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Network for Developing European Studies in the Caucasus


Jean Monnet Network DESCnet Developing European Studies in the Caucasus Newsletter 1/2016

1 — Editorial

2 — Upcoming DESCnet Events

3 — Related Events

4 — Opinions and Comments

1 — Editorial

This inaugural newsletter marks the beginning of the activities of the Jean Monnet Network »Developing the European Studies in the Caucasus« (DESCnet). Originally conceived of by the University of Graz‘ Russian East European & Eurasian Studies Centre (REEES), it is now under the direction of the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu. We are happy that our consortium embraces a dedicated group of scholars from the region who share their enthusiasm for developing European Studies. We hope that once the actual »Association of European Studies for the Caucasus« (AESC) is in place, we will have an increasing regional ownership and a widening of the membership basis to include many more universities as well as interested students and scholars.

It is indeed important to emphasize from the very beginning that our initiative is as open and inclusive as possible. We hope that the new Association, once it comes to life, will become a visible player in the region and that it will reflect all the scholarly interests and discourses that are currently taking shape in the scholarly community.

Some of the elements that go into DESCnet‘s operation have proven their value in the past, but will be refined and improved. Thus, in the years 2013-2015 REEES had established a network of interlocking summer and winter schools on EU Law held in the North Caucasus (EULINC) and the South Caucasus (EULISC). This basic idea will now substantiate at a regional level, with much greater input from all of the consortium members, and with a wider topical approach to European Studies. While the Schools are tailored to students in their B.A. and early M.A. years, more advanced students, esp. on the doctoral level, will obtain the possibility to attend Young Researchers‘ Seminars in Graz and Tartu, most importantly to support them in publishing their research early on. Our main goal, though, is the launch of the Association itself and the organization of the first two annual conventions (to be held in Istanbul 2017 and in Tbilisi 2018) as the central scholarly meeting place and hub for everybody interested in European Studies in the region.

When this project was prepared, it was not clear which way the political developments would go. Policy makers have become used to thinking in terms of regions, and especially the EU has traditionally been fond of its regional perspective. But it has become clear that some of the central elements that constitute regions in other parts of the world (a certain perception of common problems, a homogeneity of institutions, common visions of the future) are lacking. The Black Sea as a region is now in limbo: while Russia‘s annexation of Crimea and the ensuing support for Ukraine from Georgia has been largely tolerated by Turkey, the increasing conflict between Turkey and Russia is now as unpredictable as never before. The Turkish-Russian conflict will also backfire on the role of Nagorno Karabakh, where the conflicting sides have one big power on their side. The situation has thus become more dangerous than ever. The lifting of sanctions against Iran will help to re-balance the matrix of interests, along with the opening of the Silk Road railway connection between Georgia and China. Whatever way the fighting in Syria will take and whatever the outcome of the struggle against the Islamic State will be, any chain of events in the Mideast will be translated back into the Caucasus via Turkey, Russia and Iran. In short and from a scholarly observer‘s position, there is no way to foresee what will happen during the lifetime of this Jean Monnet Network project. But we can be sure that with the broad scope of network partners and the Association as a central vehicle, we will be in a good position to provide scholarly exchange and promote a spirit of reconciliation and respect.

Olga Bogdanova Thomas Krüßmann Tartu / Graz, February 2016

2 — Upcoming DESCnet events

Winter School Pyatigorsk »European Integration and the Future of Civil Society in the Caucasus« 13 to 19 March 2016

DESCnet will hold its first Winter School in Pyatigorsk (Russia). The School is open to international students from target countries interested in law, political science, international relations, public administration, cultural studies and related fields in their BA or early MA years. The language of instruction is English. A maximum of 6 ECTS will be awarded.

The School will provide an interdisciplinary introduction to the North Caucasus, attempting to assess the role of civil society in the region and comparing it to approaches to civil society engagement prevalent in the EU. Analytical perspectives are developed, using the approaches of law, political science, sociology and cultural studies. To give participants a true immersion into the North Caucasus, there will be an optional instruction into North Caucasus dance styles in the evening. Over the weekend, the optional cultural/ recreational programme is available.

