Albania to end conscription by 2010

According to a report in the Southeast European Times from 21 August 2008, Albania is to abolish conscription completely by 2010. From 1 January 2010, Albania will no longer have compulsory military service. The initiative is part of the reforms required by NATO, which the country hopes to join after meeting the Alliance's requirements.

The Albanian Parliament passed a law on 13 August to initiate the reform. The legislation falls under a programme launched by the Albanian armed forces - with the help of the US Department of Defence - to technologically upgrade and fully professionalise the military by 2010. According to the Southeast European Times, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said after the law had been passed: "We aim [to build] a military with professionals".

Albanian Defence Minister Gazmend Oketa added: "Building a professional military will offer job opportunities to young people ... within the Albanian armed forces."

Presently, the government is evaluating the salaries for troops under the new system, which will also other incentives, such as access to housing and other benefits. Oketa told the Southeast European Times that in the coming months, the military will open several recruiting centres where high school graduates can enlist.

The reform will also include benefits for young people pursuing a military career. With the introduction of the professional system, the Tirana-based Skenderbe Military Academy will add several departments.

Presently, conscription is included in Article 166 of the 1998 Constitution and further regulated by the Law on Military Service in the Armed Forces (7526/1991), Law 7978/1995 and the Law on Military Service (9047/2003). The length of military service is 12 months, and 6 months for university graduates. All men between the ages of 19 and 32 are liable for military service. Reservist obligations apply up to the age of 55.

From the media reports, it is not clear whether conscription will be completely abolished or only suspended. It is also not clear if the constitution will also be changed.

Source: Albania to abolish conscription by 2010, Southeast European Times, 21 August 2008; Quaker Council for European Affairs: The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe, 2005