European elections 2019

In May 2019, a new European Parliament will be elected. The new president of the European Commission, replacing the outgoing Jean-Claude Juncker, will likely be a top candidate of the strongest political group in the elections.

EAEA contacted the top candidates and MEP candidates of all political groups to ask them about their views on adult education and non-formal adult learning, and how they want to support adult education in Europe. On this webpage, we are publishing the answers we received.

This is what the candidates say about adult education:

Candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission

Ska Keller, top candidate European elections 2019 for Greens/EFA

Ska Keller, Germany, together with Bas Eickhout, The Netherlands (Greens/EFA)

Lifelong learning is a right for all citizens and an absolute necessity to maximize a person’s opportunities, professional or other, throughout their lives. As such, lifelong learning schemes should not be viewed merely as tools for meeting the labour markets needs but, equally important, should equip people to enjoy, participate in and contribute to broader cultural and societal activities.”

Read the full reply from Ska Keller and Bas Eickhout (pdf)

Photo: European Green Party


MEP Candidates

 Sirpa Pietikäinen, Finland (EPP)

“[Non-formal adult education] is an important and vital part of the capacity building, and while it is not acknowledged enough and it is hard to measure, its importance is underestimated compared to formal education. One could even say that the most important or relevant capacity building comes from informal learning. This is exactly why we need to develop both the resources and means for informal learning and the possibilities to show and proof the gained and learned capacities. […] I have found the Lifelong Learning interest group very effective and inspiring way of engaging with the community of best experts of the society and professionals of lifelong learning and adult education. I am happy to continue working through this network and push the higher level of ambition in EUs lifelong learning policies.” Read the full reply from Sirpa Pietikäinen (pdf)

Photo: Sirpa Pietikäinen

Mirja Vehkapera ALDE

Mirja Vehkaperä, Finland (ALDE)

“Currently, according to EU’s Learning and training strategy, we have an objective of 15% of adults participating in learning. I would advocate for EU to adopt more ambitious target and as a result provide more support for member states in realising them. Lifelong learning must be recognised as an important part of overall education policy, and as part of other policies, for example in relation to employment, social inclusion and active citizenship. The EU’s role here is to support and encourage member states, who implement the policies. I hope the Finnish example, where adult education is appreciated and there are plenty of adult education opportunities, could inspire others too.” Read the full reply from Mirja Vehkaperä (pdf)

Photo: Mirja Vehkaperä

Brendan Smith, Irish MEP candidate (ALDE)

Brendan Smith, Ireland (ALDE)

“Education is key to our growth and development and we should not limit educational opportunity to those below a certain age. Education is both an economic and societal good – as well as helping career development it fosters greater participation and good citizenship and can encourage others in the family (of all ages) to look to education. While the EU has a strong agenda on education that has many aspects that would help lifelong learning (online courses, digital training etc), I have not seen many papers or reports specific to adult and lifelong learning – I would be interested in pursuing this with colleagues and advancing the idea of a Learning Europe.”

Photo: Brendan Smith for Europe

Malcolm Byrne, Irish MEP candidate (ALDE)Malcolm Byrne, Ireland (ALDE)

“I’ve been a lifelong supporter of investment in education and it is what brought be into politics.”

Photo: Malcolm Byrne



Ciarán Cuffe, Irish MEP candidate (Greens/EFA)

Ciarán Cuffe, Ireland (Greens/EFA)

“I would happily [support a campaign on adult education and lifelong learning. Finance is a huge barrier to lifelong education and I would work to learn from best practice elsewhere.”

Photo: Green Party Ireland



Fidelma Healy Eames, Irish MEP Candidate (Independent)

Fidelma Healy Eames, Ireland (Independent)

“If elected as a new MEP I will be advocating for programmes, partnerships and sourcing funding that support [the goals of EAEA]. Lifelong learning and access to education and opportunity, regardless of age, is essential for a healthier, happier society.”

Photo: Fidelma Healy Eames


Clare Daly, Irish MEP candidate (Independent)Clare Daly, Ireland (Independent)

“[I am] of course well aware of the excellent work done by the Adult Learning Organisations and many of the volunteers who work in the area. [I stand out] on [my] record of campaigning on all issues of social justice. Keep up the good work.”

Photo: Clare Daly


Breda Gardner, Irish MEP candidate (Independent)Breda Gardner, Ireland (Independent)

“I am a huge believer in education, and am fully supportive of [non-formal adult learning].  As an example of that, one of my proudest achievements came nearly 20 years ago when I lived in London and led a successful campaign to save our local library in Anerley.”

Photo: Breda Gardner


Grace OSullivan, Irish MEP candidate, Greens/EFAGrace O’Sullivan, Ireland (Greens/EFA)

“We will provide stronger supports for students from disadvantaged backgrounds accessing further education educational routes. […] It is crucial that civil society is adequately resourced. […] Finance is a huge barrier to lifelong education and I would work to learn from best practice.”

Photo: Green Party Ireland


 Philippe Lamberts, Belgium (Greens/EFA)

The Greens/EFA acknowledge the unequal participation in access to lifelong learning, be it in the workplace (depending on your age, your sex, your job tenure…) or outside (as an unemployed, a migrant/refugee…). The Greens/EFA strongly promote all levers enabling everyone to benefit from lifelong learning, especially the most vulnerable and underrepresented by better implementing the related regulations or by encouraging the social partners to assume their responsibility, by increasing the European Social Funds and other relevant programs and initiatives. Given the deep mutational changes going on in our society (technological revolution, climate change, ageing), it is crucial to ensure lifelong learning for all to ripe the potential of new opportunities in the new green and social sectors.”

Photo: Philippe Lambert

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