The School will offer teaching on the following topics

- The EU‘s Vision of Civil Society: Values, Human Rights and Recognition in Formal Political Proceedings

- Human Rights as a Safeguard for Civil Society Activism

- Participation of NGO‘s in Building Civil Society in Russia and the EU: A Comparative Analysis

- The Role of Civil Society in the EU and in Russia in Addressing the Problems of Refugees (based on the incoming refugees from Eastern Ukraine)

- The Terskii Cossacks in the North Caucasus — An Early Form of Civil Society?

- Gender (In-) Equality in the Caucasus and its Effects on Civil Society

- Gender Policy in the EU and the New Legal Framework for Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence in the Council of Europe

A detailed programme brochure is available via the Facebook group »Association of European Studies for the Caucasus«.

Teaching Staff

Thomas Krüßmann — Professor of Criminal Law and academic supervisor of the winter school (Austria)

Anna Avanesova — Lecturer, Chair for Constitutional and International Law, North Caucasus Federal University (Russia)

Roman Gabrilyan — Lecturer, Chair for Theoryand History of State and Law, North Caucasus Federal University (Russia)

Benedikt Harzl — Ass. Professor, Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies Centre, University of Graz (Austria)

Svetlana Ivanova — Professor, Chair for Social Philosophy, North Caucasus Federal University (Russia)

Roman Nutrikhin — Lecturer, Chair for Environmental, Land and Labour Law, North Caucasus Federal University (Russia)

Viktoriya Savina — Lecturer, Chair for Civil Law and Civil Procedure, North Caucasus Federal University (Russia)


Young Researchers‘ Seminar Graz 18 to 22 April 2016

»Science does not recognise national borders; its limit is simply the limit of human knowledge.«

This definition, formulated by Max Planck in 1923, is also the metaphorical starting point of the first DESCnet »Young Researchers’ Seminar« at the University of Graz. Indeed, knowledge is universal, hence, research – inevitably – is always international. Not only competition, but also co-operation lies at the heart of today’s scientific progress and, more particularly, at the heart of the enhancement of scientific excellence.

Against this background the first Young Researchers’ Seminar will provide an academic training dealing with the generation of research ideas, publication of the resulting findings (and, also, assessing the findings made by others), building on these ideas, developing them further and supporting them through third-party funding schemes. In addition, innovative research methodologies will be discussed that will help to fuel these very ideas.

The Young Researchers‘ Seminar will offer teaching on the following topics

- Comparative Methods in Political Sciences Research

- Methodologies in EU and International Law

- Nationalism, Ethnicity and Minority Politics in and beyond Europe

- Research Methodologies in EU and International Law

- EU Funding Schemes and International FundraisingInter University Co-operation: Networking and Projects

- Academia-Policy Dialogue

- Challenges and Opportunities of Publishing in International, English-language and Peer-reviewed Journals

- Challenges to Doctrinal Approaches: The ius publicum europaeum and the Europeanization of National Legal Systems

- Legal aspects of the history of Europeanization

The Seminar is open to junior scientists (PhD candidates or advanced MA students) in the fields of law, political science, international relations and related fields. Participants will be nominated by the DESCnet consortium members. Criteria for the selection are:

— PhD students in European Studies, Law or Political Sciences, International Relations (formal requirement)

— Proficiency in English (speaking, reading and writing to understand, express and discuss and put in writing aspects of the field of European Studies)

Each partner should select one student with a fixed place and one for the reserve list (deadline: 7 March 2016) Selected participants will obtain funding for travel to and from Vienna as well as for train / bus tickets Vienna-Graz. If exceptionally a flight connection to Graz is equally or less expensive, flights to Graz can also be covered. Accommodation and food for the duration of the seminar will be included.

