The Network for Developing European Studies in the Caucasus (hereinafter, DESCNet) is designed to enhance the level of European Studies in the Caucasus. One of the main achievements and activities of the network is a scholarly association AESC (“Association of European Studies for the Caucasus”).
The rationale for the DESCNet stems from a very uneven level of European Studies in the countries’ HEIs, and a fragmented level of exchange and mobility among students, researchers and teachers in the Caucasus. Due primarily to the many unresolved political and military (“frozen”) conflicts in the region, the level and quality of European Studies is mainly a function of the ruling elite’s attitude to the idea of Europeanization. Only in those countries that are or have been actively seeking EU integration (Georgia, Turkey), a scholarly infrastructure is developed. Where the EU is rejected as the dominant model (Russia, Armenia) or kept at bay (Azerbaijan), there is often no desire to promote European Studies among academic circles as a separate discipline and therefore, a certain perception of European Studies as a “Trojan horse” of EU’s, and even worse NATO’s, expansionism, is sound. In reality, however, professionals in their respective disciplines and in a multidisciplinary or even interdisciplinary context see Jean Monnet (JM) activities in the region as a tool for supporting teaching and research on a world-class level.
The network has a number of unique features:
- it is not limited to the countries of the South Caucasus, rather includes HEI from the region’s neighbours Russia and Turkey;
- membership in AESC as the central deliverable is not limited to academic institutions, but is be open to active NGO’s and foundations of EU Member States and, last but not least, to practitioners and public figures;
- besides actors from the Caucasus region it includes academic institutions from EU Member States that have an interest and long-term cooperation in the region, such as the University of Graz and the University of Tartu.