The European Union has declared travelling a human right, and is launching a scheme to subsidize vacations with taxpayers' dollars for those too poor to afford their own trips.
Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, proposed a strategy that could cost European taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros a year, The Times of London reports.
"Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life," Mr. Tajani told a group of ministers at The European Tourism Stakeholders Conference in Madrid on April 15. Mr. Tajani was appointed to his post by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The plan -- just who gets to enjoy the travel package has yet to be determined -- would see taxpayers footing some of the vacation bill for seniors, youths between the ages of 18 and 25, disabled people, and families facing "difficult social, financial or personal" circumstances. The disabled and elderly can also be accompanied by one other person. The EU and its taxpayers are slated to fund 30% of the cost of these tours, which could range from youth exploring abandoned factories and power plants in Manchester to retirees taking discount trips to Madrid, all in the name of cultural appreciation.
"The commission is literally considering paying people to go on holiday," Mats Persson, of pro-reform think-tank Open Europe, told Britain's News of the World. "In this economic climate, it's astonishing that the EU wants to bribe people with cheap holidays."
Mr. Tajani said the program will be piloted until 2013, and then fully launched.
Intended to instill a sense of cultural pride in Europeans, Mr. Tajani's human-rights travel will also help bridge the continent's north-south divide and pad resorts' business in their off-season, the Times reports.
Northern Europeans will be encouraged to visit southern Europe, and vice versa. Mr. Tajani wants to ensure people's "right to be tourists" remains intact.
National Post and news services
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