Guest Post. Italian Foreign Policy: To Take Arms against a Sea of Troubles?

We’ve already talked about the special issue on Italian foreign policy recently published by the Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica.

Here below we present two very interesting papers published in the special issue.  We would like to thank the authors for the summary of their papers.


  • Italy and the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Playing the two-level game

By Andrea Cofelice*

“The Human Rights Council is built on the same foundations of our Constitution: human rights and international peace, to be sought through dialogue among peoples of different cultures”. This brief excerpt from a speech delivered by the former President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano in 2011, singles out a relevant component of Italy’s foreign policy, namely the promotion of human rights, multilateralism, and the international system governed by the rule of law. This “national role conception”, which is constantly reaffirmed by Italian highest-level political representatives and diplomats in multilateral contexts, does not denote a legitimization of an intransigent pacifism, but rather epitomizes a concrete political choice dictated by the realism suited to a middle-sized power, indicating the community of nations as the frame of reference for Italy’s place in the world.

Due to the relevance of human rights and multilateralism for Italy’s foreign policy, this article aims to assess Italy’s actual behaviour in the framework of the United Nations Human Rights Council, that is the main multilateral forum dealing with human rights at the global level. The focus, in particular, is on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), i.e. a peer review mechanism launched in 2008, through which all UN member states can make recommendations to each other regarding human rights practices. Since it represents a new global approach in the promotion of human rights, how it performs and how credibly its work is viewed will considerably impact on the perceptions of the Human Rights Council more broadly.

Drawing on role theory, liberal and constructivist institutionalism, and the two-level game approach, the analysis reveals that Italian decision-makers played parallel games at the domestic and international tables of the UPR, and managed to adapt country’s human rights foreign policy goals according to the different social contexts where they operated. Indeed, while in the review phase in Geneva, Italy sought legitimacy for both its policies and its status as an international ‘human rights friendly’ actor, at domestic level a policy of inactivity was chosen, in order to minimize the impact of the most costly UPR recommendations, and protect the dynamics of domestic politics. These findings concur to convey the idea that, in its foreign policy, Italy tends to adopt an instrumental approach towards human rights promotion in order to gain international reputation.


  • Italy and the Fiscal Compact: Why does a country commit to permanent austerity?

By Manuela Moschella**

The paper sheds light on the factors that led the Italian government to accede to the Fiscal Compact – an international Treaty whose implementation is, at least, problematic for a country with high debt and low growth as Italy is. Specifically, the paper investigates Italian policymakers’ preferences during the negotiations.

Based on a systematic examination of the public pronouncements of the key government officials that led the Italian negotiating team, the article found only limited support for the propositions according to which the government used the Fiscal Compact to led a dysfunctional political system to adopt sound macroeconomic policies. Likewise, the analysis does not support the conclusion that the Italian government supported the Compact out of a profound belief about the benefits of the enhanced fiscal discipline that the Treaty stipulates. Government members did not reject the principle of fiscal discipline as a good practice to be followed. However, they were not significantly persuaded that this was the best strategy to follow in the period under investigation. In short, the analysis thus not lend support to the basic propositions that underpin the logic of the ‘external constraint’ as articulated in most of the scholarship that examined the Italian stance in the negotiations for the Maastricht Treaty.

If the logic of the ‘external constraint’ is not substantially supported by the documentary evidence, the logic of punishment was key in inducing the government to support the Treaty. In particular, Italian government officials were deeply convinced that the country was in no position to articulate a serious criticism to the edifice of the Treaty because doing otherwise would have led to adverse market reaction. Interestingly, this conclusion was reinforced by the fact that, at the time the Fiscal Compact was negotiated, the Eurozone had still not developed its crisis management framework. Such an institutional gap in the EMU governance exposed Italy to the risk of entering into a financial crisis without a serious insurance from other Eurozone members. Furthermore, the fact that the Fiscal Compact was embedded in a larger set of fiscal rules that would remain in place, even if the Treaty were to be rejected, contributed weakening opposition to the new provisions.

In addition to the institutional set up, the documentary evidence reveals that the weight attributed to market instability was amplified by the pro-European attitude of key government officials. Specifically, the strong pro-European orientations of Monti and Moavero contributed to the conclusion that Italy had to remain at the negotiating table – its costs notwithstanding.


Here you’ll find the link to the whole Special Issue.


We would like to thank again the authors.

*ANDREA COFELICE Centre for Studies on Federalism, Turin.

