Conscription has been suspended since 2011 – according to the chancellor and defense minister, it should stay that way. The Commissioner for the Armed Forces is now suggesting that young people be examined for their fitness for military service.
With a view to recruiting young people for the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces Commissioner Eva Högl suggested inviting all young people of the same age group to be drafted in the future. In an interview with the news portal “t-online”, the SPD politician spoke out against a return to conscription.
But she finds the idea of a mandatory “year of service for Germany” that can be completed in the civilian or military field “worthy of discussion”. “You could, like in Sweden, invite an entire year of young people to be drafted into the Bundeswehr. And then, if they are fit for military service, let them decide for themselves whether they want to volunteer or not.” This pattern should then be aimed at all genders, Högl demanded.
“Reversing the suspension of compulsory military service in Germany does not help at all,” stressed the Bundestag’s commissioner for the armed forces. “We don’t have enough trainers and we don’t have enough infrastructure for that.”
Ukraine war sparked new conscription debate
Compulsory military service was suspended in 2011 after 55 years under the then CSU Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, which in practice was tantamount to abolishing military and civilian service. Since the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the issue has come into focus again. At the beginning of the year, Högl called for a debate to start now – “also on the question of how much coercion and how much voluntariness is necessary”. “We definitely need more personnel in the Bundeswehr,” she told the “Augsburger Allgemeine” at the time.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (both SPD) spoke out clearly against a return to conscription. In February, however, Pistorius made it clear that he sees good arguments for general compulsory service to strengthen civil protection, the German armed forces and rescue services. Young people need to be heard on the issue, he said. The FDP reported legal and political concerns about such an obligation to serve.
Union for mandatory company year
At a party conference in September, the CDU spoke out in favor of the nationwide introduction of a mandatory company year. Where the young people can complete the service should be as flexible as possible, “be it in social institutions, in hospitals, in the Bundeswehr, in civil defense with the THW or the fire brigade, through recognized aid organizations abroad or in sports and culture or with nature and environmental protection associations”. Around a year ago, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier initiated a debate on the introduction of mandatory social time.
Pistorius recently questioned whether the goal of expanding the Bundeswehr to 203,000 soldiers by 2031 can be met. “I dare not predict whether we can reach the number,” he said on Thursday during a visit to the Federal Office for Personnel Management of the Bundeswehr in Cologne. Since the corona pandemic, there has been a slump in the number of applicants. We are working to leave this valley. He cited the lack of skilled workers and demographic change as reasons. There are currently around 183,000 soldiers in the Bundeswehr.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.