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Calls for France to bring back military service

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Calls for France to bring back military service
Should France bring back national military service? Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
16:02 CET+01:00
In the wake of the country's biggest terror attack in modern history, several French politicians have called for the re-introduction of compulsory national military service.
France phased out compulsory military service under former president Jacques Chirac in 1997 after finding it had no trouble in recruiting professional soldiers.
 
But after 17 people were killed in Paris over a three-day period earlier this month, Xavier Bertrand from the right-wing opposition UMP party is one of a number of politicians to have called for the service to be reintroduced.
 
"I propose a compulsory period of at least three months for the boys and the girls, which would offer them a sense of belonging - and which would nullify any of their political, religious, and social affiliations," he told the Le Parisien newspaper. 
 
Several left wing politicians say they would rather see France's voluntary civic service - where young people are assigned to projects in the community - bolstered instead. 
 

Xavier Bertrand of the UMP party. Photo: AFP
 
But unlike France's civic service, which boasts just 35,000 young workers, Bertrand said that a military service would bring in 600,000 young people each year who all "have something to give to their country".
 
And with a three-month service, compared to the old system of ten months, Bertrand said that the project would be far less costly than the previous service's €1.5 billion price tag.
 
He added that not only was the idea "totally possible", but "essential for the republic".
 
Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has also shown support for bringing back national service, calling for a six-month compulsory stint for French youths. 
 
"National service has been sorely lacking from this country and there's been nothing to replace it," she said at a press conference last week.
 
Others have argued that it would be simply too costly to get off the ground. 
 
Former Defence Minister Hervé Morin told the RTL newspaper that the idea could never work due to a lack of space and money.
 
"How could we incorporate 900,000 young people each year?" he said. "It's honestly impossible."
 
Morin, incidentally, added that he was "one of the few" people who disagreed with the abolishing of the service almost 20 years ago.
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