Nasce l'”Osservatorio sui Conflitti”

Venus è lieta di dare risalto al nuovo “Osservatorio sui Conflitti” creato dal Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche (DISPO) dell’Università di Genova.

Qui trovate tutte le informazioni su questo centro di ricerca e i dettagli relativi agli eventi (passati e futuri) organizzati a Genova.

L’”Osservatorio sui Conflitti” si pone lo scopo di creare “un centro per lo studio dell’evoluzione della sicurezza internazionale, dei conflitti contemporanei, della politica comparata, del pensiero politico sulla pace e sulla guerra“. Da segnalare (come emerge dal profilo del comitato scientifico) l’approccio interdisciplinare (e internazionale) allo studio dei conflitti.

I temi di ricerca affrontato dall’Osservatorio riguardano “lo studio dei conflitti, del pensiero politico relativo alla pace e alla guerra, della relazione tra narrazioni strategiche e sicurezza, della trasformazione militare, del terrorismo, delle politiche estere e di difesa in Italia ed in Europa, del peacebuilding, del rapporto tra partiti e politica estera“.

La “sede” del centro è rappresentata unicamente dalla sua piattaforma web.

L’Osservatorio si collega anche al nostro blog per una serie di iniziative alle quali daremo visibilità in futuro.

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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.

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Call for Papers & Panels – 2nd Annual Conference of the European Initiative on Security Studies (EISS)

We are pleased to highlight the 2nd annual conference of the European Initiative on Security Studies (EISS). The conference will be held in Paris on 21-22 June 2018 at the University Panthéon-Assas (Paris 2).

The EISS is a Europe-wide network of over sixty universities that share the goal of consolidating security studies in Europe. Here you’ll find all the info on the EISS.

Here the call for papers and panels with a description of: the objectives of the EISS, key information on the conference (including on the difference between ‘closed’ and ‘open’ panels), the draft program and the panels’ abstracts.

The EISS conference is organized by the Association for the Study of War and Strategy (AEGES) in collaboration with the Center Thucydides and the Center for Studies and Research on Administrative and Political Science (CERSA) of the University Panthéon-Assas (Paris 2).

 Here you’ll find all the details on the conference.

 The deadlines for submitting paper proposals for closed panels and panel proposals for open panels are as follows:

31 January 2018: deadline for sending paper proposals to the panel chairs and panel proposals to the EISS. NB Paper proposals should be sent to the panel chairs (cf. their emails in the attached document) while panel proposals should be sent to the EISS  (

Mid-late February 2018: decision on open panels by EISS; and on papers for closed panels by chairs

March 2018: final program sent to participants

The report of last year’s conference (EISS 2017) is available here

 See you in Paris…

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Emotions, Ideologies and Violent Political Mobilization

Emotions such as anger, resentment and fear do play a big role in explaining why people take up arms (well, and do many other things in “ordinary” life). Ideologies too are often invoked as a motive for action: Banners of different colors are often inextricably linked to rebellions, and are certainly a powerful driver of all sorts of political mobilization. Yet, their study in the context of civil wars has been limited to a few, although very important, studies such as Roger Petersen’s work the link between emotions and conflict in Eastern Europe (and the Balkans). The recent Symposium on PS: Political Science & Politics, organized by Stefano Costalli (University of Florence) and Andrea Ruggeri (University of Oxford), constitutes an important addition to the field. Featuring an Introduction by the Editors and 6 articles dealing with different aspects of how emotions, ideology and collective armed mobilization interact. Venus in Arms suggests you to read them all, as the pieces are filled with insights on how to connect these phenomena and enriched by quite a few empirical examples that show such connections at work. If you dig into the articles, you might even find a piece titled “Organizing Emotions and Ideology in Collective Armed Mobilization“. If you really don’t have time to go through the issue, well you can skip that one. You know the author and nothing good should be expected.

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Political Parties and Foreign Policy: a couple of workshops

The debate in comparative politics, international relations, and (even more surprisingly), in Foreign Policy Analysis, has devoted limited attention to the role of political parties in foreign and security policy. A recent wave of studies has tried to address this gap, aiming to “bring political parties in” the debate ). However, systematic analyses on whether party politics makes a difference in foreign and security policies are still lacking.

Thus, it is worth noticing two upcoming workshops that focus on political parties and foreign policy.

The workshop “Party politics of foreign and security policy in Europe” will be held in the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (4-6 October 2017). This workshop, which has been organized by Wolfang Wagner and Tapio Raunio, deals with the issue of party politics in foreign affairs. Drawing together a group of international scholars, the workshop asks: does or should party politics really matter less in foreign affairs than in domestic policy?

