It has officially become part of the European Union’s budget for the next seven years, so after the coronavirus pandemic, the free train pass program for young Europeans will be re-launched with a roughly 400 million euro budget, said Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi, mentor of the DiscoverEU program, at his online press conference on Saturday.
The basic idea for “FreeInterRail” comes from two young German activists, Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer, who a few years ago proposed that the European Union surprise all young Europeans with a free train pass on their 18th birthday. The proposal was first embraced and supported by István Ujhelyi, Member of the European Parliament, who stood by it until its implementation. In recent years, hundreds of young Hungarians have been able to take advantage of the opportunity; the success of the program is well illustrated by the fact that almost ten times more youngsters registered for season tickets in Hungary than the number available and the program recently won a European quality award.
At the press conference Ujhelyi highlighted that during the pilot period of the program, more than 350,000 young Europeans applied for the opportunity, more than 70,000 of whom got the free train passes. The European politician of MSZP considered it an important success that the financial framework for Erasmus+ was not only maintained but extended in the next seven-year EU budget, and that the financial envelope of the DiscoverEU program was now included in it.
According to Ujhelyi, the result of long and „excruciating” lobbying is that the project distributing free InterRail passes is now registered as an official program. In this, he said, the support of leader of the People’s Party Group leader Manfred Weber and former EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics was also an important help.
Ujhelyi added that he has been urging the Hungarian government to join the program for a long time and to provide free train passes for young people over the age of eighteen every year from the state budget, which would cost about HUF 9 billion a year, according to the Socialist politician. Ujhelyi said the government had not yet responded to any of his proposals in this regard, however, several municipalities had already joined the program and bought free passes for local youth from their own budgets.
Thus, for example, in the towns of Ajka and Veszprém; in the latter place, the Fidesz-majority assembly purchased Interrail passes worth HUF 1 million on the basis of a joint motion by the mayor delegated by Fidesz and the leader of the socialist group in the municipality.
Budapest / Brussels – 19.12.2020