DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR EDUCATION ,YOUTH , SPORTS AND CULTURE
Youth , Education and Erasmus +
Youth, Volunteer Solidarity and Traineeships Office
Stakeholders meeting DiscoverEU
EP Preparatory action on the provision of free travel passes for young
people aged 18 years old
Thursday, 3 May 2018
On Thursday 3 May 2018, the stakeholders meeting regarding the EP Preparatory action on
the provision of free travel passes for young people aged 18 year old took place. Tibor Navracsics
, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, expressed
how delighted and honoured he was to receive such a varied mix of participants. This
occasion was a good opportunity to share ideas and exchange views on how to implement the DiscoverEU
Commissioner Navracsics explained that this initiative is a great chance for 18 year olds to
discover the complex beauty of the European continent, to discover its cultural heritage and to
make new friends. “There is more that unites us than divides us”, he said. Nowadays we have
to deal with populism and a low turnout at the European elections. The DiscoverEU
might be a part of the solution, since it creates a sense of belonging, brings people together
and creates a European identity. Moreover, the experience of travelling is also beneficial for
the travelling youth. They develop for example their social skills, language skills, their
adaptability and their stress resistance.
Commissioner Navracsics announced that the available budget to execute the pilot project in
2018 is €12 million. Following the announcement of the proposal for the next MFF (2021-
2027) on Wednesday 2 May 2018, the Commission announced that a budget of €700 million
has been allocated to the DiscoverEU
project. The 18 year olds have to apply on the European
Youth Portal (the “One stop shop for young people on mobility”), where they need to
participate in the competition. Then, the first EU travellers will embark on their adventure.
During and after their journey, they are encouraged to share their experiences and become EU
ambassadors. Manfred Weber
, Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the European People's Party,
stressed that a travel pass is much more than a free ticket; it is a way to shape the future of
Europe. When he was 18, he also travelled across Europe, which was a mind changing
experience. It gives young people the chance to discover the richness and the diversity of the
continent; it creates a European identity; and it connects people from different backgrounds. DiscoverEU
is a great example of a bottom up idea. MEP Weber quoted a woman who also
travelled to another European country when she was around 18 years old: “We were
overwhelmed by this experience. We were feeling at home while being abroad.” This reflects
how strong this initiative is being supported by citizens.
Activists Martin Speer
and Vincent-Immanuel Herr
explained how they came up with their
idea of giving free Interrail tickets to young people aged 18. In 2014, they did an Interrail trip
themselves. The fact that their initiative becomes reality now shows the power of an idea:
“Imagine it is your 18th birthday and you find a personalized letter from the European
Commission in your postbox. In there: A voucher for a free 1-month Interrail pass. Your life
They stressed the importance of becoming a European by experience
, not by theory
European experience is one of open borders, discovering the continent’s diversity and
connecting with different people. “Europe becomes alive.” This is something that cannot be
taught in history books and seminars, you have to live
According to Speer and Herr, there are three principles, which have to be taken into
consideration when implementing the initiative:
1. Universal application
2. Simple accessibility (instead of making the youth sign up, they suggested that they
should receive a letter from the Commission)
3. No cuts to other youth programmes
They ended their presentation with the quote: “Give youth access to Europe, so that they can
give us a better European future.” István Ujhelyi
, Member of the European Parliament, highlighted how he responded very
enthusiastically to the idea of Herr and Speer already in early days of the campaign, and
invited them over to discuss further. MEP Ujhelyi explained how he succeeded in creating
public and political support; and clarified how the initial idea of the two activists grew to a
concrete plan that is now going to be implemented. Moreover, he drew attention on the social
aspect of DiscoverEU
. In order to give everyone the change to participate, one should work
together with local and national authorities and partners. MEP Ujhelyi finished his speech by
giving Herr and Speer a gift: an Interrail ticket.
The rest of the meeting was devoted to a technical discussion on the state of play of the
implementation of DiscoverEU
- This summer, 15.000 travel passes will be awarded to the young 18 year olds. Later
this year, in autumn, there will be a second call in which more young people will have
the opportunity to win travel passes.
- Since 2018 is the European Year of cultural heritage, participants are encouraged to
visit European Heritage sites and will be informed about the many events and
opportunities that are taking place all over Europe.