** MANUELA MOSCHELLA Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa-Florence.

Share Button

“Guerra, Pace e Sicurezza alle Porte del Mediterraneo” (2017)

Anche quest’anno il Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche (DISPO) dell’Università di Genova organizza il ciclo di seminari. “Guerra, Pace e Sicurezza alle Porte del Mediterraneo”, che si pone lo scopo di approfondire i temi relativi all’evoluzione della sicurezza internazionale attraverso una serie di workshop e convegni con accademici, politici, giornalisti, esperti e practitioner del settore.

Tali eventi, direttamente collegati ai corsi “Guerre, Conflitti e Costruzione della Pace” di Andrea Catanzaro e del nostro Fabrizio Coticchia, e del corso di Relazioni Internazionali di Giampiero Cama, sono aperti a tutti gli studenti.

Qui i tre seminari organizzati per Marzo e Aprile.

Il seminario esamina il complesso processo di integrazione del mercato europeo della difesa alla luce dei più recenti eventi (“Brexit”, EU Global Strategy, European Defence Action Plan, elezione del Presidente Trump) e le sue possibili implicazioni politiche e istituzionali. Alla fine del seminario saranno brevemente presentate le attività di stage proposte dallo IAI – Istituto Affari Internazionali di Roma.

Il workshop ha l’obiettivo di esaminare l’evoluzione del rapporto tra ricerca scientifica, informazione e movimenti nell’ambito degli studi sulla pace e la sicurezza in Italia. Il recente rapporto di “Osservatorio Mil€x” sulle spese militari in Italia rappresenta una interessante occasione per affrontare i temi della difesa e della sicurezza dal punto di vista “empirico”. Appare sempre più opportuno, infatti, interrogarsi sullo stato della “peace research” in Italia, per comprenderne le cause del lento affermarsi nella penisola e le caratteristiche dei più recenti sviluppi.

Il workshop ha l’obiettivo di esaminare l’arco di instabilità che caratterizza la sponda meridionale del Mediteranno, con particolare riferimento alla Libia e al Sahel. L’obiettivo sarà quello di illustrare la recente evoluzione dei conflitti locali, il ruolo di organizzazioni criminali e terroristiche, e la complessa relazione tra gli stati dell’area ed i paesi europei in rapporto ai temi della sicurezza. Il workshop cerca di esaminare in modo approfondito tali argomenti grazie alla vasta conoscenza in materia degli autori, i quali da anni svolgono ricerca sul campo.

Ci vediamo a Genova (ci saranno delle grosse novità per il secondo anno del workshop su “Conflicts&Institutions di Giugno…stay tuned)

Share Button

European Initiative on Security Studies

We are pleased to present an excellent initiative on European security studies. The European Initiative on Security Studies (EISS) is a Europe-wide cluster of over fifty universities that share the goal of consolidating security studies in Europe.

Here you’ll find the official website of the EISS

Here below some further details:

The aim of the EISS is two-fold: first, to establish a Europe-wide network on security studies, with an annual conference and permanent thematic standing groups; and second, to develop future research projects and funding applications among European scholars and academic institutions working in the field of security studies. The EISS is thematically-driven, open to all theoretical approaches and interdisciplinary.

The EISS annual conference is organized by the Association for the Study of War and Strategy (AEGES). Its first annual (two-days) conference will be held on January 13-14, 2017, at the University Panthéon-Assas (Paris 2), in collaboration with the Center Thucydides and the Center for Studies and Research on Administrative and Political Science (CERSA) of Paris 2. The academic director of the EISS is Dr. Hugo Meijer, IRSEM/Sciences Po-CERI.

Here for contact information for the EISS 2017 Conference.

In sum, a terrific project that deserves a considerable attention.

(P.S. Venus will be at theParis Conference..)




Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 90

This week, our Top5 starts from the open letter of protests (here and here) signed by several academic associations over the death of Giulio Regeni.

On the same dramatic issue, here you’ll find another analysis by other important members of the academic community on Egypt and human rights. Here some interesting perspectives on field research and political instability in Norther Africa (and beyond).

A quite relevant meeting occurred in Rome on Tuesday. The foreign ministers of the six countries — Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (the 6 founding members of the EU) — held a dinner to discuss setting up a very informal group of “core” states prepared to push the EU forward. Here the report by Politico.

What is the appropriate response to terrorist attacks? A very problematic and broad question. Here an excellent symposium that aims at addressing such complicate issue.

Finally, moving through the ISA Annual Convention in Atlanta, a reminder of all the recent updates on the conference.

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 86

This week we start with pundits, IR theories and US foreign policy. The question is: “Do the greatest op-ed pages in America discriminate against foreign policy realists?”. Here some possibile answers.

Is Ebola over? The epidemic  has killed more than 11,000 people. However, as reported by The Guardian, the efforts to prepare for pandemics have been chronically underfunded.

