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French president eyes military service, also in ‘social’ domain

President Emmanuel Macron wants to re-introducing compulsory national military service for youngsters in France two decades after it was scrapped to forge unity.

Published: February 13, 2018, 6:34 pm

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    It seems that the government is keen to also set up an army of social justice warriors as a way to promote social cohesion by bringing young people from different backgrounds together for a month.

    Young men and women to be given the chance also “to fight in the social, environmental and cultural domains” if they choose, his government said.

    Twenty-one years after the suppression of military service by President Jacques Chirac in 1996, the hypothesis of the return of a new form of conscription has never been closer.

    Macron’s spokesperson said that the service “could also be a civic engagement”, or “how you give your time usefully to the nation”.

    Macron is the first French president to never have been called up to serve, having come of age after conscription ended.

    In fact, all three of the main candidates for the past presidential election had wanted to recreate compulsory military training: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Emmanuel Macron as well as Marine Le Pen.

    The army is not happy with Macron’s plan however. French anti-terrorism operations in the Middle East and West Africa as well as the threat of jihadists at home, have depleted their budgets they say.

    Opposition parties have warned of the high costs involved in training up 600 000 and 800 000 youngsters a year.

    Last week, Defence Minister Florence Parly appeared to cast doubt on the scope of the plan, saying it would “probably not be obligatory”, AFP reported.

    But on Tuesday, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux insisted that Macron would would go ahead with the plan. “It will be universal… and it will be obligatory,” he told Radio Classique, adding that a taskforce would study its implementation.

    The government plans to trial the programme at the start of 2019.

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