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Austria backs status quo conscript army

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm •  Published: January 20, 2013
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The referendum highlighted preferences between Austria's two uneasy coalition partners. The Socialists urged voters to follow most nations in the 27-nation European Union, where 21 countries have professional armies, while the centrist People's Party backed keeping the present system.

Austria's armed forces now consist of about 35,000 troops — 14,000 professionals and the rest conscripts who serve for six months — as well as a 30,000-strong part-time militia. The proposed reform wanted 8,500 career soldiers, 7,000 who sign up for an average of three years, 9,300 militia members and more focus on fighting terrorism and cyber-attacks.

"I voted to keep this status as it is," said Jono Englander, 62. "If this turns into a professional army, where people just go because they want to, then I think we are going to send ... our young people often to wars."

Others had a simple argument for opposing the present setup.

"I voted against it because I don't want to go into the army," said 16-year-old Johannes Schmidt.

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Associated Press video journalist Bela Szandelszky contributed.