Teaching Staff

Erhard Busek — Jean Monnet Professor of European Law ad personam, University of Graz, (Austria)

Benedikt Harzl — Ass. Professor, Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies Centre, University of Graz (Austria)

Stephan Hinghofer-Szalkay — Ass. Professor, Institute of Austrian Legal History, University of Graz (Austria)

Joseph Marko — Dean, Law Faculty of the University of Graz (Austria)

Aiste Mickonyte — Ass. Professor, Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies Centre, University of Graz (Austria)

Robert Link — International Projects Manager, Dean‘s Office, Law Faculty, University of Graz, (Austria)

Guido Schwellnus — Ass. Professor, Institute of Public Law and Political Science, University of Graz (Austria)

Anita Ziegerhofer — Prof., Head of the Institute of Austrian Legal History, University of Graz (Austria)

3 — Related Events

Università degli Studi di Milano Dipartimento di Studi Internationali, Giuridici e Storico-Politici International Conference »The European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union: Moving towards Cooperation« 7 March 2016, Milan (Italy)

This one-day conference hosted by Angela Di Gregorio and Caterina Filippini will examine the current state of EU-EAEU relations. The proceedings are structured in three sections: (1) The Geopolitical Environment, (2) State Building and Constitutional Developments in the Eurasian Region, (3) The EU and the EAEU: Moving towards Cooperation.

Requests for participation may be addressed to Prof. Angela Di Gregoria

Regional Studies Association Annual Conference Building Bridges: Cities and Regions in a Transnational World 3 – 6 April 2016, Graz (Austria)

Throughout history, cities and regions have been cornerstones of economic, social and cultural institution building and centres of communication and trade across borders of empires and nations. In a globalised world dominated by multi-level governance and declining economic and political significance of the nation-state, cities and regions are becoming ever more so important in building bridges across nations, supra-national unions, and even continents. These challenges surpass the usual aspects of integration: it is not sufficient to reduce barriers for the mobility of labour, goods, services and capital, to create a homogenous competitive environment, and a solid monetary system. What is needed in addition are more elements of a new regionalism, which is based on non-hierarchical relationships, on self-government, and on the creation of flexible alliances leading to interregional transnational cooperation. The development of a region is affected by its competitive and complementary relationships with other increasingly distant regions.

Eastern Platform Seminar »Post-soviet Space Between the EU and Russia. The State of the Crisis: Winding Down or Going Global?« 18-19 March 2016, Tartu (Estonia)

The Eastern Platform is a multi-disciplinary initiative aimed to analyse and better understand the Ukrainian crisis of 2014 by creating a unified resource and network of academics studying the post-socialist space which has the ambition to develop and grow as a forum and incubator to promote high quality research and knowledge sharing on the broader post-Soviet space. Academic conveners of the event are Dr. Stefano Braghiroli (University of Tartu), Prof. Andrey Makarychev (University of Tartu), and Anna-Cara Keim (University College London). For further details about the event visit

The Eastern Platform Seminar represents the second edition of a previous event organised in April 2015 by the European College of the University of Tartu, in co-operation with the University College London within the framework of Platform Ukraine.

The Seminar constitutes an opportunity to discuss the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis and its expansive destabilisation potential in the region and globally. The event seeks to shed light on the evolution of the crisis and its impact on the nature of the EU-Russia relations at a time when few dare to predict how events will unfold in the future. Conflict in Ukraine has the potential to crystallise into a new frozen conflict, thereby posing an additional challenge not only to the post-Cold War security architecture in Europe, but also to agreed definitions of »borders« and »neighbourhoods«. At the same time, acute global challenges may pave the way to functional rapprochement between Moscow and the West which could reduce the conflict in Ukraine to a factor of secondary relevance.

