Europe short of soldiers in 2025?


The new "European Defence Agency" released a report on the "Initial Long-Term Vision for European Defence Capability and Capacity Needs", which was discussed by European Defence Ministers at their meeting in Finland on 3 October. According to the report, which covers issued well beyond of recruitment, the average European will be 45 years old in 2025, and the pool of 16 (!)-30 year olds available for military service will be reduced by 15%. Under the title 'The Manpower Balance', the report states:

"It is now conventional wisdom in Europe that there is a need to increase the proportion of defence budgets going on investment – which implies the need to reduce operating costs. A significant part of these, of course, can be the costs of deployments – which, if met from defence budgets, are particularly damaging to coherent capability development in that they are usually unpredictable and short notice. In some Member States, such costs are met from the central government reserve; wider adoption of that practice would be a powerful support to the development of the defence capabilities ESDP needs.

But the largest element of operating costs is for personnel – over 50% of collective EU defence spending. As armed forces professionalise, and as the falling birth-rate increases competition in the labour market for young men and women, personnel costs will in practice pre-empt more and more of defence spending unless manpower is reduced. With approaching 2 million men and women currently in uniform in Europe, there is scope to do this. Approaches include out-sourcing; increased automation (from warships to robots); and reducing superfluous capability (do Europeans between them really need nearly 10.000 main battle tanks, and nearly 3.000 combat aircraft?).

The tendency to professionalisation of military forces within the European Union, it can be expected that more countries will abolish conscription within the next 20 years. At the same time 'out-sourcing' is likely to mean an increasing number of 'Private Military Companies' and service providers taking over tasks which were traditionally done the by military itself - a trend which is much more developed in Britain than in the rest of the European Union, and even more in the United States, where on every 10 soldiers comes 1 private contractor.

These development will pose new questions for anti-war activists, and for the right to conscientious objection, which mostly does not exist for 'professional' soldiers, and is not even conceived of for private contractors.

Source: European Defence Agency: Initial Long-Term Vision Report for European Defence Capability and Capacity Needs


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