: Alessandra RUSSO, Advisor: Georgios GLOUFTSIOS
Title: Exchanging Cross-Border Digital Data for Investigatory Purposes: A Genealogy of Data Production in the European Union
Abstract: To counter hybrid threats – for example, international terrorism, transnational organised crime and (cyber-)attacks – security and intelligence communities increasingly gather, process and exchange vast amounts of data on presumably suspect individuals. This trend has been enabled by recent developments in surveillance capacities related to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). As a result, cross-border data flows have become an important component of crime prevention strategies and an element of international trade. Nevertheless, the cross-border transfer of data for investigatory purposes raises issues of jurisdiction concerning the applicability of oversight. 
This study proposes to address the technical and legal complexities of using cross-border data as digital evidence in criminal prosecutions, in the absence of a comprehensive legal framework to regulate access and use of cross-border digital information in the EU. The concept of data transportability will be investigated inductively through a comparative analysis of EU data exchange schemes that seek to create an integrated data management architecture.      
My aim is to create a genealogy of data production – that is, to identify the technical, legal and socio-political conditions that allow for the collection, processing and exchange of data at the pan-European level. I am particularly interested in instances of good practice in which cross-border data can be used as electronic evidence in domestic criminal prosecutions without overriding data protection provisions pertaining to access, consent and transparency. Developing a genealogy of data production will generate findings that are useful for interpreting the changing landscape of data-driven security governance in the EU.

The Graduate Student Conference (PhD students of the 34th cohort) took place on 8 October 2019.
Matteo Borzaga; Paolo Carta; Mauro Caselli


14:00 – 14:30

PhD student: Amandine Le Bellec
Supervisors: Carlo Ruzza (UniTn), Réjane Sénac (CEVIPOF, Sciences Po Paris)
Title: LGBT rights as a “European value”: The sexual politics of the Common European Asylum System
Abstract: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people continue to be confronted by many human rights violations, with 69 countries still criminalizing homosexual acts in 2019. In this context, it is not surprising that some LGBT people have sought asylum in places where the legislation is more favourable, such as the EU. Although many EU countries penalized homosexuality not so long ago, some researchers have argued that gender equality and LGBT rights have become a core value of the EU. In this sense, this research examines how has the politicization of gender and migration reoriented the Common European Asylum System to include LGBT identities as a valid category for claiming asylum. 
This study will collect data on three major moments of the Common European Asylum System: 1999-2005 (birth), 2011-2013 (strengthening), and 2015-ongoing (crisis). Data will be collected from policy documents and directives, reports, minutes of EU Parliamentary debates, press releases, case law; and interviews with members of the Commission, the Parliament and civil society organizations. Using process-tracing and Critical Discourse Analysis, I will first evaluate the extent to which this reconfiguration of LGBT rights as a European value has occurred; and secondly, analyze the impact of this reconfiguration upon asylum.
This research will contribute to the LGBT asylum debate, where the influence of the EU has long been neglected; but it will also contribute to major debates in European studies – such as where are the boundaries between the EU and Member States when dealing with both politicized and human-rights related issues. 

14:30 – 15:00

PhD student: Jessica Cuel
Supervisors: Louisa Parks
Title: Help that hinders? NGOs’ impact on participation in local environmental governance 
Abstract: It is widely acknowledged that community-based natural resource management is conducive to positive outcomes in environmental governance. One essential feature of this success has been the direct participation by local communities in decision-making processes and in programs implementation. Enhancing effective and meaningful community participation contributes not only to more context-specific and arguably more effective environmental governance but also to creating and strengthening democratic spaces both within the communities involved and between these communities and external actors. 
As important bridges between global governance and local initiatives, and between donors and beneficiaries, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have the potential to play a crucial role in promoting participatory approaches to environmental governance. However, some scholars suggest that the predominance of northern-based and donor-driven NGOs in civil society has stifled local-level democracy and action. Despite their importance, little research has been conducted on how the organizational dynamics of specific NGOs have influenced participation in local environmental governance. 
By examining the action of several NGOs in local communities, the proposed research aims to establish the impact of specific features of environmental NGOs in helping or hindering local communities to engage in participatory environmental governance. This research adopts an ethnographic approach and will rely on interviews with NGOs practitioners as well as with members of local communities and on the systematic analysis of documents produced by NGOs. The project is exploratory and will generate findings of the effects of NGOs organization on community support in environmental governance that could be tested in other community settings.

