As of this week, 18-year-old Europeans can apply for one of 15,000 free tickets to travel across the European Union, the bloc's executive announced on Monday.
The initiative, proposed by the European Parliament, aims in part to counter a growing tide of euroscepticism, ahead of elections for the EU legislature next year. "I am confident that this experience will make a positive change - for the young people participating and for the communities they visit," said EU Youth Commissioner Tibor Navracsics.
From Tuesday, any European citizen who will be aged 18 on July 1 can apply for a ticket online. To qualify, it is necessary to answer five questions on the EU and the 2018 parliamentary elections, as well as guessing how many people are likely to apply for a travel pass. The recipients will be selected among those who answer correctly, with tickets allocated to EU member states according to their population size. They will be able to travel - alone or in groups of five people at most - for up to 30 days between July and October, visiting no more than four EU countries. A budget of 12 million euros (14.2 million dollars) has been put aside.
The tickets will predominantly cover rail journeys. Food, accommodation and other travel costs are excluded. The recipients of a free travel pass will be expected to share their experiences through social media or by giving presentations back home. The commission hopes to follow up the initiative in future years with a larger program, for which 700 million euros have been earmarked in its 2021-2027 budget proposal.