4 — Opinions and Comments

Visa liberalisation is coming to Georgia

Oliver Reisner Professor in European and Caucasian Studies Ilia State University (Tbilisi, Georgia)

On 18 December 2015 Georgia celebrated the release of a positive progress report on Georgia‘s implementation of its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP). The European Commission stated in the report that Georgia met all the benchmarks of the VLAP, meaning in early 2016 the European Union (EU) would propose a legislative amendment to let Georgian citizens travel to the EU visa free. For that celebration the EU flag was projected on the walls of several public buildings and the iconic Tbilisi TV Tower as well as many other important buildings and monuments across the country. The European Commission said that it will present a legislative proposal in »early 2016« to the EU Member States to allow visa-free travel for Georgian citizens. After this formal proposal is presented, it should then be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Member States before visa-free rules can go into force. Georgia hopes the process will be completed by mid-2016. Among the political elites in Georgia it is expected that visa-free travel rules will add a »much deeper dimension« (ex-prime minister Irakli Garibashvili on 18 December 2015) to the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which Georgia already has with the EU.

While one of the greatest accomplishments inside the EU, the Schengen Area, is under the serious pressure due to the migration crisis, Georgia celebrates once again its return to Europe and expects to be admitted to the European family (even being a member of the Council of Europe since 1999). Is there cause for celebration and optimism? Visa liberalisation, however, in no way gives Georgians the right to work, study or become residents of Schengen area countries – for these purposes, a labour, study or immigration visa will be needed. According to the latest »Caucasus Barometer« survey from October 2015 Caucasus Resource Research Centre in Tbilisi concluded that there is only limited knowledge about the implications for their lives and recommended an information campaign to ensure »that the population of Georgia has adequate expectations of it and makes informed migratory decisions to the EU countries once visa liberalisation enters into force«. Certainly, visa liberalisation will not solve their number one problem, which constantly over the years remains employment. Visa liberalisation will enhance short-term mobility, but not employment. Unfortunately.

The EU and the Black Sea Region: Creating an Educational Space?

Kerry Longhurst Jean Monnet Professor at Collegium Civitas, Warsaw and Professor at the Natolin campus of the College of Europe

The EU’s approach to the Black Sea region is big on ambition, elegant in rhetoric, but mostly weak on delivery. This commentary considers the notion of a regional ‘educational space’ (higher education) based around a European Studies curriculum as a potentially fresh approach. The proposition is that the EU has a stronger interest than ever in seeing this region more tightly knitted together and that the promotion of the study of the EU could be an effective way of serving the EU and the region’s interests.

The Black Sea Synergy (BSS), created in 2007, represented the EU’s attempt to stake a claim as a strategic actor in the region. In reality, however, as soon as Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU little follow-up was devoted to the Union’s new South Eastern flank. The EU’s thinking about the Black Sea was arguably flawed from the start in the sense that Brussels assumed that the states of the region were ready and willing to cooperate amongst themselves in ways that would further the EU’s own interests. Furthermore, the BSS, unlike the EU’s other key regional strategies, such as the Balkans Stability Pact or the Northern dimension, didn’t seem to have a clear enough underlying logic. Finally, BSS tried to do everything and in doing so failed to make a lasting imprint.

Despite its lacklustre performance at region building, renewed attention has been given to the Black Sea Synergy as part of a recalibration of EU policy towards the region after the annexation of Crimea. In this context an idea for regional educational cooperation (which was mentioned, but not elaborated in the initial blueprint of the BSS) amongst the Universities of the region based around the creation of a shared European Studies MA curriculum has resurfaced. A feasibility study was recently carried out on this topic, which amongst other findings, brought into focus the perennial challenge of how EU policy can best deal with the heterogeneity of the region’s actors and how a meaningful common denominator for cooperation can be found. At the same time, the study found the region ripe for transnational cooperation in the higher education sector based upon a curriculum that fused European Studies with a focus on the Black Sea and the latter‘s evolving relationship with the EU.

