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From Tuesday, 18- to 20-year-olds can apply for tickets that grant free train travel across Europe. The initiative is providing travel opportunities to young people as the pandemic wanes.
Exceptionally, the initiative is open to 19- and 20-year-olds, after they missed out due to the pandemic
The European Commission is handing out 60,000 Interrail tickets to young people from Tuesday.
The ticket allows for free train travel across Europe for up to a month.
During the coronavirus pandemic, young people "showed true solidarity and missed valuable and formative moments of their youth for doing so," Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said, announcing the contest on Monday.
The purpose of the initiative, he said, is to "rekindle mobility in Europe."
The application process opens at midday on Tuesday, October 12, and remains open until October 26.
Applicants must be 18 to 20 years old and have nationality of a European Union member state.
They will have to take a quiz with questions about the EU to be eligible.
Winners will be able to travel around all EU countries for free for up to 30 days between March 2022 and February 2023.
Ticketholders will also be able to take buses and ferries.
The scheme is usually only open to 18-year-olds, but this time, 19- and 20-year-olds will get to apply because the last two rounds were suspended amid the pandemic.
Young people from the United Kingdom will also get a chance to apply for one last time. Despite Brexit, UK nationals were eligible in 2020 when the round was canceled due to COVID-19. Funding for that year was moved to 2021.
The initiative, called "DiscoverEU," started as a preparatory action initiated by the European Parliament between 2018 and 2020. The plan was to provide traveling and mobility opportunities to young people turning 18 years old, the age of legal adulthood.
The action specifically targets 18-year-olds, "as this age generally marks a major step to adulthood and to European citizenship," the Commission states online.
In the first round in 2018 and 2019, 350,000 young Europeans applied for 70,000 travel passes, according to the Commission.
Around 66% of participants said they were traveling abroad by train for the first time. Additionally, two-thirds of respondents said they could not have financed the travel themselves.
kmm/aw (dpa, KNA)