An overseas holiday used to be thought of as a reward for a year's hard work. Now Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidized by the taxpayer.
Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.
The idea for the subsidized tours is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, who was appointed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister.
The scheme, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is intended to promote a sense of pride in European culture, bridge the north-south divide in the continent and prop up resorts in their off-season.
Tajani, who unveiled his plan last week at a ministerial conference in Madrid, believes the days when holidays were a luxury have gone. "Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life," he said.