Moving to contemporary warfare, here you’ll find an interesting analysis on the never-ending crucial role of the artillery in the battlefield. Even in Syria.

What about “Brexit“? Der Spiegel provides the last news on the EU strategy to keep Britain from leaving.

Finally, a song. We already missing you.

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 76

With or Without you? This week we start our Top5 by quoting Bono Vox thanks to the article by Ulrich Kühn on the controversial relationship between NATO and Germany.

From Germany to Italy: The U.S. State Department has approved a longstanding request from Italy to arm its two MQ-9 Reaper drones with Hellfire missiles, laser-guided bombs and other munitions. It is with noticing that Italy would be only the second country to be approved to buy armed drones after Britain, which has been using them since 2007
Additional details here

We have read a lot of criticism towards the Obama’s foreign policy in recent weeks. Here you’ll find a different (and more optimistic) point of view.

And here you find a (rare) positive analysis of the EU (and its the accomplishments). According to Dan Drezner: the European Union is known for two signal accomplishments: ending any chance of another Franco-German war, and bringing Eastern Europe in from the cold […] The successful integration of Eastern Europe was a political and security necessity for the European Union after 1989. And anyone who tells you differently does not understand why the European Union is important.

Finally,  much more controversial issue: craft brewers, pale ale and IPAs.

Share Button

Il Dilemma della sicurezza europea: Est e/o Sud?

Una grande canzone pop trash degli anni 90 aveva come ritornello i quattro punti cardinali. Da quello che leggiamo e vediamo rispetto al contesto della sicurezza europea, il dibattito pare sempre più orientato attorno a  dilemma che si lega a due direzioni possibili della bussola: l’Est e il Sud. Da dove proviene la “minaccia principale” per i paesi europei?

La prima possibile riposta riguarda il  “fronte orientale“, caratterizzato dall’esplosione della crisi Ucraina, dalla politica estera russa, dalla guerra “ibrida”, attorno alla quale tanto si è discusso. I paesi dell’Europa orientale, a partire dalla Polonia e dagli stati Baltici, sono naturalmente iper-preoccupati delle conseguenze legate al coinvolgimento militare Russo nel conflitto ucraino e ai possibili cambiamenti geopolitici nell’area. Stati Uniti, NATO ed alleati hanno cercato di rassicurarli, attraverso il  dispiegamento di forze e la creazione di nuovi strumenti ad hoc come la NATO Readiness Action Plan (RAP). Il summit in Galles aveva proprio la RAP come principale novità ed il fulcro della riflessione strategica ruotava attorno alla crisi Ucraina e al nuovamente complesso rapporto con la Russia.

Tre brevi considerazioni vanno fatte in merito al “fronte orientale” come focus prioritario dell’Alleanza Atlantica e dei paesi europei in generale.

1) Nonostante nel passato l’attenzione generale si sia concentrata sul crisis management e sulle missioni in aree di crisi, soprattutto nel contesto post 11-Settembre, la difesa collettiva rappresenta sempre il core business della NATO. Un aspetto che i membri “orientali” dell’Alleanza non fanno che ricordare.

2) A fronte di scenari complessi, minacce asimmetriche, conflitti tra gruppi armati irregolari, terrorismo, stati fragili o falliti, è in effetti “più facile” capire lo scenario ucraino dal punto di vista prettamente militare e strategico. In altre parole, per le élite politiche e militari atlantiche la difesa territoriale rappresenta un concetto più agile da maneggiare, meno difficile da interpretare (sappiamo almeno chi è l’avversario, conosciamo abbastanza le sue caratteristiche e risorse, etc.). Dopo decenni di Guerra Fredda le forze armate europee si sono dovute adattare e trasformare per affrontare contesti completamente nuovi. Un ritorno al passato, pur con le notevoli ed evidenti differenze, potrebbe anche inconsciamente essere accettato più facilmente. Anche dal punto di vista del weapons procurement, dopo anni nei quali molti si chiedevano il perché dover continuare ad acquistare mezzi da Guerra Fredda per missioni contro guerriglieri e gruppi criminali, adesso è certamente più semplice giustificare tale scelta.

3) Non tutti i paesi europei la pensano allo stesso modo nei confronti della Russia. Gli interessi economici in gioco sono enormi e la cautela si impone d’obbligo per quelle nazioni che hanno sviluppato un’ampia rete di rapporti commerciali con Mosca, a partire dal tema della dipendenza energetica. L’Italia lo sa bene.

