French presidential candidates seek to restore military service for youths
French presidential favourite Emmanuel Macron yesterday said he wanted to restore military service to France for some 600,000 young people each year as part of efforts to face a world entering an era of "turbulence" comparable to the Cold War.
The 39-year-old former investment banker, running as an independent centrist, is the favourite to win the April/May election in a runoff with far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who herself has promised to bring back conscription 16 years after it ended.
Ahead of the next week's TV debates with his rivals for the Elysee palace, Mr Macron's speech to the military, defence and foreign policy community sought to allay criticism that he was too inexperienced.
He vowed to strengthen France's overseas operations against Islamist militants in the Middle East and Africa, face Russia's "military affirmation", US "unpredictability" and the "militarisation of terrorism" that was leading to acts of war on home soil.
"The current period is a turning point comparable to the Cold War, but this time we are entering an era of extreme turbulence, a new era of conflicts," Mr Macron said.
Outlining the need for Europe to reaffirm itself in the face of major powers, Mr Macron insisted he would "serve France's interests first" to ensure it kept strategic autonomy and was able to act alone at any moment if needed.
The country is in the throes of a highly charged election campaign after two years of attacks by Isil that have killed more than 230 people and forced the government to put 10,000 soldiers on the streets to reinforce security.