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More than free train tickets: our Interrail proposal

07.12.2016 - 07:00
#DiscoverEU

There is more to this proposal than free train tickets. It is an investment in young people and in Europe’s future. It reinforces the main aim of the European Union: to bring people together. We want young Europeans to discover the EU is also about emotions, not just politics. We want to give them a taste of what it feels like, not only to be Slovak, German or Greek, but also European. And what better way than by taking the train?

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Every country in the European Union invests a lot in their national identity. That’s how we know the tie originated in Croatia, or that Italy is world famous for its cuisine, or that French wines are among the best in the world. But what about our common identity? We need to make a similar investment at European level. The European Parliament has called for a specific budget to cover the free ticket programme and the European Commission is eager to explore the idea further. Naturally we are seeing enormous support for our initiative from youth organisations all around Europe.

The ‘18th birthday’ Interrail pass for every European could become a true flagship project for the development of a common European identity in diversity

A free Interrail ticket could help hundreds of thousands of young Europeans fulfil aspirations that are beyond their means. And funding travel costs is just the start. Regions and cities could follow up by welcoming young Interrailers with language-learning, cultural and social activities, or even targeted assistance for accommodation. The possibilities are endless. All you should need for Interrail is some spare weeks and lots of curiosity. And all we need for this project to become a reality is your help, your support, your say.

"I am convinced that the ‘18th birthday’ Interrail pass for every European could become a true flagship project for the development of a common European identity in diversity. Giving young people a chance to make it around Europe could have a decisive impact on both their future and that of the European Union. Let’s not miss the train." - Manfred Weber, Chairman, Group of the European People’s Party

Make it around Europe. Make Europe yours.

All we need for this project to become a reality is your help, your support, your say #DiscoverEU #Interrail

1. What is the Interrail proposal?

That every young European (citizen or legally resident) would obtain a pass for railway travel within the European Union for his/her 18th birthday.

2. Why should the EU do this?

The EU has invested a lot, in many areas, over recent decades. But perhaps not enough in building a European identity that allows every citizen not only to live in Europe but to feel European. EU countries invest in building their national identity, more needs to be done at the European level. Europe is above all about people connecting and sharing emotions: it is what makes it such an exciting place to live together now and in the future.

3. Why now?

Young people are increasingly assailed by misinformation about Europe. If we want to counter the current growth of populism, they need to be able to discover for themselves the advantages of free movement, the reality of neighbouring countries and what unites this diversity of people.

4. When will it start?

We are calling for the programme to start by 2018 at the latest. And we count on your support to meet that deadline.

5. Why an 18th birthday present?

At 18, all young Europeans come of age and are eager to open their minds to new experiences. With Interrail, they can plan their own trips, taking their first steps into adulthood as independent explorers of Europe.

6. Why is an Interrail programme needed?

80% of young Europeans believe that the EU stands for the freedom of travel, but over a third of them don’t know anyone in another Member State. Also, one in six Europeans would take up learning a foreign language if they had the possibility to travel abroad.

7. Who would pay for the tickets?

The programme should be financed from the EU budget in cooperation with the Interrail train companies.

8. Why should the EU give young people presents instead of jobs?

The project is not a give-away. It is an investment in young people: Europe needs upcoming generations to support more solidarity between countries. By opening young people’s minds to the benefits of economic as well as personal exchanges, it also complements EU programmes and policies to boost youth employment, such as the Youth Employment Initiative, for which a substantial increase has been secured in 2017. Familiarity with an international context prepares young people for the jobs of the future.

9. How would it work in countries not part of the Interrail connection?

For Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta, the programme would cover the cost of any other means of transport to join the next connected Member State, such as by bus or ferry.

10. Isn’t this just another proposal for those who can already afford it?

This initiative should give all young people, regardless of their social or educational background, the opportunity to discover Europe’s diversity. We want it to be as inclusive as possible. We are committed to running an information campaign alongside the project and reaching out to stakeholders at relevant levels so that those youngsters who might be prevented from benefiting are sure to be able to participate. European cities and regions could set up targeted projects to attract these young people, meaning they would not need a lot of money for their stay and food.

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