15:00 – 15:30

PhD student: Aleksandar Damjanovski 
Supervisors: Stefano Benati
Title: The influence of EU agencies on government preferences: the case of EU Cooperation on Defence and Security 
Abstract: In the last five years, the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Council have developed a package of measures that aim to improve the e↵ectivness of the EU Cooperation on Defence and Security. This process has increased the role played by EU agencies, such as the European Defence Agency and the European External Action Service; it has increased their ability to reshape national strategies and preferences and has resulted in more cooperative outcomes. 
By using Rational Choice Institutionalism theory, the proposed research aims to understand the abilities of EU agencies to alter Member States preferences by reformulating national interests in light of European security and defence goals. Through their role in controlling and assessing cooperative projects proposed by national governments, EU agencies act as ‘gatekeepers’ and ‘agenda setters’ of strategic culture, thus redefining governments’ interests and cognitive strategic paradigms. Furthermore, structuration theory facilitates understanding to what extent the interaction among EU agencies and Member States are mutually constitutive. 
By adopting a principal-agent model (P-A), the research will analyse how EU agencies in the defence and security sector are able to pursue European interests, and how they operate in order to achieve Europeanised security and defence. Both constructivism and rationalism approach will be used to explain changes in the ‘operational’ beliefs of national strategic cultures and actors’ preferences, while a network analysis will be used to investigate the interactions among different EU agencies, thus defining the relevant ’agent’ in the P-A model. Findings and outcomes will be interpreted under the Europeanisation concept. 

15:30 - 16:00

PhD student: Ruben David
Supervisors: Louisa Parks
Title: Evolving norms in the UN climate change regime: the contributions of the EU and China with regard to the Least Developed Countries 
Abstract: This research analyses the role both the EU and China have played in shaping the global climate regime beyond their borders, in the context of UN multilateral cooperation. The project focuses on the normative structures of the UN climate regime, exploring the process by which norms of international climate governance have diffused and evolved over time. The study aims to understand how the EU and China have positioned themselves within normative debates on climate change revolving around the “cleavage” between ‘developed – developing’ countries. In fact, the specific area in which the normative actions by the EU and China on climate change will be analysed is their approaches regarding the regulation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) within the UN climate regime, as regards both mitigation and adaptation. 
By developing a qualitative longitudinal design, this project will map the evolution of the EU’s and China’s foreign climate policies over the period 1992 – 2020. The starting-point of the investigation is consistent with the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) while the end of the time period corresponds to the 2020 UNFCCC COP 26, to be held in Glasgow. The longitudinal analysis is divided into four time periods, selected on the basis of the different stages of UN climate regime development. This periodization allows for an analysis of EU’s and China’s positions at different points in time and then for comparison across these phases. The specific methodological tool that is applied to conduct the study is narrative process-tracing. 
Finally, the analysis conducted in this research project will contribute to an important and growing body of literature addressing different dimensions of international climate change politics, including the role of key states (i.e., China), supranational actors (i.e., EU) and norms

16:00 - 16:30

PhD student: Micaela Musacchio
Supervisors: Emanuele Massetti
Title: Relationships between far-right parties and movements: France, Italy, and the United Kingdom in times of crisis 
Abstract: The political, economic, and cultural crises that have affected Europe in recent decades have represented major shocks for many European countries. It has been argued that the main beneficiaries of these crises have been far-right parties, which have managed to achieve electoral success by exploiting feelings of discontent and insecurity of the population. The far-right, however, has been not only a protagonist in the electoral arena but also in the protest arena through the activities of social movement organisations. 
The aim of this research is to examine the relationships between far-right parties and movements and how these have changed during crises. The research will analyse how these actors influence each other’s discourses, actions, and whether and to what extent they share members. It will do so by looking at three sets of relationships: Lega and CasaPound in Italy; the Rassemblement National and Bloc Identitaire in France; the UKIP and the English Defence League in the UK. In order to analyse protest, structural, and discursive dimensions of these relationships, data will be gathered through a claim analysis of parties’ and movements’ manifestos and websites, a protest event analysis, a document analysis of electoral lists, and interviews with parties and movements’ leaders. 
By bridging the scholarships on party politics and social movements and by looking at how these parties and movements interact and shape each other’s actions, structures, and discourses, this research aims to show how movements contributed to the success that far-right parties have obtained in the electoral arena.