Should states make national service obligatory?

Members of the Christian Democratic Union in Germany have reignited the debate about reintroducing compulsory military or community service for men and women. In France, a month of national service will be compulsory as of this autumn. Commentators believe the move could be beneficial for society.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Important lessons for life

Compulsory national service would be good not just for the state but also for the personal development of those who do it, Die Welt argues:

“Social work provides valuable lessons which benefits young people for a very long time. Generations of individuals who did compulsory civil service, like the author of this text, profited greatly from these lessons, whether they taught humility and empathy and the satisfaction of helping others or encouraged them to sign up for more training programmes. Not least, in addition to developing self-knowledge, social work promotes what used to be known as moral maturity. And that's not a bad thing.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Sitting around in barracks a waste of time

De Standaard would also like to see a greater sense of responsibility developing in society, but it doubts that compulsory national service is the way to achieve this:

“Conscription is seen as a form of civic engagement in the service of the nation. And all Europe is suffering from a lack of civic engagement. ... The relationship between the nation state and its citizens has become too cold and calculating. The citizens position themselves as consumers vis-à-vis the state. ... But being a citizen of a nation is a responsibility. And that responsibility is something that has to be allocated. The idea that everyone should join the army for that has long been passé. Polishing shoes in a barracks is a stupid waste of time. But the debate about how we citizens can be more active in society is necessary.”