Young Europeans are on track to receive a free InterRail pass on their 18th birthday in the future. MEPs discussed the proposal and overwhelmingly supported it during a debate in plenary on 4 October. Millions of young European have travelled throughout the continent using Interrail over the last few decades, but the pass itself can cost up to hundreds of euros.
Interrail is a pass allowing people to travel across Europe’s rail network freely. Users can use it to travel wherever they like on the continent.
Some 300,000 people use InterRail passes to travel across Europe every year. An InterRail pass cost ranges between €20 and €480 for a month-long pass.
What is being proposed
The idea behind the proposal discussed in Parliament is to promote a travel mode with low greenhouse gas emissions, while enabling young European to meet and get to know Europe.
Some member states are not members of the InterRail network: Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. For them other means of transport such as buses and ferries could be considered.
During the debate on 4 October, Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc called the proposal an “excellent idea”. However, she said there would many challenges so further analysis will be required. “The Commission will carefully assess the potential costs and funding sources for this initiative as well as its administrative feasibility," she said.
Bulc also suggested an alternative version of the scheme: “We may also consider possible variations to this excellent idea. An attractive option might be to have a lottery open to all or specific categories of young Europeans with a significant number winning free tickets”
Reactions from political groups
Most political groups spoke out in favour of the proposal.
Manfred Weber, from EPP, said: “People all around Europe must get to discover neighbouring countries and live with the people there as friends. We want to invest in all young people to experience the continent."
Luigi Morgano, from S&D, said: “Investing in young people, enabling people to travel around Europe, promoting better understanding and knowledge about Europe is a wonderful enchanting idea.”
Kosma Złotowski, from ECR, said: “Travel helps you educate yourself and therefore I would like to fully support this initiative.”
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, from ALDE, said: “There is a Europe with a soul and a heart and what better way of promoting it than giving young people the chance to explore it.”
Rebecca Harms, from Green/EFA, said: “We fully support this fantastic idea. For a relatively low cost we can help Europeans understand each other and get to know Europe.”
Daniela Aiuto, from EFDD, said: “It’s a good initiative that may indeed boost the European spirit.”
However, not all MEPs agreed. Kateřina Konečná, from GUE/NGL, said: "Young people certainly have the right to a future of prosperity and social peace, but you are instead sending them on a trip with the hope that they will live on this happy experience for the rest of their lives."