After posing the question in a not so serious manner last week, German European Union (EU) politician Manfred Weber’s statement about offering every 18-year-old a free pass on the InterRail train system to experience Europe is beginning to catch on, leading many to seriously consider the benefits it would bring to make a more attractive Europe.
Weber’s question that sparked the interest was: “What would happen if every young individual was given a free InterRail ticket for his or her 18th birthday, to experience Europe?”
Less than a week later, plans are already being formulated, discussed and critiqued to see if such a grand scheme could really boost the image of Europe for the younger generation, making their identity less about which country they live in, but instead European.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is one of the supporters of such a plan, which falls in line with his own pursuit of a system at home that would give all 18-year-olds a 500 euro ($562) stipend to spend on social or cultural programs.
Germany also appears to be in favor of the plan, which is being seen as instrumental to the success or failure of an all-Europe program.
Of course there are others who are a bit weary of such an incentive. For one, offering every person a free pass to travel Europe by rail when they turn 18 won’t come cheap. Some of Europe’s countries with a less than stable economy would rather see that money used to help youth entering an unstable job market. And even if the finances were all there to offer the free ride, there are going to be other expenses, such as food and lodging, that will make the trip unfeasible to many.
Instituting such a large program will take a lot of time and debates before it could ever become a reality, but starting the conversation is the first step.