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Army chief objects to objectors

The head of the armed forces has warned that the Swiss army is losing too many soldiers, following a change in the law which makes it easier for young men to opt out.

This content was published on September 11, 2009 - 11:34

André Blattmann told the Mittelland Zeitung newspaper that some recruits are giving up after only a few days of basic training, choosing to do civilian service instead.

The army chief blamed the situation on a new law – in force since April 1 – which no longer requires young men to give a reason for their objection to army service.

Blattmann said he did not want to see the law withdrawn, but called for tougher rules to stop men from applying for civilian service after they have already begun their military training.

According to the newspaper, the number of men applying for civilian service instead of going into the army has risen greatly since the new law came into effect.

In 2008, there were 1,800 applications for civilian service and the figure for the first eight months of this year is already at 4,200.

In Switzerland all able-bodied men aged 20-30 are conscripted for around three months. After initial training they are required to do up to four weeks of army service a year until they have served 260 days or reached the age of 34.

During the Cold War the Swiss Army numbered 600,000 men who could be called up at short notice. In 1995 the army was reduced to 400,000 and today it is about 200,000.

Military service is optional for women and Swiss living abroad.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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