Neutral Austria votes to keep military service

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Neutral Austria votes to keep military service

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Austria will retain military conscription, bucking a European trend that has seen many of its neighbouring countries abandon the practice.

In a national referendum, around 60% voted in favour.

Some 20,000 men are drafted into military service each year, serving six months alongside professional soldiers.

The issue sharply divided Austria’s coalition government.

Conservatives, such as Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, stressed that keeping the draft was the best way to retain the country’s prized neutrality.

When the result was announced, Spindelegger said: “I am very happy that Austria has a population that thinks this way.”

But Minister of Defence Nobert Darabos, a social democrat, had campaigned hard for just the opposite.

Darabos, who is now facing calls for his resignation, argued that Austria needed a fully professional army.

But in a country that fights no wars, the people have given a clear “no” to changing the status quo.