Here you’ll find additional details on the seminar. Here the program of the workshop, with paper givers and abstracts.

The “NASP International Workshop on Political Parties and Foreign Policy” will be held in the University of Genoa (16 November 2017). The seminar, which has been organized by our Fabrizio Coticchia, will also celebrates retiring Professor Luciano Bardi.

Here you’ll find all the details on the events.

Venus in Arms will attend both the workshops. See you there.

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To read and watch in August

As you prepare the nicest “out-of-office” reply, a few reading and watching suggestions.

If you’re into serious PoliSci/IR reading, a few great books came out earlier this year. We mention two, one on intrastate and the other on inter-state wars: Laia Balcells’ Rivalry and Revenge. The Politics of Violence during Civil War discusses civilian victimization in civil wars with empirics from the Spanish Civil War. Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (reviewed by NYT here).

More into fiction? Omar el Akkad’s American War brings readers to a fictional Second Civil War in the US, a dystopian analysis of effects of climate change and political radicalization (reviewed here). The Man Booker Prize Longlist just came out. We’ll go for Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (reviewed in The Guardian here), on migration and magic. All this while we patiently wait for the third installment of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, the Mirror and the Light, which might not be published earlier than 2019.

Summer movies: the easy one is Dunkirk, where the latest Batman’s director Christopher Nolan brings you to the shores of the French coastal city that witnessed the most famous evacuation in the history of war. IR theory-lovers that appreciated how well the security dilemma was depicted in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) will be inevitably attracted by the sequel War for the Planet of the Apes, directed by Mark Reeves.

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Culture, interests, multidimensional threats, and Italian defence policy

We are pleased to talk about a paper that has been just published on the Italian Review of Political Science. The article, which is part of an interesting Special Issue on Italian foreign policy, focuses on the Italian military post-Cold War dynamism, aiming at assessing the role played  by interests and culture in addressing multidimensional threats to national security.

The paper (Stick to the plan? Culture, interests, multidimensional threats, and Italian defence policy“) is co-authored by (our) Fabrizio Coticchia and Michela Ceccorulli.

Here the link to the paper (gated)

Here below you can find the abstract:

The international context seems to be increasingly exposed to multidimensional and transnational challenges, ranging from irregular migration and piracy to the violation of basic human rights. Rather than excluding a potential role for the military, many European states rely on it to face a complex security scenario. What are the reasons behind this activism? Taking Italy as a case study, this article works out two main arguments (ideational factors and interests relating to the so-called military–industrial complex) and tries to intercept their weight in the national debate leading to the decision to intervene militarily (or not) in Sri Lanka (2004–05), Haiti (2010), and in the Central Mediterranean (2015–). Ultimately, this effort contributes to understanding the role of the military instrument in Italy, a state particularly exposed to the new challenges ahead, and offers tools for research to be potentially applied in other countries that make similar use of armed forces to deal with non-conventional security threats.

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Il caso F35. Una prospettiva diversa.

I temi della Difesa sono spesso relegati agli angoli dalla discussione pubblica in Italia. Gli approfondimenti sono tendenzialmente scarsi e il livello complessivo di attenzione di media e opinione pubblica è generalmente limitato. Eventi drammatici, spesso in contesti di crisi, contribuiscono ad incrementare un interesse collettivo che permane però volatile, destinato ad affievolirsi in fretta.

Un tema che ha suscitato invece una considerevole (e costante) attenzione è stato quello della controversa acquisizione del caccia JSF F-35. Le ragioni di tale “ribalta” sono state molteplici: i costi del mezzo in uno scenario di crisi, il dibattito politico, le campagne dei movimenti pacifisti.

Sul tema, segnaliamo con piacere un recente articolo del nostro Fabrizio Coticchia, dal titolo: “A Controversial Warplane Narratives, Counternarratives, and the Italian Debate on the F-35“.

Il paper è uscito in early view nella rivista “Alternatives“. Qui il link al pezzo (gated)

L’articolo (ne avevamo parlato di una sua versione precedente qui) esamina, da una prospettiva interdisciplinare, il contenuto delle narrazioni e della contro-narrazioni adottate da partiti e movimenti pacifisti. I suoi risultati (basati su interviste, analisi del discorso e analisi del contenuto) evidenziano l’evoluzione dei plot al centro del dibattito e la capacità delle contro-narrazioni (grazie alla capacità della campagna e ad un contesto partitico mutato) di introdurre i propri frame nella discussione.

