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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
16 Dec 2023


Germany considers bringing back military service

Germany is looking into ways to bring back conscription after the country’s defence minister said that abolishing it had been “a mistake”.

The defence ministry in Berlin is evaluating models to bring back military service, as it struggles to attract recruits at a time when it is seeking to boost troop numbers.

Boris Pistorius, the defence Minister, confirmed on Saturday that he was “looking at all options”.

“I’m looking at alternative models, such as the Swedish model, where all young men and women are conscripted and only a select few end up doing their basic military service,” he told Die Welt newspaper.

Boris Pistorius, the German defence minister, is ‘looking at alternative models' of conscription
Boris Pistorius, the German defence minister, is ‘looking at alternative models' of conscription Credit: RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images

Sweden brought back conscription in 2017 in response to the increased military threat from Russia.

About 4,000 young men and women are called up every year and draft dodgers have been put in jail.

“Whether something like that would also be conceivable here is part of our deliberations,” Mr Pistorius said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led Germany to make an about-turn on how it prioritises defence spending, which had been largely neglected since the end of the Cold War.

Mr Pistorius has been handed the tricky task of reforming the army which has been plagued by inefficient bureaucracy and outdated kit.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, right, opposes reintroducing conscription
Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, right, opposes reintroducing conscription Credit: KAY NIETFELD/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

As part of the modernisation, Berlin has a target of increasing troop numbers from 180,000 today to more than 200,000 by 2031.

Germany stopped conscription, which used to apply to all male school leavers, as recently as 2011. The government of the time argued that it had become too expensive.

Mr Pistorius, of the Social Democrats, said that decision had been “a mistake in hindsight”, but he admitted that too few German MPs agree with him, meaning that he would struggle to bring it back in its old form.

A debate over whether to reintroduce military service has been bubbling along in Germany for several years.

‘Bad idea’

The opposition Christian Democrats, a party of the centre-Right, have proposed a compulsory year of service that could also include social work.

In February, Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, made clear that he opposed reintroducing conscription, describing it as “a bad idea”.