, Strasbourg, France, Oct 5 – The EU said Tuesday it was exploring the idea of providing all 18-year-old Europeans with InterRail passes allowing them to travel around the continent for free for a month.
“The commission firmly backs the idea that this issue should be examined,” Transport Commissioner Bulc told MEPs in Strasbourg, adding that it would encourage young people to use a mode of travel with low greenhouse gas emissions.
The travel passes, beloved of young backpackers travelling across Europe, usually cost between 20 euros ($22) and 400 euros ($450) depending on how long they last and which countries they cover.
But Bulc said many “challenges still remain” in implementing a scheme to distribute free passes to young Europeans, including agreement by the various rail operators concerned.
The Slovenian raised the possibility of a variant of the proposal, such as a lottery for free passes.
Some 300,000 people use InterRail passes to travel across Europe every year, according to Bulc.
Launched in 1972, they were initially designed for young passengers but are now available for all age groups.
Left-wing MEPs had previously suggested giving the passes out free to young people and German conservative MEP Manfred Weber, the head of the European People’s Party, has recently raised the proposal again.
“Europe is not just about technocratic politics,” he said. “It is also about bringing people together. We have to make young people enthusiastic about Europe again.”