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Sunday, August 01, 2004

No More National Service in Italy

ROME - Farewell to national service. The last young conscript to be called up for military service will leave home no later than December 31 2004. From January 1 next year, that's it. After the end of the year, no more young men will be summoned to the recruiting offices to get ready for the "naja", as military service is known. The last to go will be males born in 1985. Defence minister, free-marketeer Antonio Martino, has ever since his arrival at the ministry viewed military service as an "unjust tax" levied on young men. Mr. Martino has decided to abolish it two years earlier than scheduled and yesterday, his bill became law. There was applause from both sides of the chamber after the vote. One hundred and fifty three years after national service was introduced, the lower house approved the provisions that will abolish it. Opposition parties also voted in favour. The final tally was 433 ayes, 17 noes and seven abstentions (the Greens and Communist Refoundation).

According to the new dispositions,
young men who are able to defer military service for reasons of study until after January 1 will be safe and need no longer worry. The armed forces will follow the example of almost all other Western countries and will be made up exclusively of professionals, that is young people who enlist as volunteers and choose the military life as a career.

Abolition of national service will create an overall shortfall in the ranks of army, navy and air force amounting to about 25,000 personnel. It will have to be filled quickly by holding entrance examinations to enlist new recruits. To ensure a sufficient inflow of young recruits, the law lays down that anyone wishing to enlist in state law enforcement forces, the Carabinieri, the police, the customs authority, fire service or forestry commission, will have to serve for at least one year in one of the three armed forces. Remuneration for this year of military service comprises a salary of 850 euros a month for the first three months, and 980 euros in subsequent months. Anyone refusing to wear uniform for a minimum period of 12 months will not be admitted to the examinations for entry into the law enforcement forces.

Young people who stay in the armed forces for three or five years will be eligible for assistance in finding employment when they are discharged. New opportunities are available in the armed forces themselves. Previously, a total of 61,000 volunteers could opt to remain in the standing army; now, the number has been raised to 73,300. Their salary will be 1,260 euros a month.
Clause ten deals with the "Alpini", the mountain troops. The Alpini are granted a status of excellence in the context of the army. This means that those who choose to don the feathered Alpino hat will be entitled to a special incentive allowance that will boost their salary by about ten per cent. In addition, an Alpino headquarters will be maintained in all the regions where the mountain troops have traditionally been rooted. The provisions will encourage above all young people resident in northern Italy to enlist.

A parliamentary agenda presented by the
Daisy Alliance and approved against the government's advice lays down that the Alpini barracks in Cividale del Friuli, which were scheduled to close, will now be kept open. Mr. Martino calls the law "an epoch-making measure" that is in the "interests of many young people who have hitherto been hindered by military service from entering the world of work". It is not just to the advantage of young people, adds junior defence minister Salvatore Cicu, "the armed forces themselves will also benefit as they need professionals for their arduous missions abroad".

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