Federica Fazio – Understanding Mutual Defence in a Time of War

Federica Fazio developed an interest in international relations at an early age. In light of the war in Ukraine, her doctoral research into European mutual defence commitments is both timely and essential. In this piece, she describes how the Paddy Moriarty Memorial Scholarship is helping her to excel as a PhD candidate in DCU’s School of Law and Government.

“International relations have always fascinated me. I grew up in Italy and had lots of opportunities to travel when I was younger. Through her work as a doctor, my mother was invited to speak at conferences in Europe and the United States and would often take me with her when I was little. We were travelling in the United States in 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. I remember that experience vividly, and I think it’s always been part of my interest in transatlantic relations and counterterrorism.

When I first started university, I studied Law at the University of Naples Federico II, before completing an MSc in Politics and Government in the EU at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). That was when my interest in security and defence began to really develop. After graduating from LSE, I worked as a Robert Schuman trainee at the European Parliament, and later at the EU Institute for Security Studies, where I focused on European security and EU-NATO cooperation.

The PhD programme I’m now pursuing at DCU’s School of Law and Government has given me a unique opportunity to reconcile these two sides of me: the law researcher and the political scientist.

My doctoral research analyses the EU and NATO’s mutual defence commitments in light of the war in Ukraine. I’m convinced that the unprovoked and unlawful aggression perpetrated on Ukraine by the Russian Federation is leading to important changes in European defence, with potential implications for EU countries such as Ireland that remain neutral.

“War has returned to our continent. If intentionally or by accident an EU or NATO member state should be attacked by Russia, what happens? This is one of the questions that my research seeks to answer.”


Essentially, there are three articles that enshrine European collective defence obligations: Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, Article 42.7 of the Treaty of the European Union – the mutual defence clauses, and Article 222 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – the solidarity clause. I think it’s important to understand how these articles can interact with one another. For now, the mutual defence clauses have only been invoked once: Article 5 after 9/11, and Article 42.7 after the November 2015 Paris attacks. As part of my research, I’m developing case studies on how these mutual defence provisions apply in the event of such terrorist attacks, as well as in the event of conventional military aggression.

I think this aspect of EU-NATO relations has now become impossible to ignore. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed defence back to the forefront of transatlantic relations. Finland joined NATO this year, and Sweden has begun the joining process. In June 2022, Denmark voted to relinquish its opt-out on the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. It’s important that we have this conversation on collective defence now – and my research will be the first monographic work on Europe’s mutual defence clauses.

I hope the Paddy Moriarty Memorial Scholarship will help me achieve my long-term goal of becoming a renowned academic and practitioner in my field of expertise. Living in Dublin for the first year of my PhD was a struggle financially, and it’s especially difficult to find accommodation. This scholarship will support me to continue my studies as part of the research community at DCU.”

DCU’s Excellence and Opportunity Fund creates an open door for bright minds to excel by providing student scholarships and research opportunities such as the Paddy Moriarty Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was established in the School of Law and Government at DCU in memory of Paddy Moriarty, a distinguished public servant with a career spanning ESB, RTÉ and as Chair of the National College of Industrial Relations.

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