- The young people have to be 18 years old at the time of application i.e. they have to be
18 years old on 1 July 2018.
- The reason to target 18 years old is that it is a symbolic age. They have the right to
vote, the freedom to travel alone and will have certain rights they did not have before.
- The DiscoverEU
travel passes do not include accommodation, food, insurance and
- The application period will be from 12 June until 26 June 2018.
- The selected youth can travel from one to 30 days, they can visit a maximum of four
countries and they have to travel between 1 July and 30 September 2018.
- Young people can apply as an individual and as a group.
- In order to select the young people, they have to participate in a quiz and answer a
tiebreaker question. The quiz questions are linked to the 2018 European Year of Cultural
, European Union initiatives targeting young people
and the European Parliament
- There will be a quota per country, in order to guarantee a balanced distribution of
- The tickets are nominative, so the European Commission cannot cater for cancelations
- The young travellers will as a general rule travel by rail (in second class), because of
several reasons: it is better for the environment, the diverse European landscapes can
be enjoyed and the youth will need to spend time in a public environment. Exceptions
will be made for people with special needs and for young people living in remote areas
and outermost regions. For them, the possibility exists to take a plane in order to get to
the European continent.
- The trips are being organised for the young people. Extra money will be available for
youth with special needs and living in remote areas.
- The European Union does not give preference to any travel company, though it
excludes the use of private car companies.
- The young people are expected to become 'EU ambassadors'.
- Participants will receive a travel package with useful tips, travel information and
information about the European Union.
- Youth from the UK can participate in the project as long as the country is a member of
- All information can be found on the European Youth Portal.
There was ample opportunity to ask questions in the Q&A session. Some examples below:
They were involved in Move2Learn and received positive feedback. They hope that DiscoverEU
will be as positively evaluated as that initiative. They stressed the
importance of making DiscoverEU
as inclusive as possible. One way of doing this is
involving teachers and youth workers in the promotion.
2. JEF Europe
People who are already familiar with the EU programmes will be more likely to
apply, but the people who are not yet familiar with its programmes should be reached. A:
We should make smart use of social media, contact all youth via the European
Youth Portal and use national representatives in the communication to the youth. Also
the present stakeholders might have ideas about how to reach all youth, especially the
ones with fewer opportunities.
How to reach out to youth who has not taken part in any Erasmus or European
Voluntary Service project yet? Information about youth mobility is limited in many
member states. A:
We should work on/make use of a youth communication strategy. Work should
especially be done on local level/grass roots level.
Not all areas in Europe are reachable by train. How can we make that the youth
living there can also participate? A:
That is why different modes of transport are included. In order to adjust the trip to
the needs of the young person, it will in some cases be possible to travel by plane,
ferry and/or bus.
How can we make sure that youth living in regions far away can participate? b.
Will the name “DiscoverEU
” be translated into more languages? c.
How do we receive feedback from the beneficiaries? A: a.
Young people living in outermost regions can participate. For them (as well as
for those living in remote areas or on islands), the flight to the European continent and
back home will be covered. After their arrival in Europe, the general rules apply. The
outermost regions cannot be a travel destination for the youth. b.
” is the brand name and will not be translated in the other EU
languages. We are working with communication professionals to find the best way to
reach the youngsters. c.
The beneficiaries are expected to report back on their experience, online and offline.
This can be done by testimonies on the European Youth Portal, Facebook, talks at
6. European Disability Forum
One should not only take into consideration people with reduced mobility, but also
people with visual impairments. We should use the term “person with disability”.
They recommended to link DiscoverEU
to the EU disability card. Q: a.
Will the costs of the accompanying person be covered? b.
Will the online application procedure be accessible? A: a.
Yes, the costs of the accompanying person will be covered. The Commission
already has experience with this because of Erasmus+. An Inclusion and Diversity
Strategy already exists. b.
There are international standards regarding accessibility of websites that the
European Commission follows.
Will there be tools available on the European Youth Portal for people with a
disability? The tools may include specific travel information about which places are
accessible and other things people with a disability have to take into consideration. A:
This needs to be developed. ENAT and other organisations are encouraged to share
their knowledge and develop this tool.
8. EU Federation of Euro tourism
They suggested creating a motivation section
on the online application form.
Moreover, they suggested working with lump sums
, to decrease the administrative
burden. Q: a.
