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!

Image Credits: Unsplash (cc) Atikh Bana

25 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Please let’s put that theme into the correct context:

    The freedom of movement is a universal UNHCR right- applicable to ALL persons on earth and not an exclusive political gift given to Europeans by the political EU27 concept! It comes from the CoE47.

    Yes, Interrail & Erasmus are sponsored by the political EU. It is like a love potion to make youngsters fall in love with the EU27 concept- paid for by all taxpayers. Ok, it is a nice gesture!

    It is necessary & easier to quote & refer to the relevant UNCHR Articles.

    “The rights to liberty and security of the person and freedom of movement apply to all individuals, including persons of concern. See Articles 3, 9 and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); Articles 9 and 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); Articles 1 and 25 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (ADRDM); Articles 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); Articles 7 and 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR); Articles 2 and 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR); Articles 6 and 45 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU); and Articles 26, 28 and 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

    Maria is quite correct to conclude that travel and contact with other cultures is the best way to learn about the world. Emphasis on WORLD & not limited to the EU27!

    Clearly, Martin Speer champions the political EU’ agenda while restricting & marketing experiences to the EU27 only.

    Understand the world- understand the EU eventually- but don’t forget the CoE47.

  2. avatar

    Traveling provides enlightenment regardless if in Europe, Asia, the Americas or Oceania.

  3. avatar

    Sure it does. Making the region border free is one of the two foundational pillars of the union. The other one would be a far more deregulated and unified international trade/financial system.

    • avatar

      more deregulation? U are insane..look what happened after the glass Steagal Act was banned..just remember 2008..where the f*** went all the trillions of QE money as the real economy is nowhere near bf the financial crash even now? This time is the biggest transfer of wealth from the working class to the top 1%.

    • avatar

      you are right about what you are talking about, however I have been referring to smaller things, like person to person sales that are highly taxed regardless of “open borders”. In general I believe that the entire financial system is flawed and needs a redesign to avoid the kind of fraud which lead to the 2008 crysis.

  4. avatar

    Good question in times of Covid-19…

  5. avatar

    What travel? That is for the rich “frugals” of the north that even on Erasmus come to the south in waves. Not the other way around. We were just leaving the eurocrisis and have to put up with mass unemplyment and austerity imposed on us again by the same folk.

  6. avatar

    yes! traveling opens mind and horizons, and bring inspiration and ideas for any domain of everyday life. I hope that the actual ecologist and other left-wing pest will not restrict travel with excuses like ”protection of cliamte”

    • avatar

      ooh yes…identity politics and neo Marxism, the hell out of Europe!!

    • avatar

      I’m not neo-marxist at all, that’s also why I’m criticising the obsession by climate-protection. It is true that Ursula von der Leyen and other actual politicial representatives of the EU are a kind of neomarxist and ecologist bullshit, but that is no reason to be against the EU and the european integration. We just have to vote other politicians in next EU-elections

  7. avatar

    European identity? Wtf is this BS ?

    • avatar

      myself, I feel European. I don’t feel Czech, despite being born in Prague and I don’t feel French, despite living in France

    • avatar

      you are european bc you’re born in this continent…stop pushing this EU agenda…

    • avatar

      you might not say European but “European union” identity…that’s a whole different story.
      Btw, keep buying the dream of a united Europe while the EU (mainly Germany and France) stole all our money to save their banks. Check economy facts about the sovereign debt and Greek crisis, a common currency unfit for different economies and migration out of control.
      In the EU we are competitors (enemies) not friends.

    • avatar

      if we try to stay on the topic of “European identity”, one of the key sections in the story is this:
      “Identification with Europe does exist, but it is a complex phenomenon, framed in several ways. and does not necessarily imply support for the EU. Similarly, European identities are not necessarily mutually exclusive with national identities.”
      It seems that yes, there is a European identity, whatever your views of and identification with the EU.

  8. avatar

    there is , and there will be no such thing as an european identity, traveling won’t create nothing

  9. avatar

    For me we need to look at the history of Europe. Sometimes the big vision paints a pretty picture but loses the colour given by individual identity. This brings stress when people don’t feel free to be who they are. We have great free movement which brings shared opportunity but with the fallback of our own country and identity. Harmonizing trade, opportunity and benefit are the keys to creating a unified and shared identity.

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