Austrians decide to keep military conscription

Austrians decide to keep military conscription

VIENNA - Reuters
Austrians decide to keep military conscription

The Austrian army fight no wars but active in peacekeeping operations. REUTERS photo

Austrians voted to keep military conscription on Jan. 20, bucking a trend towards replacing conscripts with professional armies in Western Europe that began with the end of the Cold War.

The neutral Alpine nation voted 60 percent in favor of maintaining the draft, which is seen as binding civil society to the military and instilling a sense of citizenship in young men.

The result is a blow to Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democrats, who had argued a smaller, professional force would be more suited to modern military reality, more cost-efficient and fairer to young people. The 45,000 strong Austrian armed forces fight no wars but are active in international peacekeeping, especially in ex-Yugoslavia and the Golan Heights.

Much of Western Europe has scrapped compulsory military service in the last two decades. Germany phased it out in 2011, following France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and others who have switched to voluntary forces. Britain scrapped conscription in 1960.

Many experts had argued that Austria, where six months in the military or nine months of community service are still compulsory for all 18-year-old men, should follow suit.