How do we support the young people who would really benefit from it, but do
not dare to go? b.
How do we avoid young people to travel to overcrowded places?
A: Good points. The application procedure needs to be simple and straightforward,
with a low threshold. DiscoverEU
goes through a learning curve, which will be
improved every year.
9. European Youth Press
They also suggested creating a community of hosts
: young people who stay at their
homes, but are willing to show the young travellers around in their city/village.
10. European Travel Commission
Wouldn’t it be possible to extend the period in which young people can travel until
the end of the year? A:
If possible, there will be a second call in autumn, which will enable a new group of
18 years old to participate.
11. Europa Nostra
They suggested cooperating with local NGOs. Moreover, it would be good to link DiscoverEU
to the European Heritage Days
that take place in September
. They also
emphasized the importance of creating a culture of openness and hospitality at the
in the countries.
SUMMARY OF WORKING GROUPS DISCUSSIONS
Group discussions took place on a set of implementing questions. The following topics were
discussed: Selection & Promotion, Social Inclusion and Travelling & Costs.
Selection & Promotion
Questions discussed at the working groups:
- What would you suggest as selection process in the future?
- How would you do the planning for next year?
- How can we ensure that all eligible young people are aware of this opportunity?
- How should we attract the young people?
- By which means should we communicate the initiative?
Outcomes of the discussions in the three working groups:
As in Erasmus+, participants choose out of a list of universities, in DiscoverEU
participants could select out of a list of itineraries
Consider the possibility to insert questions about “making a journey plan” while
compiling their application → selecting those opting for less popular destinations
Use gamification -> to make it super simple to ‘win’
Reach out to young people who are not travelling. Make selection according to 2
profiles: those who don’t travel and those who travel
Motivation letter is somehow outdated and somehow too selective, because those with
a good level of education might have been taught how to write a good one. So
alternatively, it might be a video of no more than 1 minute, even if this would be a
great amount of material to analyse and the quiz is test based. The video might come
as second phase of selection after a first filtering. The idea of having of photo
competition was also proposed
Set a quota for young people with fewer opportunities
Find ways to make young people choose less known destinations, for example include
in the selection process the possibility to choose for three cities based on a “reverse
ranking promotional strategy”. The implicit message is that picking up a less popular
city gives more chance to gain a free pass (they were other opinions, some said that
this was not very inclusive since young people with fewer opportunities should get a
chance to visit places like Paris or London). -> it was mentioned that such a ranking
Make applicants say ‘why’ they want to take part in DiscoverEU
Involve EACEA and National Agencies in the selection process
In the application form, find a way to target young people who are not travelling
because of money
Raise awareness to young people who have already opportunities that we want to give
the chance to young people with fewer opportunities
Some remarks are done on rethinking how to set the age criteria: prolong it after the 1st
of July not to exclude potential participants.
Selection giving relevance to those who outline some more “experiential” travelling
(gastronomy, events, culture) and/or green and sustainable journeys
Involve local tourism organisations (who could provide some help via volunteers,
could even be Corps volunteers in the case of young people with fewer opportunities)
Involve multipliers: schools (some schools organise ‘euro-days’ – in some countries in
happens more than in others), Eurodesk, National Agencies, …
Set up sponsored, targeted social media campaigns
School buses drives could make announcement on the microphone when driving
young people to school
Involves influencers e.g. JK Rowlings or Ed Sheeran. Get them to post or tweet about
the project. Involve travel bloggers, youtubers…
Organise a treasure hunt, geo catching …
Offer a certificate to participants
Find a way to keep participants in contact with each other (via Facebook group), e.g.
have an online alumni community
Emphasis should be on the human experience and on the green/sustainable aspect to
which young people are very sensitive. Eurodesk said that according to a survey, the
reason why young people applied to an Erasmus+ experience was 1) fun, and 2) to
make a change (so by travelling in a sustainable way, they are
making a change)
Create banners of DiscoverEU
and have youth organisations to include them on their
Have case studies/stories to inspire young people about what it means to go on a
Some expressed doubt about the hashtag DiscoverEU
because it is only in English
European Youth Card Association (EYCA) can help promote the initiative to its over
6 million cardholders plus several more million reached every year
Involve Couchsurfing, Freestay…
Have chatboxes on multipliers websites
Relevance of the language in the targeted promotion within the national setting.
