Elections 2024: Who should I vote for if I want to see the reintroduction of military service?

In the run-up to the June elections, Belgium's political parties are staking out their positions on key issues. Today we take a look at where they stand on the reintroduction of military service.

Military service was compulsory in Belgium until 1992, when it was suspended. For a long time it seemed that it would stay that way, as a war in Europe was unthinkable. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has many NATO members reconsidering conscription, with Latvia and Sweden reintroducing it.

The idea also seems to be gaining popularity in Flanders. A recent poll by iVOX showed that almost half of Flemish citizens are in favour of reintroducing conscription for 18-year-olds who have completed secondary education. However, no political party is campaigning for the reintroduction of conscription.

Strong opposition

Most parties in Belgium are strongly opposed to conscription. They agree with Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder, a member of the French-speaking socialist party PS, who said in late 2022 that reintroducing conscription is "not on the agenda" because Belgium's defence sector is severely understaffed and underfunded.

Instead, most parties want to focus on training a smaller army of highly skilled soldiers, equipped to work with the latest technology, and increasing European cooperation to increase the continent's military independence.

Only the right-wing parties seem to have any appetite for some form of military service. But even they do not talk about conscription, only about a kind of voluntary or compulsory civil service.

Conflicted N-VA

N-VA seems to be internally divided over the idea. Theo Francken, one of the most prominent N-VA politicians, has mentioned several times that he believes Belgium should reintroduce conscription. But other party members have publicly rejected the idea.

N-VA's election manifesto only mentions the introduction of local volunteer corps to "encourage civic engagement". The party will also investigate how it could expand these corps into a voluntary social service for young adults. This would not be limited to defence, but would also include care for the elderly, the police, the fire brigade and first aid.

The far-right Vlaams Belang is the only party in Belgium that wants to introduce some form of compulsory community service. Its programme mentions a "compulsory community service for school-leavers". It would last "several months" and include military service on a voluntary basis.

In the run-up to the elections for the federal, regional and European parliaments on 9 June, Belga English explains how the parties in Belgium want to address today’s challenges. Each day we put the spotlight on one issue.


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