France’s raw jobs sign up for national service.
A few hundred youngsters slapped a French national mess around a field near low cabbage around Paris.
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French teens have been serving nationally as part of a new scheme introduced by the first time Ammanel McNon in 20 years.
It’s not the liveliest rendition ever heard. But it is only 8am and, lined up on a makeshift parade ground, they are on unfamiliar territory: organised with military precision into straight rows, uniforms correct, for the daily raising of the French flag.
The pilot programme, which is voluntary, includes two weeks of training followed by another two weeks of community work, and will eventually be compulsory for all 16 year olds.
These are the first recruits for the new “Service national universel” (SNU). More scout camp than old-style military service, it includes two weeks of residential training, followed by two weeks of community work.
Mr Macron has said he hopes the programme will boost patriotism and social cohesion among young people in France, but why is he so concerned about French pride and fraternity, and will the new programme help?
What’s included ?
The president had wanted a more military-style programme, but the army is said to have baulked at the task of training up the nation’s teenagers.
Instead the civil scheme includes a day of classes in orienteering, map-reading and strategy, taught by members of the armed forces.
My dad did military service,” a disappointed new recruit complains. “He used to tell me about it. I’d like to do military service like him, but unfortunately it’s not possible.”
The teenagers here this month are volunteers in a pilot programme, but from 2026 the government plans to make it compulsory for all 16 year olds.
The president says he wants the new programme to boost “patriotism and social cohesion” among young people.
Why does France need it?
“What’s missing is a moment of cohesion,” explains Gabriel Attal, the junior education minister responsible for launching the scheme, “of youth coming together from different parts of France, from different social backgrounds, sharing their experiences and their commitments for society and the country.”
That’s one explanation. Another is Marine Le Pen.
President Macron has framed French politics as a battle between himself and the populist, far-right leader, who came first in the European elections last month with her brand of inward-looking nationalism.
Bruno Cautres, a prominent political scientist, says that Mr Macron does not want to leave the field of patriotism to Marine Le Pen.
“What Macron is trying to show to the French public,” he says, “is that there is no contradiction in being pro-European and patriotic; to be pro-European and to believe in your country; to be pro-EU and also proud to be French.”