Thousands of free rail passes for young people up for grabs

Are you an 18 year-old European citizen who would like to get a sense of the beauty and diversity of our continent?

From this Tuesday 12 June at 12.00 hrs until Tuesday 26 June at 12.00 hrs you can apply for one of the 15,000 free travel passes that will be distributed in the #DiscoverEU project and you will be able to travel across Europe and discover your European neighbours.

A pilot project enabling 15,000 young people to travel around Europe by train this summer is to be rolled out by the EU Commission, acting on Parliament’s proposals. 

On May 24, the EU Commission launched a website with details of the project, where young people from 28 EU countries can apply, between 12 and 26 June, for a travel pass. They should plan to start their journey between July and end of September 2018, to up to four EU destinations.

MEPs first called for an initiative to give young Europeans turning 18 a freeInterrail train pass to discover Europe in a European Parliament debate in October 2016.

Parliament again called on the Commission to table proposals for an ”18th Birthday Interrail Pass for Europe” in its resolutions.

Following its demands, a €12 million pilot project to trial the idea was included in the EU budget for 2018 and approved on 30 November 2017. It should enable about 15,000 young people to discover other EU countries this summer.  A second round of applications should be launched later this year.

All nationals of one of the 28 EU member states who will be 18 years old on 1 July 2018 can apply. This means young people born between 2 July 1999 and 1 July 2000 (included) are eligible.

Young people can travel between a minimum of 1 and up to 30 days inclusive. They can visit from one to four foreign country destinations in the 28 EU member states. The journey must start in an EU country between 9 July 2018 and 30 September 2018.

Participants will, in principle, travel by rail. Nevertheless, in order to ensure the widest possible access, the project will offer alternative transport modes, such as buses or ferries, as required. The use of flights will only be considered on an exceptional basis for participants based in remote or outermost regions.

In its proposals for the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027, unveiled on 2 May, the Commission has also proposed to earmark another €700 million for the initiative to be continued and developed in the future. This latest proposal will now need to be discussed by the EU member states and the European Parliament.

Manfred Weber MEP, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament said,“Finding new ways to involve younger generations in the construction of a Europe that relates to them, including the least favoured among them, to create new opportunities for them and to contribute, little by little, to a sense of common European identity is crucial for Europe’s future. This is why I am so happy and proud that the #DiscoverEU Project, which I have been pushing for, is finally becoming a reality. And this is just the beginning!  I want to pull out all the stops so that one day, all young Europeans will receive a free travel pass on their eighteenth birthday”.

“To get to the official launch of the project, we have had to overcome great opposition and caution. But the enthusiasm expressed by citizens of all ages has been a great source of inspiration and motivation. This support will be crucial to further expand the scope of the project and actually reach all 18 year-olds. The fact that the European Commission has planned to allocate €700 million for this initiative in its draft budget for the period 2021-2027 is an encouraging sign. But we will have to fight so that this budget sees the light of day!” Manfred Weber said.

“I therefore call on all the young people who will be lucky enough to be selected to benefit from one of the 15,000 travel passes offered by the European Union this year: share your experiences, share your travel discoveries using the hashtag #DiscoverEU! Thanks to you, the beneficiaries of this programme may be plentiful in the years to come.” 

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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