Since the 1963 Ankara Agreement, the EU Studies has been a significant academic area of interest in Turkey and most established Turkish universities opened EU Studies Centres including METU. In this respect, Turkey’s accumulated experience on researching European studies and the epistemological, methodological and theoretical challenges posed by the prolonged EU integration process and studying the EU at the periphery of Europe (‘the periphery’ from now on) have been important academic assets for Turkish universities. The urge to disassociate practical hurdles of the EU integration process from cutting-edge research on EU integration has been a challenging yet enriching experience for the European Studies in Turkey. Centre for European Studies at METU (CES-METU), which has been founded in 1997, is one of the leading research centres specializing on European integration within Turkey and its region. CES-METU has been a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in 2007 and is recognized as one of the best practices among the JMCEs in the world. With its openness to the civil society, accumulated knowledge on EU integration and academic expertise to explore the correlation between academic knowledge and everyday information on European integration, CES-METU is an institution which would be able to foster development of novel teaching, research or debating activities and knowledge exchange between countries which face similar challenges and hurdles. In this respect, the main research question of the LEAP is: ‘How is the EU integration taught, learned, experienced and contested at ‘the periphery’?’ and the focus will be on the cases of Turkey, Romania, Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine (‘selected countries’ from now on). The notion ‘periphery’ for the aims of the LEAP entails candidate (Turkey), potential candidate (Kosovo) and neighbourhood countries (Georgia and Ukraine) as well as member countries (Romania) which also underlines the need to assess multifarious nature of the complexities/challenges attached to the EU integration. Centre-periphery dichotomy with respect to the EU is both spatial in the sense that most of the candidate and neighbourhood countries of the EU are geographically far away from Brussels as well as structural in terms of regional disparities and economic asymmetries between core ‘Europe’ and its periphery.
METU has two main aims in proposing this network: it aims to create a network to share its accumulated experience with other distinguished EU Studies institutions in the region and to enable inter-regional research by the distinguished researchers of the Network to see how academics, students, young citizens, civil society and political actors in ‘the periphery’ are linked to the EU integration from various aspects and to unfold the educational, performative and political processes whilst teaching, learning, experiencing and contesting ‘Europe’. Secondly, it targets to create a long-lasting and multiplier impact and international resonance that will act as an example of a novel and integrated approach to the EU integration. As outlined above, the LEAP aims to explore how the EU integration is taught, learned, experienced and contested at ‘the periphery’ and the aim will be to create an impact on the academics, students, young citizens, civil society and political actors within the selected countries. However, further research could extend LEAP’s analytical perspective to explore the challenges/complexities of the EU integration in other international settings such as the Middle East, MENA region, Central Asia, ACP countries etc. Moreover, as the LEAP findings will be shared through workshops, summits, simulations, special issues, open-access books, films, a website and a database, we expect a wider impact of the project at the international level transcending the core target group of the project.