Compulsory civil service proposed for foreigners

Foreigners well established in Switzerland should be called up for community service, the economic think tank Avenir Suisse says.

Compulsory civil service proposed for foreigners
Swiss army recruits: Avenir Suisse proposes sweeping changes to Switzerland's military service programme. Photo: Federal Department of Defence

The controversial proposal is among several sweeping changes suggested by the business-backed group, which is calling for a conscription army that includes women as well as men.

The idea is included in a report called “Ideas for Switzerland” to be released at a press conference in Zurich on Wednesday, Blick reported online.

Avenir Suisse says that compulsory service for foreigners would be a step toward their “better integration” in Switzerland, according to the report.

“These foreigners have an advantage today in the labour market because they are not required to do (military) service,” the report says.

Foreigners “for obvious reasons” would be restricted to civil and not military service under the proposal.

The ideas emerge in the wake of an initiative launched in November by the group Switzerland Without an Army, which wants to abolish compulsory military service and replace it with a voluntary militia.

Avenir Suisse is calling for changes of a different kind, including a conscription army that puts women on an equal footing.

“For some time, women have been on the rise in business, science, society, culture and politics,” the think tank says, according to the Blick report.

This process will continue so “to limit the militia in the future to men is implausible”.

An advantage of requiring women to serve in the army would be to double the number of conscripts and to reduce the required length of service, currently 260 days.

Special provision would be made for parents with child care considered as part of military service under the proposal.

Avenir Suisse’s central goal is to strengthen the principle of a militia.

Switzerland risks losing a “unique and identity-defining feature,” the group says.

“This militia principle must be rediscovered,” Andreas Müller, assistant director of Avenir Suisse is quoted as saying by Blick.

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