Decision to be taken on compulsory military service by summer

Decision to be taken on compulsory military service by summer

The reinstatement of military conscription is an issue that has deeply divided Europe. But there is one country that wants to put an end to the debate by summer.

POLITICS APRIL 14. 2024 15:31

Shortly after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, alarm bells were sounded across Europe, with a small group of politicians and public opinion shapers calling for the restoration of compulsory military service. The fear was that the war would spill over to other countries on the continent, while most EU member states had been neglecting their own defence and military forces. Germany, as a case in point, is where previous governments as well as the current cabinet have failed to develop or even maintain the level of their defence capabilities.

This is how hundreds of thousands of soldiers are now missing from the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr. There are historical shortages of equipment, with much of the available materiel obsolete. Reports to this effect were published last year and this year.

The interconnectedness is evident, as the infrastructure is also in decline, precisely because of shortfalls in staff and material. According to this year’s report by Parliamentary Commissioner Eva Hogl

the military force continues to age and shrink. Large equipment and spare parts are lacking. Hogl writes that troops are at the limits of their capacity. The vacancy rate has risen to nearly 18 per cent. The goal of increasing the number of troops from the current 181,000 to 203,000 by 2031 will be difficult to achieve. As is known, Germany suspended conscription back in 2011.

Defence Minister Boris Pistorius wants his strategists to present a list of various enlistment models by mid-April. He then wants to analyse and make a decision based on them by the summer. Re-introduction of the measure is difficult from both a legal and structural point of view. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz made clear this week that there will be no more mandatory military service as previously and no conscription army of 400,000 soldiers, as the Bundeswehr no longer has the appropriate training structures, and a large conscription army would be very costly.

But the chancellor has other reservations as well. If on average around 750,000 men and women were forced into military service or community service, the economy would face a severe labour shortage. It must therefore also be taken into account that Germany would face increasing challenges due to labour shortages, and the Chancellor believes that a general conscription would require a change in the Federal Constitution, which is not that easy.

The defence minister recently visited Sweden, Norway and Finland to learn more about military service, conscription procedures and the deployment of young service men and women. The Ministry of Defence is currently analysing in particular the conscription models in Northern Europe, which differ in detail: In Denmark, for example, until now there have been far more enlistees volunteering than training spaces. This may be due to the short duration of the training programme at four months. However, this will be extended and compulsory military service for women will be introduced from 2026. If the required number of volunteers is not reached, a lottery will be held.

In Sweden, all young people are registered. Two years before they start service, they are given a questionnaire to fill out about themselves and details such as illnesses, and after an initial selection process only a few are invited to enlist and join he ranks of the army. This means that the number of service men and women matches the needs of the army. If conscript numbers fall short, Sweden may have to introduce compulsory conscription. But to push this through, serious structural and legal issues need to be clarified, and then the defence minister will have to fight for a political majority. Great debates will ensue even among coalition partners, with the Liberals and Greens arguing in favour of voluntary service.



germany, soldier, war