Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Module, FCEU, 2014-2017
Functional capacity of the European Union
1. Description of the project
The project has been designed in order to increase the knowledge among the local and international students and the Estonian civil society about the European Union and its functional capacity, from a unique perspective in Estonia. In a significant addition, the EU’s developments in the past as well as the entity’s current geo-political stance will be framed into a comprehensive educational module to evaluate the EU’s degree of sustainability, capability to face future challenges and assess its capacity for further development. The project’s objective is on determination and further formalisation of frameworks and procedures, with which the EU as a unique geo-political phenomenon, will be clearly outlined for and conceptually understood by the students. Also, the project should focus on helping the students to establish their very own vision on what influence they can have on and role they can play in the continuing process of European integration, from both national and the supranational entity’s perspective. The project will provide the students with the much needed theoretical background on existing interrelations in Europe, so they will get an in-depth understanding of process in order to be able to act in ‘European’ terms. The project’s envisaged impact is on establishing a strong practical linkage between academia, studentship and broader society involved in a debate on the EU and its functional capacity to overtake the current crisis. The project is planned to be backed by a number of publication in well-respected European peer-review journals, a webpage in the TalTech web-portal and series of high-profile open lectures.
The module contributes to the development of quality learning bringing the studies of the EU to a further dimension based on the three following questions: where Estonia stands now in the EU's operational framework, how effective the EU's Neighbourhood Policy is (the context of Estonia's involvement in the Eastern Partnership Programme), and where is our future in terms of European Integration. There are currently no courses in Estonia addressing these topics in such a comprehensive manner. The module is aimed at university students and will be open to all faculties as it has a multidisciplinary approach. The general perspective comes with high quality teaching and accessibility for students interested in improving their knowledge of the EU and also as citizens concerned with their future. It provides a good start for broadening the field of EU studies as it promotes the thinking of the participants about the current situation and future of the Union. The module promotes EU integration studies as it addresses the issue from a new perspective based on realities of the present and ideas for the future. It opens a wide field for further development of the Estonian contribution to European Integration, both from an internal perspective in the development of the EU institutions and integration, and from an external perspective with the relations with the Eastern neighbourhood countries from the point of view of a border state. The open activities will count with young scholars and the possibility of publishing in a well-known journal of Estonia, the Baltic journal of European Studies, will encourage them to research in the field as they will develop their scholar career through a paper in a prestigious journal.
1.3 Relevance to priority target groups
The Module is primary develop in the International Relations department of TalTech that does not count with any Jean Monnet funding. Hence the module will have an important impact in the implication of the EU in the studies of the students. Currently there are some courses linked with the EU but they are insufficient in order to complete a full understanding of the European Integration process. There are Jean Monnet actions in other departments of the University, as for example Law, that basically are focus on legal or economic aspects of the European building process. The module proposed will be open to all the students of the university and will act as a perfect political complement. Also TalTech is a university where the majority of the students belong to science field, especially engineers. These students do not normally have access to information and lectures about the EU. The general political character of the module and the fact that is open to all the students of the university will provide a perfect understanding about the EU to these students that in their study plan do not have any courses link with the European Union. As the module includes several roundtables where policy makers, civil servants and other members of the society are invited, moreover the module also includes students from outside the university, it makes its impact in the society bigger than the university campus. The fact that the courses within this European Module will be open for any student of an Estonian academic institution makes it possible for this module to have a huge impact, with the interrelation of the academic and civil society groups. The content of the courses include politics alongside elements of other disciplines, which makes them more attractive for the students of other faculties and study programmes. None of the courses offered in this module will have any prerequisites, which will allow anyone interested to take the course, even if they are not a student of Tallinn University of Technology. The module will not only concern Estonian issues, but generally of the region, the European Union and its neighbours, thus the content will be interesting for international students of the university, as well as the visiting and exchange students from Finland, China, Russia, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, etc. It is expected to have approximately 100 participants. The module will not only raise European awareness among the people who will take the course, but will also contribute to the process of development of the institute for European Studies at Tallinn University of Technology. This institute publishes an academic journal “The Proceedings of the Institute for European Studies”, where the students will have a chance to publish their research papers they will develop during the courses. It will have a short term impact via the knowledge spread among the participants, and a long term impact by creating new career possibilities, as the participants will get access to new professional activities, such as working in the European institutions or the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. Through the long-term impact the module could mean the permanent establishment of the courses in the University, improving the field of European Union studies in at TalTech. The project’s envisaged impact is the establishment of a strong practical linkage between academics, students and members of broader society, involving them in a debate on the EU and its functional capacity to overtake the current crisis. The project is planned to be backed by a number of publications in well-respected European peer-review journals, a webpage in the TalTech web-portal and series of high-profile round-tables and debates.
