CIVICA postdoctoral mobility: LSE fellow at the EUI to research fundamental rights in the digital society


Giulia Gentile is Italian, from Naples, but she arrives to the EUI from the UK. A law fellow at LSE, Giulia has returned to Italy as a visiting fellow scholar at the EUI through the CIVICA postdoctoral mobility scheme.

Giulia Gentile is Italian, from Naples, but she arrives to the European University Institute (EUI) from the UK. A law fellow at the London School of Economics, Giulia has returned to Italy as a visiting scholar at the EUI through the CIVICA postdoctoral mobility scheme.

“It is a very European journey,” Giulia explains. “On a personal level, it was heartwarming to be back in Italy after many years moving around Europe. The experiences that I have accumulated have made me feel very European in addition to being Italian. So, through this experience I could really perceive the various dimensions of my background.”

On a professional level, the mobility scheme of CIVICA Research offers postdoctoral researchers from across the alliance, like Giulia, the opportunity to visit other CIVICA member institutions.Postdoctoral researchers receive funding to spend up to three months in partner institutions where they work on the research project submitted during the fellowship call.

“The added value of CIVICA is to build bridges between the different institutions and this is so important for early career scholars because they benefit not only from learning from and knowing other scholars based at the other universities, but also from establishing research synergies during the visiting periods.”

Giulia speaks fluent French and English after studying and working in some of Europe’s most prestigious institutions. She elegantly speaks about herresearch on EU constitutional law and the protection of fundamental rights in the digital society. Her focus is on data protection and the impact of AI on fundamental rights. At the EUI, her CIVICA research project at the Department of Law delves into a European perspective on judicial independence and AI.

“The EU and the Court of Justice have made clear that judicial independence is of the essence for the Rule of Law in the European Union, one of the EU founding values,” Giulia explains broadly. “Countries with courts that are not independent cannot guarantee that the rights of individuals deriving from EU law can be effectively protected. This principle is one of the pillars of the European Union.”

Going into detail, Giulia notes that, “We also observe the emergence of AI-driven judicial systems, which can range from AI in courts used to support judicial decision-making and allocate cases among judges, to AI used to facilitate virtual hearings. In some countries, new reforms are seeking to introduce robot-judges. So, the question is: how do we ensure that these novel AI-embedded judicial systems comply with the principle of judicial independence?”

A very complex question, indeed, leading to a challenging project proposal. “From the angle of judicial independence, there several issues, to name but one, potential biases in AI-embedded courts. How do we deal with bias in the context of AI-embedded courts? The Rule of Law and judicial independence require and impartial and equal application of the law. How do we ultimately ensure the compliance with these principles in the context of AI-driven courts?”, she continued. A topic that is making headlines in the EU, Giulia makes it clear that now is the time to ask these questions. “The Next Generation framework invests significant resources to enhance digitalisation in the Member States, including national judicial systems. So, this is the right moment to explore these issues and reflect on how we can ensure judicial independence in the upcoming court systems.”

Through the CIVICA mobility scheme, Giulia has had the opportunity to discuss this topic with colleagues from different countries and backgrounds – as well as EUI leadership. Deirdre Curtin, Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor at the Department of Law, is Giulia’s supervisor at the EUI.

“Diedre has been extremely responsive and supportive of my application. As an expert on digital rights and judicial protection, she has involved me in many events, projects and panels. I was also able to provide feedback to younger researchers and doctoral students on their research projects. Discussing potential projects for the future, we share many common research themes.”

Giulia is also working closely with Urska Sadl, Professor of Law at EUI. She has joined a working group on the public digital sphere, as well as the EU Law working group. “Thanks to Urska, I was able not only to become part of these groups, but also to reach out to other researchers and better integrate into the EUI community.”

She has also met many doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows who are working on topics that have elements of convergence with her own research.

“This CIVICA fellowship offers the wonderful opportunity to meet researchers of all levels - doctoral, postdoctoral, and even more advanced researchers –, create collaborations between different institutions, establish research synergies, and support visiting periods in foreign institutions, as in the case of my fellowship. Academia highly benefits from cooperation, exchange of ideas and of course exploration, which CIVICA strongly favours and encourages. These activities are essential for researchers of all stages.”

Giulia will stay at the EUI for two months. She arrived on 22 May and will leave at the end of July. Halfway through her experience, she is confident about the benefits. “Future collaborations will certainly be established based on these encounters under the CIVICA framework. It is truly a European project which shows the strength of teamwork and cooperation, and the enrichment that comes from diversity.”


Written by EUI’s editorial team (Luisa Della Pietra, Soraya Binetti) and edited by LSE’s editorial team (Louise Jones).