The EU has proposed plans to subsidise holidays for pensioners, young people and those who cannot afford to travel, after declaring that an overseas holiday is a “human right”.


The idea for subsidised travel was put forward by Antonio Tajani, the EU commissioner for enterprise and industry, at the European Tourism Stakeholders Conference in Madrid last week.


Tajani said he wanted to take steps to ensure people’s “right to be tourists”.


“Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” he said.


Under the proposed scheme, which could cost Europe’s taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds a year, pensioners, young people aged 18 to 25, disabled people and families facing “difficult social, financial or personal circumstances” would receive cut-price holidays.


Northern Europeans would be encouraged to visit southern Europe and vice-versa.


A spokesman for Tajani said: “Why should someone from the Mediterranean not be able to travel to Edinburgh in summer for a breath of cool, fresh air? And why should someone from Edinburgh not be able to travel to Greece in winter?”


The programme will be piloted until 2013 and then put into full operation.


Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer moderated the opening session at the conference, which was held to develop an EU-wide Tourism Policy Framework.