2. Work programme
The work programme is based on four main pillars, teaching, research, events and online resources (webpage and Facebook page). The four aspects complement each other in order to achieve a full impact on the attenders to the module providing them with a full understanding of the European Union from a political perspective. The preparation will be mainly done in collaboration with the university staff, mainly the administrative staff dealing with deliveries, the IT department building the webpage and the development of the programs by the teaching staff. Once the module starts it includes different events and roundtables to increase the impact of the project and included other social actors where open discussion and the presentation of different views about the EU integration will be examined. It will provide a perfect practice for the knowledge acquired during the teaching sessions for the students as they will be able to discuss with so different agents about their opinions about the EU. The research will be a consequence of the two previous activities included in the module, increasing the innovation and the discussion ground. The follow-up of the module mainly will be done by two ways, the active participation on the forums created in the Facebook page and the different implications of the participants in the teaching lessons and the roundtables. As debate and free expression of ideas is encouraged during all the module development, the active participation of the attenders will be the best way to follow the positive development of the module. Finally the dissemination of the project will be based on the knowledge acquired by the students, the website, the different publications, the debate activities, the Facebook page and the implication of the general society in the module. Hence the work program depends on each of the mentioned pillars and the budget allocations because they look for the same objectives, the better understanding of the European Union.
2.1.1 The future of the European Union
It is a multidisciplinary course open to all the students of the University ore members of the civil society. It basically points out the different possibilities for the future of the European Union in different fields, and hence it provides a multidisciplinary vision. The course starts with the political future of the Union, what are the different options developing the Union and the most probable outcomes. The course focuses on different fields with a high potential for further integration, as Energy, Environment, Social Europe, or the CFSP. Each topic is treated separated with positive and negative points of further integration. The civil society link with each of these areas will be invited to the lessons and there will be a debate after each topic is developed. It provides an interesting point of view for the students and for the civil society. The course will analyse the limits of the organization, and the future possible enlargements of it. Finally the course finishes with a section dedicated to the people of Europe, where the presence of the civil society will be high, as the main topic here will be the relation of the European people with the European institutions, the relation of the people with the Single Market in all its aspects, as working, travelling, voting, and the relation of the European people with the future of Europe. The teaching will focus mainly on the perspective of future transfer of loyalty from the national level to the European level as an essential requirement for the future of the EU.
2.1.2 European Neighbourhood Policy
This course is designed to introduce the students of European integration to the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), established in 2004. Indeed, it was the EU's late but nevertheless direct response to a high number of issues and challenges, which were associated with the entity's neighbours and the effectiveness of the EU's interactions with them. The distinguishing features of neo-regionalism and classic functionalism are to frame the theoretical background of study. From one side, the course is to examine the ENP as a general multidimensional policy that promotes the privilege and, to some extent, luck to be formally recognised as a neighbour of the EU. From the other side, it is to emphasise the policy’s distinct bilateral nature that frames conditional relationships with neighbours on the case by case basis via Action Plans. The study should lead towards understanding that, being solidified by elements of crisis management, some of the examples of the ENP-originated relationship building activities have been successful and mutually beneficial (interactions with Georgia and Moldova). There are also few cases where the ENP has not been enjoying any visible success (not only there is no agreed Action Plan on the ENP with a 10-million Belarus, but there has never been any evaluation of the EU-initiated projects in that particular country). So, what is the ENP now? Is it getting transformed into an inertial policy of a liberal political entity with unaccounted wealth and porous borders? Or is it leaning to be related to the practice of politics in the context of becoming a solid theory-backed tool to ensure the EU’s secured stability in the future? Given the diversity of approaches existing in the field of political science, the course will be aiming to answer a major question on the best approach to the study of the ENP’s phenomenon. Taking the example of the ENP’s Eastern Partnership Programme (EPP), a distinct brunch of the ENP launched in May 2009, the course will claim that the application of pragmatic regional functionalism should with necessity lead us towards understanding the EPP’s political actions, analysing its operational effectiveness and forecasting its prospects to survive as a policy in the diverse European East. In a significant addition, the course (that is directly linked to the topic of the lecturer’s PhD dissertation) is designed to contribute to the theoretical debate on European integration in the context of defining a new, pragmatic, normative and proactive functions-driven regional policy.
2.1.3 Estonia in the European Union
The course will focus on Estonia’s integration into European Union, reasons behind Estonia’s membership, as well as the reasons for the European Union to accept Estonia as a new member. The process of joining the Union and the developments after becoming a member. Transformation of the society and possible future developments. Civil society in Estonia, after joining the EU, activation of NGO sector. Estonia’s cooperation with other member states in different fields (including cyber security). Transformation of Estonian identity.
The planned teaching will be based on the theoretical framework developed by the instructors plus the contributions of special guests linked with each specific topic established in the courses from a great variety of backgrounds. Each specific session of the courses will be closed with a debate between the speakers and the participants, and the whole project will be closed in the same way with the most notorious participants, the instructors and the attendees debating about the main conclusions of each section. The module presents a multi-disciplinary approach including politics, economics and society. The inclusion of different aspects of the influences of the EU on Estonia, the neighbour countries and the European Union makes the project innovative because it treats the issue as a whole from the past to the future, comparing and analysing the whole situation as a compact theme. As environmental topics, energy and the European Market play a central role in the development of the project, students that normally do not get access to the European Union studies will be participants, and especially those of the Tallinn University of Technology specialized in technology and engineering. This conception means the module is accessible to all Estonian students as it will include a variety of aspects and hence will allow different people from different backgrounds to participate and get a global vision. The innovation character also comes from the debating activities where members of the Estonian civil society, such as cultural associations, professional organizations, Chambers of Commerce, Ambassadors from different countries, members of the leading political forces of Estonia and the students will gather around the same discussion table. It will enlarge their particular views on European Union to a wider conception of the whole project.