France to bring back National Service for all 16-year-olds

By @chelean on
French President Emmanuel Macron walks past members of a French Air Force graduating class during a visit at the 721 Rochefort air base in Saint-Agnant, France, June 14, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron walks past members of a French Air Force graduating class during a visit at the 721 Rochefort air base in Saint-Agnant, France, June 14, 2018. Reuters/Regis Duvignau

France will reinstate the mandatory National Service for all 16-year-olds. The move was said to promote a sense of civic duty and national pride. It was initially proposed by President Emmanuel Macron during his presidential run last year.

Macron suggested the program during his 2017 presidential campaign, saying all French citizens should experience military life. He wanted the National Service compulsory for people between 18 and 21. But what the government has planned now has significantly been watered down partly due to costs.

The program is estimated to cost an estimated €1.6 billion (AU$2.5 billion) a year, with €1.75 billion (AU$2.76 billion) initial investment. Critics are worried that the program’s cost will outweigh the benefits.

The BBC reports that the new national service, which will cover all 16-year-old girls and boys, will be divided into two distinct phases. The first part is a mandatory one-month placement focusing on civic culture. This will happen during the French school holidays. It might include voluntary teaching and working with charities alongside traditional military preparation with the police, fire service or army.

The second phase is optional and will last for three months to one year. Participants under 25 will be encouraged to serve “in an area linked to defence and security,” although they can choose volunteer work in social, environmental or heritage positions.

Opposition leader Marine Le Pen, head of the former Front National and now named National Rally, has called the program “pointless,” while Adrien Quatennens of France Unbowed said the government had set “no aim” for the program.

The government will consult with the youth, parents, teachers’ unions and local governments in October before a final decision is made on how the mandatory phase of the program should work. The program is aimed to start as early as next year. France is aiming to have 700,000 participants by 2026.

Because France scrapped the compulsory military service in 1998 when he was 18, Macron is the only French president not to have done military service.

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