Around 20,000 18-year-olds are set to receive a travel pass under the fourth and latest round of DiscoverEU, which attracted some 75,000 applications from across Europe. These young Europeans, selected on the basis of established award criteria and specific Member State quotas, can travel between 1 April and 31 October 2020 for up to 30 days.
Vice-President Schinas, responsible for Promoting Our European Way of Life, said: “From April, 20.000 young people will experience a memorable European journey, discovering the EU. The fact that they will be sharing it with their peers and people in other countries will make this experience both enjoyable and unforgettable. They will also become part of a wider informal and inclusive network that explores what it means to discover our continent, its richness, diversity and solidarity.”
Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Travelling through Europe and meeting young people from other countries enhances intercultural understanding, improves language skills and boosts self-confidence. Together with solidarity and volunteering activities, financed under the European Solidarity Corps, DiscoverEU is an invaluable initiative for informal learning.”
Successful applicants will now be contacted and can start arranging their trips. As a rule, they travel by rail; however, to ensure inclusive access across the continent alternative modes of transport, such as buses, ferries, or exceptionally, planes, are also an option. With the travel pass, participants also receive support and guidance on, for example, sustainable travel. The young people are aso invited to become a DiscoverEU Ambassador, and report on their experiences. They are also encouraged to contact fellow travellers on social media and share their stories.
All participants are invited to attend DiscoverEU meetups at various locations across Europe over the summer. Meetups deal with topics such as a sustainable green Europe -the DiscoverEU theme for 2020. Other activities include volunteering opportunities and the development of a green itinerary for the young travellers.
The Commission launched DiscoverEU in June 2018 following a proposal from the European Parliament. The first three application rounds have given around 50,000 young people the opportunity to travel around Europe. For 2020, the European Parliament has earmarked €25 million for DiscoverEU. The next application round and further updates will be announced by the Commission on the European Youth Portal in due course.
Given the great interest generated by DiscoverEU, the Commission continuously works to improve the initiative, based on feedback from travellers and key stakeholders. So far, participants in the first rounds report DiscoverEU as a valuable and inclusive learning experience, contributing to civic engagement, personal growth and skills development. Travelling empowers young people and helps develop key competences such as language skills and inter-cultural awareness and sensitivity. Resilience, organisation skills and problem-solving also prove an asset. Furthermore, two-thirds of participants said that they would not have been able to finance their travel pass without DiscoverEU. For some participants, it was the first time they travelled on their own without their parents or guardians.
In May 2018, the Commission proposed to include 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 hundreds of thousands more 18 year-olds to benefit from the initiative over those seven years.