In aggiunta a queste riflessioni generali, ora che Putin sembra orientare l’attenzione verso la Siria, dobbiamo domandarci se cambierà davvero qualcosa rispetto alla centralità del “fronte orientale” per la NATO in primis ed anche per l’Europa in generale? Che ruolo può avere in tutto ciò l’UE, che sta ripensando lo propria strategia globale? Quale direzione diplomatica prenderà l’amministrazione Obama? Che cosa emergerà dal prossimo summit dell’Alleanza Atlantica? Che cosa diranno i paesi europei che affacciano sul Mediterraneo?

Per rispondere occorre tenere presente la crescente importanza del “fronte sud” per la sicurezza europea ed atlantica. Il dramma dei rifugiati è solo l’ultima manifestazione evidente del caos e dell’instabilità nella regione. Dalla Libia alla Siria, passando per Iraq e Sahel, la multi-dimensionalità della minaccia (che lega terrorismo a network criminali, passando per l’ISIL) appare sempre più incombente.

Se Polonia e paesi Baltici sono preoccupati per la politica di Mosca [Venus in Arms rifugge la scontata e banale figura retorica dell’Orso Russo, più adatta ad altri ambiti..], Madrid, Roma e Atene non possono che far sentire la propria voce di “frontiera” di fronte dei mutamenti al di là del Mediterraneo. Gli stati europei hanno fatto pochissimo sul piano dell’aiuto allo sviluppo e hanno commesso errori strategici gravissimi accanto all’alleato amerciano negli ultimi tre lustri. Ogni soluzione d’emergenza adesso non può che dimostrarsi fallace, dall’immigrazione all’ISIL.

Per questo occorre capire in che modo il “fronte sud” possa nuovamente acquistare un peso cruciale nella riflessione strategica complessiva in ambito NATO ed europeo.

Che cosa farà l’Italia, al di là degli sforzi volti a una migliore redistribuzione del numero di profughi tra i paesi europei? Una domanda alla quale non possiamo ancora dare una riposta chiara. Di sicuro sarebbe importante evitare il ruolo del biondino  nel sopra citato duo: muoversi e affannarsi per avere visibilità senza svolgere in fondo alcun compito di rilievo.

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 68

While we are looking at the current development of the crisis in Syria, here you’ll find a broad collection of analyses by “The Strategy Bridge” on ISIS/ISIL/IS. A specify attention is devoted to the narratives adopted by the group.

Still on Syria (and drones), “The Guardian” provides news and comments regarding the “kill list” approved by the UK National Security Council. Indeed, unmanned RAF aerial drones armed with Hellfire missiles have been patrolling the skies over Syria for months seeking to target British jihadis.

Carnegie Europe focuses on “NATO and the security vacuum in Europe“. Is the “politics of 2%” realistic? An interesting starting point for a crucial debate.

Duck of Minerva started a controversial discussion over “doing something” for addressing the dramatic refugee crisis and the academia. Here and here tow different perspectives.

Finally, -98 days to The Force Awakens….

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 60 (Bisa in London)

This week the Top-5 is BISA-centred. We have already presented our paper at the Annual Convention in London.

Our first suggestion is to look at the updated programme of the Conference. We’ve been part of a lively panel of coalition politics and foreign policy.

We’ve been also at a panel on military transformation in Europe. Quite interesting. On this issue we remind the forthcoming contribution by ViA.

This year the conference theme is  inequality. “The landscape of global security studies remains dominated by questions about inequalities of power and the uses to which those inequalities are put”.  The workshop on inequality at the BISA  is scheduled on Thursday afternoon. It seems promising.

On the UK and its future in the EU, we suggest this interview to the European Parliament President, Martin Schultz. “David Cameron’s campaign to ditch the EU’s mission as one of ‘ever closer union’ has no chance of success, said the president of the European parliament”

Moving from conference to conference check the forthcoming Italian Standing Group on International Relations. Via will be there with 2 papers. See you in Trento.


Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 56

Also this week we start from Iraq and the battle for Ramadi. Iraq’s government has called for volunteers to fight against Islamic State and help retake the city. Here a report on the current situation.

Looking at the ISIL from a broader perspective we suggest this post by The Monkey Cage. The main question posed by the article is the following: Is the Islamic State an ordinary insurgency?

Moving from Iraq to Libya, the EU has approved the mission against migrant-smugglers. Here a detailed (and skeptical) analysis of the mission.

If you are interested in better understanding the current crisis in Burundi, we suggest to read the comments by the International Crisis Group.Over 20,000 reported to have fled to Rwanda since mid-March fearing electoral violence.

Finally, an interesting focus on the UK election and the surprising decline of “ethnic politics” in Northern Ireland.

Share Button