Germany presents new military service model to start conscription from next year 


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German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the Chancellery, in Berlin, Germany, 12 June 2024. [EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER]

After months of anticipation, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius unveiled a new military service model for Germany on Wednesday (12 June), announcing plans to recruit 5,000 conscripts annually starting in 2025.

Germany has been looking to boost the size of its army from currently around 180,000 troops to 203,000 with growing fears of a Russian attack on NATO.

For Pistorius, his “preferred model”, would see 18-year-olds fill in digital questionnaires regarding their habits and interest in the army. 

Based on indicated preferences, about 40,000 to 50,000 of the respondents would be invited for a medical, of whom the minister expects to recruit 5,000 for at least six months of basic military service, Pistorius told journalists in Berlin.  

Adding, to an existing 10,000 annual recruits, who voluntarily taking part in basic service. Additionally, the army will start approaching former recruits to convince “up to 100,000” to become active reservists. 

“The law should come into force before the summer break so that we can utilise the first capacities before the end of 2025,” Pistorius said.  

Notably, he underlined that the mandatory elements are confined to filling in the questionnaire and joining the medical, if selected. 

“However, this obligation has hardly any effect because we assume that all those who we invite also said in their questionnaires that they want to come voluntarily,” he stressed. 

Pistorius underlined that the process would ensure that “those who are (…) most motivated should be selected for military service,” adding that this was inspired by a similar model in Sweden. 

Controversy around mandatory service 

This lighter approach might help the defence minister circumvent the political controversy of whether compulsory service is outdated, and break resistance within the government parties, which will have to pass the law in the next step.  

His own party, the SPD, which has strong pacifist tendencies, the liberal FDP, and the Greens have all been sceptical about bringing back mandatory service, abolished in 2011.  

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the SPD previously signalled he considered the task of boosting the army’s size “negligible”, noting that a full-fledged conscription was unnecessary, which was interpreted as a blow to Pistorius’ ideas. 

The SPD’s parliamentary group expressed its support for “Pistorius’s plans to increase the number of our armed forces,” on Wednesday, while explicitly avoiding the term ‘conscription’. 

There remain issues in terms of gender equality as only men would be legally obliged to adhere to the mandatory parts. Women are excluded from obligatory service based on the country’s basic law, which Pistorius said he was open to change in the future. 

[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski/Rajnish Singh]

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