Compulsory military service was abolished in Germany in 2011 and a decade later it is back on a voluntary basis.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) announced yesterday a new Bundeswehr programme to welcome citizens who wish to spend a year in the ranks of the German army, six months receiving military training and another six months serving at their assigned duty station, always relatively close to their home.

The prestige of the German army has been damaged in recent years by the emergence of groups of soldiers of extreme right-wing ideology, who even planned attacks against national political authorities, and by isolated cases of abuse, in addition to a series of lack of means that has generated the image of one of the worst equipped in its environment. By opening the doors of the Bundeswehr to the public, AKK hopes to achieve a fresh air that will revitalise the army and a better relationship between Germany’s democratic society and its defensive forces.

The Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) military commissioner Eva Högl had recently initiated a debate on the reintroduction of military service. “I think it was a big mistake that the conscription was suspended,” she said, concluding that it had resulted in the spread of anti-democratic ideologies among professional military personnel.

In response to this concern, AKK has decided within the grand coalition to shape the programme that will be called “Your Year for Germany”. It will start in 2021 and, despite the fact that the basic workforce is divided between training and service, the programme offers recruitment opportunities for periods of between 7 and 23 months. “In any case, it’s good for the Bundeswehr when a large part of society does military service for a while,” Högl said. “That makes it more difficult for right-wing extremism to spread among the troops because more open and widespread recruitment gives the option of a more pluralistic army formation.

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