About 1,900 British 18-year-olds won a free Interrail Pass ticket, which ensures a trip in four European countries for up to a month, in an online competition held by the European Union (EU).
The competition, called DiscoverEU, prepared 15,000 railway pass tickets for young adults in the 28 EU member states. Applicants should answer questions about the EU cultural heritage and European Parliament elections online and wait for the result.
By launching this scheme, the EU hopes to counter “misinformation about Europe” and “current growth of populism.”
The European Commission invested 12 million euros (about 13.9 million U.S. dollars) in the project, said Manfred Weber, chairman of Group of the European People’s Party, in a statement.
Some Eurosceptics see the scheme as a waste of taxpayers’ money, accusing it as a “blatant attempt at bribery.”
“Offering kids and teenagers this opportunity is opening minds to other cultures. It’s not a waste of money if used correctly,” responded Bilal Bounit, a British ticket winner who plans to visit France, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia in August.
“I think people should view it more as educational,” Daisy Taylor-Ray, another applicant from Southampton, Britain, told BBC. “It’s going and educating yourself on other cultures, not just teenagers going clubbing.”
The European Commission plans to fund 700 million euros (about 810 million dollars) in the future to expand the DiscoverEU project to enable 1.5 million 18-year-olds to visit other European countries.