Easier terms for thousands in draft limbo

Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday unveiled new legislation aimed at modernizing the military draft and ending the limbo of thousands of Greek men who have not fulfilled their national service and are living outside the country. He also set out new deferment conditions for those studying. The new legislation will effect mainly people who have studied abroad and found it difficult to give up their careers for a long stint in the Greek military. It is to be presented to Parliament this month in order to be passed before Easter. Papantoniou said the legislation was «just and effective and promotes a new balance between the obligation to serve our country and the need for our country not to lose academics who are valuable for social and economic development.» He noted that more than 95 percent of draft dodgers were people who had been granted deferment in order to study abroad. «Most of them are postgraduate students, who have postgraduate degrees from the universities of developed countries. Some of them have been granted academic distinctions,» Papantoniou said. He added that the general staff’s figures put the number of draft dodgers at 14,630 people this year. This is up from 12,686 in 2000 and 13,795 in 2001. According to the new legislation, Greek men up to the age of 45 will be obliged to undergo national service, down from 50. Draft dodgers living abroad will now be allowed to receive or renew passports from Greek consulates there, a measure which Papantoniou called «basic democratic justice.» Men born in 1965 and 1966 will, like those born earlier, serve six months instead of 12. Those born in 1967 and later may report for national service by November 30, 2003 so as to avoid penalties for avoiding conscription. Night school students may defer their service until they turn 21, while the deadline for doctoral students will be raised from the age of 29 to 31. For doctors studying to be specialists, the deadline will be raised from 31 to 33. The age of 33 will apply also for «distinguished academics» who will be able to serve 6 months (or 4 months if family conditions demand). Papantoniou said that the latter category involved about 25 people annually who had doctorates and had been evaluated by a committee of professors.

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