2 February 2024

Emmanuel Macron meets with SNU volunteers, in Bourges, on December 7, 2021.

What are the intentions of Emmanuel Macron and the government with regard to the universal national service (SNU)? The generalization to all young people of this distant descendant of military service, once announced, no longer seems so obvious. An about-face that the executive seems determined to forget.

“You oppose a fantasy”thus launched on France 3 Centre-Loire Valley the Secretary of State for Youth, Sarah El Haïry, on Sunday 30 April. Facing her, the activist of the Young Ecologists Noé Petit, opposed to this project “recruitment and militarization of youth”, had just reminded him that the President of the Republic had wanted to make the SNU compulsory but had to back off “because of social protests”. Regardless of the facts, Mr.me El Haïry replied that“At no time did the President of the Republic say, did he express the idea that it was compulsory”.

why is it wrong

Sarah El Haïry is wrong since, from his 2017 presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron had assured that he wanted “strengthen the army-nation link” through the establishment of“a national service of short duration, compulsory and universal”.

Two years after coming to power, the president launched the SNU in 2019 in an experimental form, with the aim of eventually making it mandatory. This offers teenagers aged 15 to 17 the opportunity to take part in a “cohesion stay” in boarding school for two weeks, then on a mission of general interest of at least eighty-four hours. A third phase of the SNU, optional, offers young people a “voluntary commitment” from three months to a year by becoming a reservist, a volunteer firefighter or during civic service.

Considered too expensive and too military by many opponents, the UNS is still in the experimental phase and for the moment only concerns young volunteers: there were 14,650 in 2021 and 32,000 in 2022. Until Tuesday, it was written on the SNU website: “The cohesion stay (phase 1) and the performance of a mission of general interest (phase 2) provided for within the framework of the SNU are intended to become compulsory for an entire age group. » Tuesday afternoon, government website page born mentioned more the desire to make the service compulsory. A modification that the cabinet of Mme El Haïry justified World by the need to amend a formulation that “was confusing”.

The Head of State had promised during his vows of December 31, 2022 to ask “in the next few weeks or months the first milestones of a universal national service”. “I will have the opportunity to come back to it in the weeks to come”, he said again on January 20 before the armies. But in full mobilization against the pension reform, the government had to revise its ambitions downwards, and finally excluded the elements of financing the generalization of the UNS from the military programming law presented on April 4.

Logistical and budgetary difficulties

Asked by readers of Parisianon April 23, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that he wanted his “gradual ramp-up”but “without making it mandatory across the country overnight”. “You have to go through the law to make it mandatory, but before you have to finalize the consultationhe conceded. I am in favor of moving forward. » A position supported by Sarah El Haïry, who tells the World be “favorable to its deployment and generalization”while recognizing that it is“a logistical challenge” and that’“parliamentary debate” and the passage of a law would be necessary to make it compulsory.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Universal national service: the possible generalization of the program arouses emotion

A Senate report released on March 8 recommended “stay” to this generalization of national service to an entire age group with regard to “uncertainties” of the project, particularly in terms of costs, estimated at more than 2 billion euros per year. The report further estimated that “the slowdown in the deployment of the SNU is primarily explained by the material difficulties encountered during the experiments”.

If the SNU is not compulsory today, it is therefore not because the Head of State never intended it, as the Secretary of State for Youth asserts, but due to logistical and budgetary difficulties combined with an unfavorable political context.

Update from April 4 at 9:50 a.m.: addition of the reaction of Ms. El Haïry’s cabinet, which answered our questions 24 hours after the initial publication of the article.

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