Create space for “sharing stories”: playing on the experience sharing, emotions, and
storytelling on platform/social media by former participants, to engage youths.
Consider the possibility to include a permanent follow-up/consultative committee.
Possibly foresee some “training-informative” sessions to engage those who do not
apply because they just have many worries
Take into account some specific youth practices like “gap year”, and ask schools/
VETs to promote the project as a way to DiscoverEU
Create an info-pack
Initiatives like “ travelling with a recognizable object – photographing it- sharing the
post from each location”
Networking with National Tourism Boards
Creation of a map -> support from organisations to participants in areas where they go
Link to tourism schools/volunteering programmes … have volunteers and students to
welcome young people with special needs
Participants from previous years could help the new participants
Set up a consultative group (per topic : tourism, inclusion…) or just one big for the
Future -> give lump sums
How to connect travellers with the locals?
The voucher should be valid for a longer time (i.e. a year or 2 years -> this would give
them time to save money for their trip)
Questions discussed at the working groups:
- How could the initiative be as inclusive as possible giving the opportunity also to
those hardest to reach?
- How to reach out to the young people with fewer opportunities?
- How to accommodate the needs of those with reduced mobility?
Outcomes of the discussions in the three working groups:
Factors stopping young with fewer opportunities from participating in DiscoverEU
- Lack of financial resources to afford travelling (even when the cost of transportation is
- Lack of time (often related to the financial situation and the need to work during
- Public transport does not always accommodate the needs of people with disabilities
- Lack of information and travelling experience
- Lack of motivation and understanding of the benefits of travelling
- Disapproval of parents (which is often gender-related)
- Regarding the pilot programme: too short period to plan and organise the travel,
different situation of 18-year-olds depending on the country (obligatory military
service, different school leaving age etc.)
1) Give priority to youth with fewer opportunities
- Set quota for the participants with fewer opportunities
- Provide extra funding options for participants with fewer opportunities
- Conduct a research analysing the factors stopping young people from travelling
2) Educate on and through the Programme
- Provide activities informing on the benefits of travelling and participating in
(included in formal or informal education)
- Provide information via channels popular among youth (social media, blogs etc.)
- Prioritise the learning dimension of the programme over its leisure aspect (not all of
the stakeholders agreed with this statement, being of the opinion that requesting
tangible learning outcomes of the participants will not benefit them)
3) Provide participants with reliable information
- Create an info pack providing information on: how to organise a travel, how to travel
on budget, recommendations on destinations (less popular places, cultural heritage
sites etc.), how to plan a travel budget etc.
- Map of recommended accommodation
4) Connect to accommodation providers
- Reach out to student dormitories, affordable hostels etc. and create a map of
- Create a network of hosts in the framework of DiscoverEU
(an option to register as a
host and to accommodate youth free of charge)
- Set a cooperation with Couchsurfing (popular platform connecting travellers and
locals willing to host them free of charge) or similar projects
5) Create a community of young people to communicate before, during and after their
participation in the programme (in order to share information, tips, find travelling companion
- Create a network of ambassadors (young people who participated in the programme
and young people with travelling experience) willing to support programme’s
6) Engage local community
- Reach out to local NGOs that could serve as local support centres
- Encourage local young people to act as guides
- Create a network of hosts (as mentioned before)
7) Set a reasonable time frame
- Enable and encourage travelling off-season (as it’s cheaper and easier to organise)
- Provide participants with longer (e.g. few-years) period to plan and organise their
8) Benefit from the experience of the already existing Erasmus+ programmes (in identifying
the most vulnerable young people, finding the right methodology to raise their motivation
9) Avoid overcomplicated application procedure and over-competitive selection procedure
Travelling & Costs
Questions discussed at the working groups:
- How to ensure that young people will also travel to less known places?
- Should the travelling have a purpose – a meaning?
- How to promote sustainable travelling?
- How to ensure that the young people are able to connect with other fellow travellers
before, during and after their travel trip?
- What should be provided in the information package on travel tips?
- How to lower the costs of travelling for young people? Which partnerships to be built?
Outcomes of the discussions in the three working groups:
1) The choice of destination (such as the inclusion of a visit to a cultural heritage site)
should not be a selection criterion. The application to the travel passes should be easily
accessible, and the selection process should impose as little demands and constraints
as possible. In addition, forcing young people to visit certain places goes against the
essence of travelling, which is by nature flexible, dynamic and spontaneous. It could
also discourage certain young people to apply.