L’articolo è parte di un progetto di ricerca più ampio, che si concretizzerà in una monografia, scritta da Fabrizio Coticchia e Andrea Catanzaro, dal titolo: “Al di là dell’Arcobaleno: narrazioni strategiche, politica di difesa e movimenti pacifisti in Italia’”, Vita e Pensiero (di prossima pubblicazione).

In calce l’abstract del paper

The literature on strategic narratives has started to pay growing attention to the concept of “narrative dominance,” stressing the role played by counternarratives in hindering a wider acceptance of a specific message. However, limited consideration has been devoted to counternarratives, which have seldom been assessed in a systematic way. The aim of this article is to fill these gaps by examining the underrated case of Italy. The article investigates the main content of narratives and counternarratives developed by parties and peace movements regarding the decision to acquire the F-35. The article, which is based on primary and secondary sources, adopts a multidisciplinary approach, combining security studies and social movement studies.

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No time for Uncertainty. The European Defense and Security in the Time of Terror: Threats, Challenges and Opportunities

We are organizing a panel at the next SGRI conference (Trento, June 29-July 1).

As reported in there website: The annual SGRI Conference is an opportunity for scholars throughout Italy to come together and discuss topics that are relevant to international relations. The 2017 Conference will be held for the sixth time in Trento from June 29th to July 1st and will be organized by IPLab (International Politics Laboratory), a joint venture involving the Bruno Kessler Foundation and the University of Trento.

Here you’ll find a list of the all panels.

Here below the details of “our” panel (“No time for Uncertainty. The European Defense and Security in the Time of Terror: Threats, Challenges and Opportunities“):

Chair: Giampiero Cama (University of Genova)
Discussants: Francesco N. Moro (University of Bologna) & Fabrizio Coticchia (University of Genova)

Date: TBD
Room: Sala Grande

According to the European Union Global Strategy “terrorism, hybrid threats, economic volatility, climate change and energy insecurity” are significantly endangering Europe (EUGS, 2016). The EUGS emphasizes the need for an “appropriate level of ambition and strategic autonomy”, enhancing common efforts especially on cyber, counterterrorism, energy and strategic communications. In other words, Member States should “move towards defence cooperation as the norm”, providing a greater contribution to collective security, working closely with its allies and partners, such as NATO. The panel aims at collecting empirical papers that, through different methodological perspectives, try and understand how current transformations (political, such as Brexit and Trump election but also technological, such as the “rise” of drones) are impacting traditional European and national security practices.

The panel explores how Member States, as well as the EU, have faced so far the above- mentioned challenges, examining in details the following key-areas: (a) shared assessments of internal and external threats (e.g., Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, including the role of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and satellite communications); (b) the evolution of digital capabilities to secure data, networks and critical infrastructure; (c) the transformation of (national and European) counter-terrorism; civil-military relations in operations; (d) the development of European procurement (especially regarding full- spectrum land, air, space and maritime capabilities); (e) the military doctrines at the national and regional level.

Confirmed Papers: 

  1. Edoardo Baldaro (Scuola Normale Superiore – Pisa), The EU in the Sahel: Assessing Strengths and Limits of the European Integrated Approach to Conflict
    Nowadays the EU is facing renewed security threats coming from its instable Eastern and Southern borders. State fragility and civil conflicts in the peripheries are considered as factors that can endanger European internal security and cohesion, asking for concrete initiatives and responses by European institutions. The European Union Global Strategy (EUGS)introduces a new ‘integrated approach to conflict and crisis’, in order to propose innovative and shared solutions concerning conflict-management and crisis-relief.Adopting an ideational and social constructivist approach to the study of European foreign policy, this article aims to explore the “fragile state” and “resilience” concurring policy paradigms informing this new European strategic concept. Analysing the EU’s initiatives in the Sahel, one of the regions where the EU elaborated and tested its renewed approach, the paper underlines ideational and practical weaknesses of the European action, focusing the attention on three dimensions: 1) inter-agency efficiency and cooperation; 2) EU – member states coordination; 3) effects on local governance and environment. We finally argue that even if the EUGS is going in the right direction, the EU still suffers from cognitive problems and lacks internal cooperation.

    In the conclusion I argue that even if the EUGS is going in the right direction, the EU still suffers of cognitive and normative problems and pays a lack of internal cooperation, all factors that can still put into question the EU’s approach to fragility and conflict in the South.

