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Compulsory military service in Europe

army doctor
Foto by: The U.S. Army
Almost everyone knows at least one military service member who has been deployed to Afghanistan, Kosovo or Iraq. In the Netherlands, there’s no obligation to serve in the military: whether you do so is a personal choice.


Those who do, freely go to dangerous parts of the world to restore peace. These soldiers have chosen to defend their country in case of need, but as long as safety reigns here, they are deployed on peace missions farther afield. It’s a tough job, and certainly not one for everyone.

You may be surprised to learn that the Netherlands still has compulsory military service. Though officially suspended on 1 May 1997, it was never abolished. This means that it still exists today but will only actually become effective if and when the security of the Netherlands comes into danger.


Most countries around the Netherlands don’t have compulsory military service anymore at all. Belgium abolished it in 2004 and Germany in 2011. Of the EU’s 27 member states, 21 no longer require national service.


But Europe also has countries where compulsory military service is very much in effect. Austria voted to maintain its national service requirement by a referendum vote as recently as January 2013. There, every male member of the population has to serve six months in the military or nine months in alternative public service.

Norway, however, takes the cake: as from 2015, compulsory military service will even apply to women, making Norway the first European country to draft men and women alike.


As a soldier, it is your job to make the world a safer place. Safety serves the greater good. But of course, you don’t need to be a member of the military to contribute to the cause. Working to provide good care for the sick, education, sex education and clean drinking water all figure into creating a safe environment. By becoming a voluntary worker, you can pitch in to creating a safer world even without joining the military.


Published: Thu, 07/11/2013 - 18:03

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