My research interests

My research interests revolve around three main areas. The first concerns the role of informality within supranational and international organisations (which I explore in my PhD project). I am also developing a social relational research agenda for the study of states’ power in international negotiations. Lastly, I am investigating the impact of Brexit on EU foreign policy coordination as well as post-Brexit EU-UK relations in the area of foreign policy.

My PhD project: informality in EU foreign policy negotiations

For my PhD thesis, I am exploring bargaining dynamics in the context of EU foreign policy negotiations (Common Foreign and Security Policy/Common Security and Defence Policy). Specifically, I am interested in the role of informality in EU foreign policy negotiations in particular. Relying on an original dataset collected by means of elite interviews with EU officials and national diplomats, my PhD project explores the role of informality in the context three distinct CFSP/CSDP negotiations: the agreement on the three-staged sanctions regime against Russia in 2014, the launch and implementation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) between 2016-2020 and the adoption of Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI in 2020-2021.

Social relational research agenda

Together with Dr Heidi Maurer, I am working on a social relational research agenda to conceptualise state power in international negotiations. As part of this research strand, we recently published a paper titled “Process and Position Power: a social relational research agenda about member states in the EU”, which is out with the Journal of European Public Policy. The paper advocates for the application of social relational theories (in particular practice and network theory) to the study of EU negotiations and member states’ power.

Post-Brexit EU foreign policy

I am investigating the impact of Brexit on EU foreign policy and post-Brexit UK-EU relations in the realm of foreign policy.

In a first paper, I explore what happens to an IO’s cooperation patterns and internal negotiation dynamics once a member state leaves. Taking Brexit – perhaps one of the most emblematic instances of voluntary withdrawal from an IO – as a case study, I combine social network analysis and qualitative case study to explore the effect of the 2016 referendum on EU foreign policy cooperation networks.

In a second paper, I examine the UK’s influence over EU foreign policy before and after Brexit and compare the role London played in the 2014 and 2022 Russian sanctions negotiations. The paper will be included in a Special Issue co-edited by Dr Sarah Wolff, Dr Karolina Pomorska, and Professor Richard Whitman, as part of the NEXTEUK project led by Dr Wolff.

Crises and Europeanisation of foreign policy

Using Russia’s war of aggression as a case study, Professor Ana Juncos, Dr Karolina Pomorska and I are working on a paper exploring the impact of crises on Europeanisation dynamics. In the paper, we argue that the response to the war has revealed a qualitative shift in processes of Europeanisation, with changes to cross-loading, uploading, and downloading dynamics. With the aim of investigating these changes further, our contribution relies on the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine as a case study to explore how crises shape Europeanisation dynamics in EU foreign and security policy. Relying on primary and secondary sources as well as interviews with EU and national officials, we show how the coordinative Europeanisation we have witnessed since the start of the war can be attributed not only to the characteristics of the crisis itself, but also to cumulative learning and progressive institutional transformations stemming from previous crises.

Digitalisation of EU foreign policy

Together with Dr Federica Bicchi, I am currently working on a paper exploring the digitalisation of diplomatic practices in EU foreign policy, titled “The digitalisation of European diplomacy: from the COREU network to WhatsApp”. In particular, the paper analyses the evolving use of virtual peer-to-peer communication tools within the EU foreign policy system, with the aim to understand how available digital instruments shape the ways in which diplomats interact. We explore a wide array of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) employed by European diplomats, from the COREU network to WhatsApp and Signal, and assess their effect on the modes and contents of EU foreign policy diplomatic practices.

Public engagement

Most recently, I authored an opinion piece for the Irish Association of Contemporary European Studies (IACES), commenting on the role of domestic political constraints on Italy’s effectiveness in EU-level negotiations.

I contributed to the H2020 project JOINT with a literature review on the internal contestation of EU foreign policy. The review was included in the Think Tank Review of the Council of the EU (November 2021).

From 2018 to 2021, I was also a team member on the Oxford-based project Europe’s Stories, led by Professor Timothy Garton Ash. As part of my contribution to the project, I co-authored a chapter in the final report, titled ‘Europe in the world’. The report, Young Europeans Speak to EU, tried to understand what young Europeans what the EU to be and to do across a variety of different policy areas (including foreign policy). You can also listen to the podcast series where the authors of the various chapters discuss the main findings and recommendations to policymakers.

Peer-reviewed publications

Lovato, Marianna (2022) “Getting your House in Order for EU Negotiations: When Domestic Constraints Condition Italy’s Performance at the EU Level”, Journal of Common Market Studies, 60(4): 963-982.

Lovato, Marianna and Heidi Maurer (2022) “Process and Position Power: a Social Relational Research Agenda About State Power in Negotiations, Journal of European Public Policy,

Other publications

Lovato, Marianna (2022) “Italy, Monti and Draghi: the case for skilled individual negotiators as catalysts for EU influence?, IACES Opinion Piece. Available here.

Lovato, Marianna (2021) “The Internal Contestation of EU Foreign and Security Policy”, JOINT Research Papers No. 1, pp. 1 – 46. Available here.

de France, Olivier and Marianna Lovato (2021) “Europe in the World”. In: Garton Ash, T. (ed) Young Europeans Speak to EU. Dahrendorf Programme at the European Studies Centre, (ISBN 978-1-5272-9957-3). Available here.

Lovato, Marianna (2021) “The COREU Network: How Member States Negotiate EU Foreign Policy in a Digital Environment”, NORTIA teaching case study. Available here.