  2. Eugenio Cusumano (Leiden University), Migrant Rescuing as Organised Hypocrisy: EU Maritime Missions Offshore Libya Beyond Humanitarianism and Border Control
    In October 2014, the Italian Navy maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) operation offshore Libya Mare Nostrum was replaced by the EU border agency Frontex operation Triton, followed in 2015 by the Common Security and Defence Policy mission EUNAVFOR Med ‘Sophia’. Both Triton and EUNAVFOR have increasingly advertised their  involvement in SAR operations. As the two missions focused on reducing illegal entries to Europe rather than SAR, their commitment to migrant rescuing was not matched by consistent action. This paper conceptualizes the mismatch between humanitarian rhetoric and activities primarily meant to reduce migrant flows as a form of organised hypocrisy. Based on a decoupling between talk and action, organised hypocrisy allowed EU maritime missions to reconcile contradictory pressures from their external environment, such as EU willingness to reduce maritime migrations and the normative imperative to act against the loss of life at sea
  3. Artem Patalakh (University of Milan Statale), Soft Power Revisited: How Attraction Works in International Relations
    The paper puts forward a constructivist interpretation of how Joseph Nye’s soft power works in International Relations (IR). In particular, it focuses on the functioning of attraction, soft power’s main pronounced mechanism. On the basis of a theoretical literature review, the author identifies three primary issues that require further specification in Nye’s account, namely a clear disentanglement between hard and soft power, a psychological mechanism behind attraction and the relationship between agentic and structural forces in the soft power relationship. To address these issues, the author locates soft power in the constructivist IR paradigm, viewing power in its broadest terms (as including all the four “faces” of power). Then, the author applies French and Raven’s typology of power bases to build a framework that classifies attraction into three types, each with a particular psychological mechanism: “rational” attraction (which means that actor A is positively evaluated by actor B of the basis of its actions that do not aim at other IR actors), “social” attraction (which implies that A is positively evaluated based on how it treats other IR actors) and “emotional” attraction (which happens if B is positively evaluated by A, because B is useful for A to fulfill its identity, its perceived position among other IR actors). Having said this, the author uses insight from social psychology to provide theoretical explanations for each type of attraction, illustrating them with relevant examples from contemporary international politics.

  4. Mirco Elena (USPID)



See you soon in Trento…


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NASP International Workshop on Conflicts&Institutions

Venus in Arms is really pleased to announce the second edition of the “International Workshop on Conflicts&Institutions“. The workshop will be held in Genoa (21 June 2017)

The University of Genoa organized last year the conference “Conflicts & Institutions: Research, Projects and Workshops” (Genoa, 16-17 June 2016).

Here you can find all the info on the workshop.

As stressed in the website:

In continuity with that event, and within the NASP framework, we have invited leading scholars in conflicts studies, democratization, peacebuilding and international security. The main goal is still to specify the links and the connections between the ongoing crisis and the current conflicts to examine the relation between institutions and conflicts. At the same time, the Project “Conflicts & Institutions” aims at creating a network of scholars able to elaborate common research projects and proposals.
The current project has been designed and coordinated by Giampiero Cama (University of Genoa), Andrea Ruggeri (University of Oxford) and Fabrizio Coticchia (University of Genoa).

Within the one-day event of lectures and seminars there will be a workshop specifically devoted to young researchers of the NASP Young Investigator Training Program in Political Studies, supported by ACRI.

Program (preliminary timetable)*

21 June 2017 (Aula Mazzini, via Balbi 5, University of Genoa)

09.30 Workshop Registration
10.00 Workshop – Welcome address
10.30-11.30 Key-note speech (I) The Transformation of Civil WarsStathis Kalyvas (Yale University)
11.30-12.00 Coffee Break
12.00-13.00 Key-note speech (II) Accountability Avoidance and State ViolenceSabine Carey (University of Mannheim)

13.30-15.00 Lunch Buffet

15.00-17.00 Research Seminar on Conflicts&Institutions – NASP Young Investigator Training Program in Political Studies
Chairs and discussants
Giampiero Cama (University of Genoa)
Sabine Carey (University of Mannheim)
Stefano Costalli (University of Florence)
Fabrizio Coticchia (University of Genoa)
Chiara Ruffa (Swedish National Defense College)
Stathis Kalyvas (Yale University)
Francesco N. Moro (University of Bologna)
Andrea Ruggeri (Oxford University)
Other speakers TBC

17.00 Coffee Break – End of Workshop

* The final program will be available soon.

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