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National service will be obligatory - French government spokesman

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French President Emmanuel Macron and government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux (L) arrive for the signature of three legal texts that will apply in 2018 REUTERS/Etienne Laurent

The "universal national service" in France, one Emmanuel Macron's campaign promises, will be "mandatory," the government spokesman said Tuesday.


"It will be universal, it will affect the entire age group [concerned] and it will be mandatory," said Benjamin Griveaux on France’s radio stations Radio Classique and Paris Premiere.

While France abolished military service in 1997, Emmanuel Macron promised during the presidential campaign to restore a "mandatory national universal service" of one month for young people, which would include between 600,000 and 800,000 young people a year.

"It is not a question of reinventing the military service" but of giving "to the youth of France causes to defend, battles to carry out in the social, environmental, cultural [areas]", he explained at the end of January.

But the project, the details of which have yet to be outlined, has caused discord and embarrassment within the government itself.

On Friday, the Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly, declared that this national service "will probably not be mandatory”. Two days later, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said he was in favor of a "mandatory" national service.

On Monday, the chairman of the Defense Committee of the National Assembly, Jean-Jacques Bridey, pointed him that “[one] cannot make it mandatory for adults" for legal reasons, citing the possibility of "recourse to the Court European Union of Human Rights ".

Beyond the obligatory aspect or not of this service, the project also raises doubts because of the army's ability it’s to manage it since the suppression of military service in 1997.

A parliamentary report on the subject is due on February 21st. President Macron appointed a working group to issue conclusions in April.