The study came to a positive conclusion and through concrete proposals recommended the scheme for EU co-financing. Such an endeavour certainly holds great promise and would further the EU’s interests, but it still raises significant academic, political and practical questions: Does it make academic sense? Is there a strong enough intellectual rationale? Second, how can linkages be established between Black Sea regional cooperation and the region’s relationship to EU integration as part of a learning and teaching strategy? Can a new MA be unique and attractive enough to students in an already crowded postgraduate market? Third, how can the MA be practically organised if it is to be a truly shared project involving University stakeholders in all six countries?

How to make academic sense

A regional educational space needs a core intellectual foundation. This is interesting in the case of the Black Sea, not least because of the heterogeneity of the states of the region. Importantly, in contrast to the bigger political and economic ambitions of the BSS, which generally floundered, educational cooperation has the potential to thrive upon this diversity; indeed, from the perspective of European Studies this is exactly what makes it interesting and worth studying.

But there is another convincing rationale for such an MA. Current debates in the discipline of International Relations argue that if the world and its conflicts are to be better understood, then ‘area studies’ needs a renaissance. Crucially, students need to have a deep grasp of regions and countries from political, economic, historical and social / cultural dimensions, a curriculum on Black Sea – EU studies should eagerly address this.

Talking more specifically, an educational space around the Black Sea needs to hone in on regionally-relevant strategic issues, such as energy, security and migration and seize upon and profile itself on the unique situation present in the region, which is a crossroads between EU Member States (Romania and Bulgaria), a candidate (Turkey) and three neighbours (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia). This would be the overall intellectual rationale and ‘unique selling point’. Crucially, the educational space needs to hone in on at least three levels (a) intra-regional relations (b) inter-regional (c) the Black Sea in a global context all viewed through a multi-disciplinary prism and a sensitivity to history.

The study of the EU needs refreshing in the region to take account of the EU’s growing role in the world and new theoretical approaches. Equally, as a means to bring the Black Sea more squarely into the European Studies context, comparative regionalism should form a core part of the curriculum, enabling students to evaluate the Black Sea vis-à-vis theoretical and practical perspectives on Central Europe, the Northern Dimension and MENA, for example.

Equally, academic focus would need to be placed on understanding dynamics and consequences of intraand inter-regional integration and organisations and embrace the notion of the ‘wider’ Black Sea region, as mentioned in the reviews of the Black Sea Synergy and ENP. The global level of analysis is becoming increasingly relevant since the region lies at the nexus of such projects as the Silk Road, the maritime and land-based transport axes that link Europe and Asia and the Mediterranean, not to forget energy pipelines, migratory trends and trade. The educational space should aim to produce graduates not just specialists of the Black Sea Region; but also aware of and able to critically analyse wider contexts and transformations impacting upon the region.

Ensuring added value and innovation

A regional educational space needs an MA highly differentiated from current provision in the region, in other words it should aim at bringing significant added value. A new regional educational space presents an opportunity to innovate in a number of ways. Intra-regional mobility as an integral part of an MA should be a priority, perhaps in the form of a regional ERASMUS scheme. Not only is mobility a practical and intellectual eye-opener, but it also immediately enhances the employability prospects of students. Second, evidence from the feasibility study suggested that the region is open to a remodelling of modes of study, away from the traditional 120 ECTS two-year MA with its emphasis upon a high level of contact hours.

Juxtaposing pan-European trends in teaching and learning strategies with the specific circumstances in higher education and anticipated needs of the graduate job markets in the countries of the region highlights a clear need for ‘employability’ issues to be at centre stage alongside traditional academic study. What might this entail? Flexibility in the delivery of programmes is important in order that students who are working full time can also study. Linked to this is the importance of blended learning, mixed methods of teaching and learning that combines the best of technology and traditional face-to-face instruction. Blended learning not only means flexible learning, but also gives students as well as staff a variety of new skills and attributes that can deliver the kind of transversal skills relevant for local, regional and European job markets.

