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28 May, 2024 17:57

Germany drops controversial military draft plans – Der Spiegel

The new scheme presented by Defense Minister Boris Pistorius does not even mention the word “conscription,” according to the magazine
Germany drops controversial military draft plans – Der Spiegel

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has dropped controversial plans to reintroduce conscription in the country and indicated a move towards a voluntary service scheme, Der Spiegel reported on Monday.

The key points of the military service reform were outlined on Monday by Pistorius during a behind-closed-doors presentation to the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the weekly said, citing sources. The revised scheme does not mention the word “conscription,” and is focused on incentivizing young people to join the nation’s Armed Forces – the Bundeswehr, it added.

Over the past month Pistorius has repeatedly stated that Germany should become “war-capable” and “get used to the thought” of a potential conflict in Western Europe, citing the threat supposedly posed by Russia, among others. In April, he announced that his ministry “considered that compulsory military service will be reintroduced” as part of an ambitious Armed Forces overhaul.

Under the plans presented by the minister on Monday, all 18-year-olds will be required to answer a questionnaire from the Defense Ministry about their physical condition. The military would then seek to entice those considered worthy to join the army through incentives that would potentially range from free driving licenses to student loan discounts. Military service itself would last 12 months, according to Der Spiegel.

The scheme was backed by Pistorius’ SPD party, which had reportedly grown tired of the minister’s belligerent rhetoric. “We agree on the vast majority of points,” SPD General Secretary Kevin Kuhnert said after the Monday meeting.

The plan essentially follows what was described by German media as the “most cautious” of the three options reportedly presented to Pistorius by his ministry last month. The other two involved some form of mandatory conscription, either for men or for everyone reaching the age of maturity, regardless of their sex.

The defense ministry had initially warned that the “most cautious” option could also be the least useful one for the military. Now, the variant is reportedly described as “the least promising in terms of meeting the needs” of the army in the ministry’s internal documents. The officials are worried that it would not attract “a sufficient number of applicants,” according to Der Spiegel.

The German Armed Forces suffer constantly from a lack of personnel. In March, the parliamentary commissioner for the Bundeswehr, Eva Hoegl, said in her annual report that some 20,000 positions within the Armed Forces remain unfilled and numbers continue to fall due to a “very high” dropout rate.

According to Der Spiegel, some 181,500 soldiers are currently in service. While the government’s plans envisage a rise to 203,000 by 2031, the weekly warned that the total may drop below 180,000.

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