MEPs are pondering ways to bring European youth closer together so that they can celebrate their continent’s diversity and feel a “sense of belonging.” The idea of giving young Europeans free Interrail passes for their 18th birthdays was debated with the European Commission representatives on Tuesday.
Supporters of the idea believe that the railway tickets that allow for unlimited rail travel in and between all participating countries for a given period of time is a win-win situation for both tourism and closer ties between EU countries. In Greece, the Interrail pass also includes a ferry connection for island hopping and could give poorer youths a chance to see the world, though critics also argue that youth unemployment would mean they would pass up on the pass, even for free, due to lack of money for accommodation and other travel costs.
The pass ordinarily is priced at 479 euros for a month and includes travel through 30 countries, including Greece. The popularity of the pass among university and college students inspired German MEP and EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber to table the proposal following European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s call last month on EU citizens to construct a “better Europe” through increased cooperation.
“Such a program would give the opportunity to all young people regardless of their social and educational background to discover Europe diversity, and promote Interrail travel as a pragmatic way to reduce carbon foot print,” states the plan.
The idea was particularly popular with Germany and Italy, however, critics state that youth in countries like Greece, already suffering from high youth unemployment, won’t be able to afford to use the pass to travel across Europe, even for free, due to the other costs of travel.