What does Europe mean to you? Many young people associate Europe with travelling across borders (and, when we spoke to 100 young Debating Europe readers from Germany, that was the answer most frequently given). Young Europeans in particular make use of the EU’s freedom of movement: through Interrail, Erasmus, etc., to work or study abroad. This also left many young people stranded during the coronavirus crisis, when internal EU borders were closed and they found themselves unable to get back home to their families.
It’s not just young Europeans who travel across the EU, though. It’s one of the most visible benefits of EU membership. We don’t need to worry about visas or (within the Eurozone) exchanging currency, and with the European Health Insurance Card in our luggage, emergencies are also taken care of. As internal Europeans borders have come down over the years, has it brought with it a stronger sense of European identity?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Maria, who thinks that travel and contact with other cultures is the best way to learn about the world. To get a reaction, we spoke to Martin Speer, co-founder of the #FreeInterrail initiative, which campaigns for a free Interrail ticket for the 18th birthday of every EU citizen.
Thank you, Maria, for your comment! It speaks to something very important, which is that travel can help us form convictions and opinions about places. That’s why programmes such as Erasmus are so important, because by travelling to another country you come into contact with people, interact with other cultures, and be flexible and spontaneous in order to problem solve while travelling (e.g. instead of flying from A to B, maybe you take the train via C and D).
It is a huge opportunity, Europe is such a diverse continent, and travelling is indeed an amazing education, letting you see and experience that, as well as learning skills that might be helpful for the rest of your life.
Does travelling help create a European identity? As internal Europeans borders have come down over the years, has it helped bring us closer together? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!