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Merkel’s party considers national service programme

Germany dropped military conscription in 2011.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party is considering reintroducing civilian or military national service for young people.

Germany dropped military conscription in 2011. It was one of many tenets of conservative orthodoxy brushed aside under Mrs Merkel – a trend that has irked some on the right of her party.

The new general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has been touring Germany in recent weeks to listen to members and discuss future policies.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer said over the weekend that she does not expect a return to conscription but wants to discuss a vaguely defined “general service obligation” as a possible plank of a future party platform. She left open whether it should be compulsory.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the ex-defence minister who scrapped conscription, told Monday’s edition of newspaper the Bild that financing civilian service for up to 700,000 young people per year would carry “exorbitant costs”. He warned that the constitution “doesn’t foresee such compulsory, or forced, work assignments”.

While there is support from some in the CDU for restoring actual military conscription, more appear sceptical. Only the nationalist Alternative for Germany opposition party wholeheartedly backs the idea.

Mrs Von der Leyen’s spokesman, Jens Flosdorff, said the discussion of some kind of national service is helpful because “it draws attention to the high added value of young people’s service for the state”, but said any such service should bring “tangible personal advantages” to those performing it.

He said the minister does not see it as being a debate about “reviving the old military service”.

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