On the Way towards EU Integration: Countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe Shaping Lifelong Learning Systems

In the context of the Continental Exchange project countries' path to EU membership, it is crucial to align their national laws with EU guidelines and recommendations to reflect EU values.

The high-level conference aimed to reflect on the convergence of ALE and Lifelong Learning systems with policies, trends, and best practices in EU member states. Representatives from various levels of the educational sector came together to share their knowledge and experience on the matter.

In the context where the countries of the Continental Exchange project are on the path to membership in the European Union (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are candidate countries and Kosovo is a potential candidate to join the EU) it is crucial to respond to the EU values and to adapt their national laws to align with the EU’s guidelines and recommendations. On the other hand, recent events and new demands in these countries and regions raise the need to respond to emerging challenges and to take strong measures for the next step towards EU integration.

This also applies to the education sector in general, including Lifelong Learning (LLL), and especially the field of Adult Learning and Education (ALE).

Enhancing the understanding of how to respond to the current challenges in the field of Adult Learning and Education and enabling a better exchange of knowledge and experiences on establishing and improving ALE and LLL-systems between countries were the guiding premises for the organisation of a high-level meeting in Brussels.   

Networking event

The start of the high-level meeting was marked on 12 March, where a networking event with a presentation on "Wider Benefits of Adult Learning and Education" took place. This meeting was organised as a preparation in the wake of the conference to allow the more than 50 participants to exchange ideas, socialise and establish new contacts in a more informal setting.

Exchange of success factors of ALE and LLL-systems and challenges establishing and developing them

The event on 13th March on the Way towards EU Integration: Countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe Shaping Lifelong Learning Systems was jointly organised by DVV International, the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) and the European Training Foundation (ETF), was hosted by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels and took place under the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and in the context of the European Year of Skills.

With the aim to reflect on the state of convergence of ALE and Lifelong Learning systems with policies, trends and best practices in the EU member states, the conference brought together representatives of Ministries of Education, Agencies for Adult Education, Lifelong Learning or Skills Development, academia and civil society from national Adult Education associations, platforms, and networks from 21 countries, including the six countries of the Continental Exchange project - Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova and Ukraine. Experts from DVV International, EAEA, ETF, International Council for Adult Education (ICAE), UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) as well as the European Commission represented by Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (DG Employment) shared their knowledge and advice.


The high-level event was opened by representatives from the European Commission, the organising partners and the host of the conference – the President of the Bremen State Parliament. 

The three sessions of the conference included topics related to

  • Increasing participation in ALE with the overview of current EU policies and participation trends in the field of ALE / LLL & Skills (DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, European Commission);
  • Building systems for ALE and LLL with showcasing international best practices in developing funding mechanisms (OECD), and success factors and challenges of building the ALE-system in Estonia;
  • Relevant actors and stakeholders of ALE and LLL highlighted by the insightful country case on Governing the ALE / LLL sector in Slovenia.


Each topic concluded with an interactive session with the audience, where the participants had the opportunity to express their reflections and share their experiences. 

These sessions were complemented by the insights from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and on successful reforms and practices, as well as remaining challenges in the field of ALE and LLL, where each country representative from the state education sector or the civil society had the chance to mark the biggest achievements yet and development potential for the future.

The final panel discussion summarised the highlights of the event and emphasised the holistic approach to Adult Learning and Education, to ensure access and to leave no one behind, while also creating effective monitoring mechanisms involving all relevant actors at national and local level.

Ensuring further support

Following on the insights from the presentations and discussions, and commitment of the participating countries, the organisers of the event – DVV International, EAEA and ETF – in a Joint statement declared their willingness to continue this professional exchange and support partners from participating countries in policies and activities which are oriented towards further EU integration, highlighting aspects of particular importance.

The Continental Exchange project of DVV International contributes to the promotion of ALE and convergence of ALE and LLL-systems with guidelines and recommendations of the EU in the six countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe since 2022. In this regard, a number of online and hybrid events were organised to raise the awareness of state and non-state stakeholders. In upcoming years, these efforts will continue in the form of professional exchange between experts and stakeholders as well as joint online and on-site events on CONFINTEA Mid-term review processes and ALE-relevant EU recommendations and developments.

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