2) Instead, the European Commission should strongly encourage young people to visit
less known, non-traditional places instead of forcing them, and provide them with
information on sustainable tourism. How could the European Commission do this?
Some suggestions raised in the working groups:
Provide young people with links to existing websites, applications and
networks where the young people can find more information on hidden and
unknown travel locations or to raise their awareness of sustainable tourism.
Examples of relevant referrals as mentioned during the 3 working groups
which should be included on the website or in the information package:
o EDEN-European Destinations of Excellence Network
is an initiative
from DG GROW (smart tourism unit) who aims to promote
sustainable tourism and enhance the visibility of non-traditional
hidden European destinations. Every year they award destinations for
their commitment to social, cultural and environmental sustainability
of tourism. The theme of this year award was “Cultural Tourism”.
o Invisible City App
is an app of hidden cultural places all over the
o World Heritage Journeys in Europe
from UNESCO is a super
interactive platform with information on specific cultural routes and
non-typical destinations of the beaten track
o The European cultural routes
as managed by the European
Institutions of Cultural Routes launched by the Council of Europe
o European Youth Capitals
website gives every year an award to a city
for their efforts and focus on youth participation. The current youth
capital in 2018 is Cascais in Portugal.
o Visit Europe
is a website from the European Travel Commission, a
non-profit organisation responsible for the promotion of Europe as a
tourist destination. Members are the National Tourist Organisations
(NTOs) of 33 European countries.
o European Capitals of Culture
Collect testimonials of young people who travelled to less well-known places
during the pilot phase and highlight those stories on the website of the
European Youth Portal for future selection phases.
Promote games – treasure hunts routes or geo catching as travelling routes for
the young people
Promote key events throughout the year on social media or on the website, e.g.
intangible events like music festivals or museum festivals
Advertise less popular destinations through social media
Develop an application where the young people can find information on
locations to visit in Europe
3) In order to provide a purpose/meaning to the travelling, the European Commission
should see what partners could offer. For example, a stakeholder in the discussion
group offered the organisation of free language courses for 1-2 weeks in one of his
cultural language institutions
4) The special needs of the people with reduced mobility or with other disabilities should
not be forgotten in the information provided. The focus should be on providing
information on places that are accessible for them.
5) The information package should also provide information on the youth information
centres where young people can go for advice, support and information during their
mobility experience (such as Eurodesk or European Youth Card Association etc.)
6) Young people should also be encouraged to find other fellow travellers. It is important
to create a community of youth before the travel trip, during and after. Suggestions:
Develop an application (app) where young people do not only find information
on locations and discounts but as well a community tool for young people to
find each other, exchange experiences and meet.
Use Meet-up or encourage young people to use Meetup for meetings
The online community tool should be open so that other people can also join
The young travellers could all wear a wristband or something else in order to
recognise fellow travellers
The creation of a Facebook group was not considered as a good idea by some
stakeholders as young people are not using this
7) This pilot phase is very crucial and important in gathering data on the travel patterns
and interests of young people in order to know very well the target group. It is better
to see what happens during this first pilot phase, and to use the survey to get feedback
on the experiences of the young people on what they have done and where they have
been. Apparently 3 out of 4 people who are using Interrail are 18 to 24 years old. All
start from the same 15 places (Paris, London etc.) and then they go in different
directions. Questions that could be raised in the survey:
How many are travelling for the first time alone (without family) at 18 years?
How many did travel in group?
What are their interests? What are their fears and worries?
What could make them interested?
What do they find useful as an online community tool to be in contact with
other fellow travellers?
8) Apart from the survey, the idea was raised to arrange webinars with the young
travellers upon their return, and even a focus group event to get feedback and gather
the data. There could be a random sample of young people invited to this event.
9) Certain ideas were raised in the discussion group to lower the costs of travelling for
young people should be encouraged to get the European Youth Card from
EYCA, which offers many discounts across Europe
Young people travelling with Interrail pass will also see the many discounts
offered by the Interrail pass
could create an own DiscoverEU
card where young people could
get discounts at certain places and museum locations
young people should be informed that if they visit less touristic places, the
costs will be much lower than the more touristic places