Free holiday? Irish teens can apply for 12,000 free European travel passes…

Fancy a free holiday? The EU has made a further 12,000 Interrail travel passes available for 18-year-olds to explore Europe in 2019.

What’s the catch?

Well, to apply you have to be 18 years old on December 31, 2018. You must also be a National of one of the 28 EU member states.

It follows a similar giveaway this summer, when a pilot scheme saw 15,000 tickets made available throughout Europe, 140 of them in Ireland.

2,524 Irish people applied for that pilot, and the lucky winners undertook their European adventures between June and September of this year.

Online applications for the Interrail passes are open at from today, November 29, until Tuesday, December 11.

Applications can be made as individuals or groups of up to five people, and travel should take place within the EU between April 15 and October 31 of next year.

For this round, the Commission is actively encouraging applications from people who have special needs or face social challenges – it will also cover the costs of special assistance (for example an accompanying person or guide dog for visually impaired participants), it says.

“There is more to our proposal than free train tickets,” said Manfred Weber of the European People’s Party. “We see this as an investment in young people and in Europe’s future.”

The selection will be undertaken by a jury of European Commission officials, with the winners notified in January 2019.

It has also emerged that the free travel initiative may just be getting started – with the European Commission including it in a proposal for the next Erasmus programme, according to Ireland South MEP, Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune.

If Parliament and the Council agree to the proposal, an additional 1.5 million 18-year-olds are expected to be able to travel between 2021 and 2027, supported by a budget of €700 million.

“There is so much to learn across Europe and a scheme such as this is very welcome in helping young people as they learn and develop,” the Irish MEP said.

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