What is the currect EU pilot project, called #DiscoverEU, all about?

In March 2018, the European Commission announced to implement a first pilot project to enhance European youth mobility based on our proposal. Called #DiscoverEU, the scheme will allow 15,000 EU-citizens aged 18 to travel and explore their home continent this summer. Applications will have to be submitted between June 12th and 26th. The sign-up form as well as more information on the pilot can be found here.

While we are thrilled to see this idea of universal youth mobility gain traction in Brussels, our team remains determined to keep fighting for a full implemtation for all EU youth. A pilot project is a step in the right direction and we thank everyone involved in making this happen. However, a follow-up is urgently needed. Our core demands are this and remain central to our ongoing campaign: 1) universal implementation of #FreeInterrail, 2) easy access / no hurdles or complicated application processes involved, 3) no cuts to existing and other youth programs.


What is #FreeInterrail?

#FreeInterrail is both a proposal as well as a public campaign started by European civil-society that demands an EU program  granting free access to mobility for all EU youth.

What is the proposal behind #FreeInterrail?

The #FreeInterrail proposal recommends this: every EU citizens receives a personal letter from the EU Commission upon turning 18. The letter contains a congratulatory note, some basic information on mobility in Europe and the EU, and a voucher for a 1-month Interrail pass (granting free train travel to the holder). The personalized voucher is valid for six  years and can be turned in for the actual Interrail pass at any major train station or online.

What will the #FreeInterrail proposal achieve?

Other than granting every young and future citizen direct access to Europe’s diversity, #FreeInterrail will directly or indirectly do the following things:

1. increases youth mobility and youth labor mobility

2. provides equal access to international travel independent of financial or national background

3. possibly combats youth unemployment by providing access to different markets and experiences

4. combats stereotypes and prejudices by enabling first-hand encounters with people in other countries

5. fosters intercultural friendships and relationships

6. increases youth interest in EU, its institutions, and political processes

7. creates the first EU program that reaches all citizens

8. gives all Europeans an event that unites them across borders and generations

9. supports a sustainable and green way of traveling

10. connects well with existing and possible future EU youth programs and initiatives

What’s the story behind #FreeInterrail?

Countless individuals, both within and outside of the political bubble, have worked hard to move #FreeInterrail from a simple idea to a serious policy proposal in Brussels. In a simplified way, the idea took these stages, ever since being developed in 2014.

– March 2014: While on an Interrail trip (as part of a research project for the German Mercator and Heinrich-Böll foundations), Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer develop the idea in Vienna while having dinner with Austrian writer Robert Menasse.

– June-August 2015: Herr and Speer write and publish their first article on their idea and start to spread a written proposal to provide all EU youth with free access to Interrail passes in Berlin and Brussels.

– August 2015: Hungarian MEP István Ujhelyi is the first Parliamentarian who picks up on the idea and addresses the Commission with the idea (which is promptly rejected).

– February 2016: Herr and Speer travel to Brussels and met up with MEPs Rebecca Harms and Michael Cramer (Greens), István Ujhelyi (S&D), and Gesine Meißner (Liberals). All four support the proposal and work to propose pilot projects (which are rejected by the Commission).

– September 2016: #FreeInterrail is presented at ZEIT Online’s conference Z2X and wins the second prize by attendees‘ choice.

– September 2016: EPP-chair Manfred Weber mentions the idea in his remarks during the 2016 State of the Union and sparks wide-spread media interest and coverage. Ever since, Mr. Weber and his team are among the strongest supporters and advocates for #FreeInterrail.

– October 2016: The European Parliament discusses #FreeInterrail with the European Commission. The majority of MEPs support the idea, while Commissioner Bulc vows to explore possible paths of implementation.

– November 2016: The Commission announces that it intends to fund a pilot project in 2017.

– February/March 2017: The pilot project of the European Commission is changed to the degree that it does have anything to do anymore with the #FreeInterrail proposal. Entitled „Move2Learn, Learn2Move“, the scheme features a ambitious application process and a highly complicated implementation. This scheme gets subsequently panned by politicians and European media alike.

– October/November 2017: The European Parliament approves a budget of 12 million Euros to fund a pilot project in 2018. Approximately 20.000 EU youth are going to travel using Interrail passes. Early indications look much more promising than the „Move2Learn, Learn2Move“ scheme.

– February 2018: The #FreeInterrail initiative is awarded the 2017 Politikaward for the best campaign with a low budget. The prize ceremony is held annually in Berlin and honors politicians and political campaigns that made an impact.

– March 2018: The European Commission confirms that it plans on sending 20.000 – 30.000 young Europeans traveling via Interrail, starting in the summer of 2018. This pilot project is the first serious step towards great youth mobility and adheres to the #FreeInterrail proposal closely. EU citizens born in 2000 will be eligible to apply for this scheme. The #FreeInterrail team is in touch with those responsible at the European Commission and continues to advocate for a universal implementation to follow this pilot project.

April 2018: An open letter to the European Commission and the European Council co-signed by over hundred members of civil society is published. In it, the authors and signatories demand a full implementation of #FreeInterrail by the European Union. Find the full letter and all first signatories here: http://freeinterrail.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ENGL-Freeinterrail-Open-Letter-E.C.-and-Council-April2018.pdf

May 2018: The European Commission announces to include the #FreeInterrail project into their next budget and proposes 700 million Euros for the schmeme to start in 2021. This would benefit around 1.5 million EU youth.

June 2018: The European Commission launches the application period for the first pilot project based on the #FreeInterrail proposal. Within two weeks, 100,000 EU citizens apply for the 15,000 tickets available. The 18 years old come from all countries of the European Union and travel between July and September 2018.

November 2018: After the succesful first pilot project, the European Commission opens up another round of applications for 14,500 tickets. 80,000 EU citzens apply. They will travel in the spring and summer of 2019.