Serbia: Conscription to end on 1 January 2011

With Serbia, the last country of the former Yugoslavia is abolishing conscription. Radio Srbija reported on 16 July that from 1 January 2011 on, Serbia will have fully professional armed forces. According to an interview of Minister of Defence Dragan Sutanovac with Ekonom:east Magazine, the plan is to have 10600 professional soldiers and 2000 places for those who wish to serve voluntarily. According to the report of Radio Srbija there are already 8,000 applications, of which 1,600 (20%) are from women.

The goal of the professionalisation is to enable the army to perform certain tasks and mission, both internally and through cooperation with armed forces of allies and partner countries, so the head of the Obligations Department of the Serbian Ministry of Defence, colonel Dragoslav Lackovic, in an interview with Radio Srbija. At present, Serbia is part of several UN missions, among them MINURCAT in the Central African Republic and Chad, UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia), and MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). However, Serbia's contribution is generally small, and more on the level of military observers or medical personnel.

Besides a professional service in the Armed Forces, which will be open for men and women, there will also be the option of a "voluntary military service", although this is only open for men. Certain benefits come with the three months of voluntary military service: the possibility to freeze their studies, to pass the driving exam free of charge, or to be eligible to work in the army afterwards. It might also be possible to apply for a job with security agencies, which will soon be regulated by law.

According to colonel Dragoslav Lackovic, eligible for professional military service "are all Serbian citizens who meet the conditions. It means being physically fit for military service, which is to be established by a competent commission. Also, if the applicant had worked previously in other state bodies, that employment should not have been ceased because of serious violations of work discipline; they must not have previous convictions to prison sentences of more than six months; and they need to be under the age of 30." There are also other conditions, "i.e. that the candidate had done regular military service under arms, except for the female applicants; at least high-school education is necessary, except for the infantrymen and sentry service. The logistics service requires adequate professional education for the service at issue, and the applicants for driving service need a C-category driving license and grade-8 education”. Colonel Lackovic added that each candidate has to go through three-month training, and at the moment there are some 500 candidates in training centers. Only after passing the exam, they will sign a contract.

With the end of conscription, substitute service will also be abolished. According to the report by Radio Srbija, the National Parliament or the President can annul the decision [to abolish conscription], in case of an emergency or war.

Sources: Ekonom:east Magazine: Exploring new horizons for the Serbian defense industry, 4 January 2010; Radio Srbija: Professionalisation of the army, 16 July 2010; UN: MINURCAT Facts and Figures, accessed 5 August 2010; UN: UNMIL Facts and Figures, accessed 5 August 2010; UN: MONUC Facts and Figures, accessed 5 August 2010; Ministry of Defence: Serbian peacekeepers off to Chad and the Central African Republic, 7 July 2010