Germany: Shorter Military Service from 1 October 2010

As reported earlier in CO-Update, Germany seems to be going ahead with the shortening of military and substitute service from nine months to six months. Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Family Minister Kristina Schröder presented a draft law to the Defence Committee of the German parliament in March. According to the proposal, all conscripts will be able to benefit of the shorter term from 1 October 2010, while for conscientious objectors the shorter term will come into force from 1 August 2010.

The ministers' aim is to get the law through parliament before the summer break.

The draft law is controversial, including within Germany's governing coalition. Controversial is especially a new regulation which allows to 'voluntarily' extend substitute service up to 23 months, similar to voluntarily extended military service. Given that many of the institutions that offer placements for substitute service complain that a shorter substitute service is meaningless (see CO-Update No 52, November/December 2009), many fear that this regulation will be abused to pressure conscientious objectors into accepting a longer substitute service. This fear is very justified: unlike soldiers, conscientious objectors generally search for a placement themselves, which is then approved by the Federal Office for Substitute Service. This gives the institutions some leverage to put pressure on conscientious objectors.

In addition to a shorter term for military and substitute service, the Ministry of Defence announced that in future more of the potential conscripts will be called up for military service. While presently about 40,000 young men are called up for military service, this number is to rise to 50,000.

Sources: Wissen.de: Kürzerer Wehrdienst kostet Millionen, 30 March 2010; Handelsblatt: Kürzerer Wehrdienst ab Oktober, 26 March 2010; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Verkürzung auf sechs Monate, 26 March 2010; Bundeswehr.de: Verkürzter Wehrdienst: Neues Konzept vorgestellt, 29 March 2010