Enhancing academia and higher education

The creation of a regional educational space can deliver multiple benefits to a region; clusters of Universities will be able to develop real specialisations towards the creation of Centres of Excellence. It can also help move forwards the reform processes in higher education establishments, especially in EaP states, which move faster in some states than others. Creating a regional MA by the drawing together of academics, administrators and leaders from participating regional Universities in the design and implementation of the curriculum will invariably challenge out-of-date practices, enhance the academic offer and further the internationalisation of higher education, which is one of the most important priorities in all of the Black Sea states, including Romania and Bulgaria.

Linking it to the European integration process

The creation of a regional educational space focused around EU studies can go a long way in meeting the EU’s own interests in the sense that it can provide the EU with an effective means of promoting integration and raising general awareness levels. The ERASMUS and Jean Monnet frameworks have proved to be highly successful in this sense. However, in the Black Sea context there is an opportunity to create an even tighter linkage between teaching about the EU and the actual integration process, which is again tied to the theme of employability.

The feasibility study identified that the EaP states and Turkey need more specialists on the EU, especially EU law, to facilitate the implementation of the Acquis. EaP countries are also in need of public servants and entrepreneurs holding both a solid understanding of EU integration and a specialist technical knowledge and skills-set relating to the DCFTAs their actual implementation and successful functioning. Consequently, an educational space should also be a forum within which technical aspects of European integration are taught in order to ensure policy relevance and sustainability.

Regional educational spaces — A new model to consider?

A Black Sea educational space warrants serious consideration. It has the potential to be a soft, yet potentially transformative tool which could serve as model for other states and areas, where a regional approach might bring added value, such as the Caucasus region or Central Asia.

Success depends of course on a number of factors, not least of all high level political will and support from national public administrations, including education ministries to help overcome bureaucratic and cultural obstacles that are inevitably going to emerge. Finally, such an initiative needs to be home-grown. Even though EU support will be essential, in terms of political impetus and co-funding, the ultimate sustainability of a regional educational space rests upon regional ownership.


In order to enhance visibility of the project and share the latest news in developing the European Studies in the Caucasus, DESCnet consortium members regularly contribute to the newsletter. Every newsletter features information about upcoming DESCnet events, new publications in the field, news, opinions and comments, past events impressions and announcements of related events, as well as DESCnet dissemination.

Jean Monnet Network DESCnet Developing European Studies in the Caucasus Newsletter 1/2016

Jean Monnet Network DESCnet Developing European Studies in the Caucasus Newsletter 2/2016

Jean Monnet Network DESCnet Developing European Studies in the Caucasus Newsletter 3/2016

Jean Monnet Network DESCnet Developing European Studies in the Caucasus Newsletter 4/2016



Work II Winter School on European law in the North Caucasus, conducted jointly with the University of Graz (Austria).


On the 13-19 of March on the basis of branch SKFU Pyatigorsk hosted Winter School on European Law. School participants were not only students of the Law Institute of the North Caucasus Federal University, but also students and young scientists from the UK, Austria, Estonia, Italy, Germany, Romania and the United States.


European Integration and the Future of Civil Society in the Caucasus (6 ECTS) Winter school 13/03/2016-20/03/2016 Responsible: North Caucasus Federal University


Federal state autonomous educational institution for higher proffssional education

Folder summer school 2013: detailed programme

Logo winterschool 4c

Programme EULINC Pyatigorsk EN_Final 2014

A list of audience EULINC 2014


European Union Law in the North Caucasus - EULINC: PROGRAM

Program DESCnet

The list of participants of the Winter School in European Law 2016


Lecturers Winter School on European Law

Program Winter School on European Law 2015

List of participants of the Winter School in European Law 2015




A contest for the participation in the Winter School on European Law, which will take place on the basis of the North Caucasus Federal University at the end of February 2017

To participate in the School should prepare an essay on the problems of combating corruption (or any other topic related to the negativity of corruption) in English of 1,5-2 pages (A4 size 14 half interval) and to send e-mail associate professor of constitutional and international law Avanesova Anna Artemovna ( up to 12 hours of the day December 15, 2016

All specific questions you can ask Avanesova AA to the specified email address.


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