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DiscoverEU initiative to provide the young people with free tickets for travelling across Europe

The DiscoverEU initiative is aimed at 18-year-olds who want to travel and take advantage of their right to freedom of movement throughout the European Union, explore Europe’s diversity, learn about European cultural heritage and history, and connect with people from all over the continent.

Furthermore, DiscoverEU helps young people develop important life skills, such as independence, confidence, and openness to other cultures. On this journey, they have the chance to meet like-minded travellers and, at the same time, explore their European identity.

DiscoverEU was launched by the Commission in June 2018 following a proposal by the European Parliament. Young people who have reached the age of 18 may apply in two rounds each year.

The first three application rounds have given around 50,000 young people the opportunity to travel around Europe.

Funds in the amount of EUR 25 million have been earmarked by the European Parliament to implement DiscoverEU.

Given the great interest generated by DiscoverEU, the Commission continuously works to improve the initiative, based on feedback from travellers and key stakeholders.

Participants in the first rounds report DiscoverEU as a valuable and inclusive learning experience, contributing to civic engagement, personal growth and skills development.

Travelling helps develop key competences such as language skills, and inter-cultural awareness and sensitivity, and it enables young people to improve their organisation and problem-solving skills. Two-thirds of participants said that they would not have been able to finance their travel pass without DiscoverEU.

In May 2018, the Commission proposed including DiscoverEU as an integral part of the future Erasmus programme for 2021–2027. Subject to agreement by the European Parliament and the Council, this would allow a significantly higher number of young people to benefit from the initiative over those seven years compared to past years. The limited number of tickets is distributed by country quota, which is based on the number of its residents, while the winners among the applicants are determined by lot. 

The founder of this initiative is European Parliament Member (MEP) Manfred Weber, while Milan Zver as a standing rapporteur of the European Parliament for the Erasmus+ programme has been especially active among the Slovenian MEPs.

Mr Zver is convinced that the frequent use of trains may support the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, reduce traffic congestion and improve citizens' health.

The Commission proposed to designate 2021 as the European Year of Rail.

To date, around 70,000 young people have received a free rail ticket for travelling across Europe and although the initiative is currently on hold, it will continue as soon as the circumstances relating to the pandemic permit.

The travel period for all tickets that could not be used by their recipients due to restrictions has been extended until August 2021.

Author: Ana Kraševec

Date: 15. October 2020

Time to read: 3 min