Obligatory military service has been progressively abolished in most European countries, though Switzerland looks certain to maintain the draft in a referendum Sunday.

Compulsory since the start of the 19th century in most European countries, conscription armies have gradually been replaced by professional forces since the 1960s.

In Western Europe, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Greece and Cyprus are the only other countries to have kept their system of conscription.

Led by Britain and Luxembourg in the 1960s and followed in the 1990s and 2000s by nations including Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland and Germany, successive European nations have abandoned the call-up.

When it comes to those that maintain conscription, Norway has gone against the tide and is set to extend it to women, in line with a decision by the parliament voted last June.

This measure, passed in the name of equality between the sexes and expected to enter into force in 2015, is easy to exchange for civilian service.

Sunday's referendum in Switzerland marks the latest attempt by anti-military campaigners to use the Alpine country's system of direct democracy to scrap conscription.

Past efforts to do so, and even to abolish the army outright, have failed, however. Polls show that around two-thirds of Swiss voters will support the status quo this time.AFP