German MPs debate reintroducing compulsory military service
In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, members of the German federal parliament are discussing the possibility of reintroducing compulsory military service for young people in Germany.
Military service for young Germans finishing school
Members of Germany’s federal parliament are currently embroiled in a debate over the reintroduction of general compulsory military service. Support has come from CDU politicians, including CDU chairperson Carsten Linnemann. "Personally, for years I have been campaigning for the introduction of a society year that is mandatory for young men and women after they have finished school," he said. “Such a service would not be limited to the Bundeswehr [Germany’s military forces], but would also take into account the care and social sectors as well as THW, fire brigades or clubs."
Support for compulsory military service has come from fellow CDU politician Johann Wadephul, deputy chairperson of the Bundestag’s Union faction. "If this service is made financially attractive and concrete benefits such as accumulating pension points or easier access to study or training places are created, we have the opportunity to recruit many more staff," Wadephul told reporters.
Both Linnemann and Wadephul agree that Germany needs to better prepare for certain predicaments in light of recent events. "The Bundeswehr must be brought more into society," Wadephul said. "Since the recent events at the latest, it must be clear to everyone that the Bundeswehr is a basic requirement for our lives, as it guarantees security and freedom."
SPD members open to idea of conscription
Members of the SPD, such as security expert Wolfgang Hellmich, are open to the idea of bringing back compulsory military service. "We urgently need to have the debate about general compulsory service. Because for that we need a social consensus.” He also called for the Bundeswehr to be made more attractive for young people. “We need a professionally equipped and active Bundeswehr. We're way beyond general conscription there," he said.
Sara Nanni, the security policy spokesperson for the Greens in the Bundestag, agreed with Hellmich’s sentiment. "Anyone who invests in the Bundeswehr must of course first and foremost invest in the personnel. It is the backbone of German defence policy.”
Criticisms of the proposed military service
Despite several members of the SPD and the CDU advocating for a compulsory year of service, several of their party colleagues have spoken out against the idea. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Högl (SPD), has rejected the idea of bringing back conscription, as has Florian Hahn (CSU), who told reporters that Germany needed “technology and a weapon system and no heads."
The Chairman of the Defence Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann has also spoken out against conscription. "No, that's not part of it for us. The Bundeswehr should become a modern, compact army with high-tech equipment and not equipment from the 1990s,” she said.
Conscription was replaced by voluntary military service in Germany in 2011, after it was suspended by then Defence Minister Karl-Theodore zu Guttenberg. Instead of pouring billions of euros into reviving old infrastructure, Strack-Zimmermann would prefer using the funds to invest in Germany’s armed forces. “We have to take the money to modernise the Bundeswehr, to make the equipment, including the personal ones for soldiers, perfect."