AT THE BORDERS OF EUROPE - Assessing European Law and Policies in the Fields of Migration and Borders Management

UNIL principal investigator

Prof. Francesco Maiani, Faculty of Law, Criminal Justice and Public Administration

UNIPD principal investigator

Prof. Bernardo Cortese, DiPIC


Joint seminar / conference involving early-stage researchers


In the last two decades, the issue of border management in the context of migration has become increasingly relevant. In the last years and months, it has indeed become dramatically topical on several fronts, thus revealing the increasing complexity of the management of the external borders for the EU, also in geopolitical terms.

In addition to the usual difficulties caused by the inability of EU and Schengen countries to find truly effective agreements on the sharing of burdens resulting from the entry of migrants in need of international protection, which had already led to the mainstreaming of border closure and refoulement policies in open disregard of any human rights considerations, further issues have recently emerged and have made those muscular approaches dramatically central, going so far as to jeopardize the very peaceful nature of relations between EU-Schengen States and neighbouring third States. Furthermore, controls at the internal borders have been systematically reinstated, and this practice, not challenged by the Commission, threatens the consistency and coherence of the Schengen acquis.  

In this framework, the seminar’s overall objective is to try and find answers to a number of extremely topical legal questions such as, for example, that of the role and responsibilities of the EU and its agencies in border management, as well as that of a legal assessment of emergency-driven border violence.

One of the main features of the proposed seminar is to bring together an academic perspective, the perspective of institutional actors, practitioners and specialized adjudicatory bodies “producing” the actual legal practice, and the perspective of NGOs coping with the actual needs of the human beings on whose bodies those legal issues literally take form. This represents an original approach combining different types of expertise and professional profiles, in a spirit of research of synergies and cross-fertilization.


We intend to organise a two days joint seminar in order to start a long-term teaching and research collaboration in the field of migration and borders management between the two EU Law chairs and their teams at the partner institutions.

Three layers of active participants in the seminar may be singled out.

  • The seminar will first of all involve the direct participation of the two research teams at the partner universities, namely the two main applicants (both Full Professors/Chairholders of EU Law), an experienced researcher collaborating with UNIPD on a contract basis and currently holding a Marie Curie research fellowship in the relevant area, as well as 6 junior researchers working with them at the graduate/PhD/postdoc level at both institutions.
  • Secondly, external legal experts of international renown – academics as well as members of EU institutions - will also be involved.
  • Finally, the direct involvement of stakeholders, both at the level of the legal practice (lawyers and judges) and at that of civic engagement (NGOs) will be a further key of the program.

As to research outputs, the seminar will be followed up with the publication of research papers and reports based on the seminar’s presentations. Such a publication will include in particular the papers produced by the partner teams’ junior researchers, and may take the form of a volume jointly edited by the two main applicants, or that of a special issue of a peer reviewed international legal journal.

As for the teaching dimension, the seminar will at the same time serve as an “applied transnational law” teaching unit inside a specialized, mandatory class in International and EU Law of a new 3 years degree in Giurista del terzo settore [Bachelor in Law & Non-Profit] at UNIPD. Students in Lausanne will be able to attend the seminar via a dedicated internet connection through Zoom or other equivalent platforms.

Potential for follow-up activities

The activity proposed here might have follow-up activities at scientific level, in the form of an edited book or of a special issue of a journal, to be chosen among the best international scientific journals, also thanks to the availability of further funding.

As a further teaching and long-life learning outputs, the possible development of a miniMOOC based on the seminar’s materials will be considered: in this perspective, the activity will be disseminated among undergraduate students that will therefore gain knowledge and perspectives for the pursuit of their academic career at postgraduate level, also by establishing links with practitioners. The same will be done for professionals, which therefore could find this activity in their long-life learning activities.

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