Irish teenagers are being invited to apply for a free interrail pass which will take them around Europe.
The European Commission has launched its DiscoverEU travel passes for 2019, and is making 20,000 available across the continent to 18-year-olds.
Applicants must be born between July 2nd 2000 and July 1st 2001. They will be able to travel individually or in a group of up to five people. As a general rule they will travel by rail, but they will also be able to access planes, buses and ferries where necessary.
The rail pass is for up to 30 days and can be availed of from August 1st 2019 to January 31st 2020. A one month interrail pass usually costs €600.
Last year almost 5,000 Irish people applied for a free pass, and 314 were successful. This year, 194 interrail passes have been allocated to Irish 18-year-olds.
The budget for DiscoverEU has been increased from €12 million to €16 million and there are ambitions to spend €700 million on DiscoverEU between 2021 and 2027, allowing an additional 1.5 million 18-year-olds to travel.
DiscoverEU hopes to cement the notion of European unity by allowing teenagers to travel together around Europe to experience the diversity of the continent.
Successful applicants also receive a travel journal for them to record and reflect on their experiences, and will have the possibility to participate in organised community-building events during their trips.
Ireland South MEP, Deirdre Clune said the scheme had already been a "huge success".
“The scheme is a great way to help young Irish people learn about and see other’s EU countries. 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. It is great to see so much interest from young people in the scheme and I would encourage the creation of more schemes like this.”
The European Commission is planning to launch a fourth application round before the end of 2019.
Applications can be made here: europa.eu/youth/discovereu_en