“Your Year for Germany”: New voluntary service and debate on the reintroduction of conscription to challenge right-wing extremism inside German army
Following reports on right-wing extremism activities by active or former members of the German army, the new commissioner for the armed forces, Eva Högl, started a debate affirming that “ending conscription was a big mistake” and reintroducing it might help tackle antidemocratic ideas inside the army. The Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer rejected the idea of the return of compulsory military service, announcing, on the other hand, a new voluntary service called “Your year for Germany” which will be introduced in 2021.
Young people who sign up for the voluntary service will receive six months of basic military service training followed by six months of reserve service close to their registered address. Compulsory military service in Germany was abolished in 2011. The army became voluntary and currently lasts between 7 to 23 months.
Högl’s statement caused a debate inside her own party and other parliamentary groups as well. Some claimed that reintroducing the old form of conscription would cost lots of money and that Germany doesn’t have the capacity to do so. Some others highlighted that the proliferation of far-right ideas in the armed forces isn’t linked to the end of conscription, but rather to the army culture that has allowed and tolerated these ideas for decades.
Sources: The Local, Debate starts over compulsory service to tackle extremism in German army, 30 July 2020; Xinhuanet News, German army rejects return to conscription: report, 30 July 2020; La Nación Argentina, "Your year for Germany": why compulsory military service is back?, 30 July 2020; ABC Internacional, Alemania recupera el servicio militar voluntario, 30 July 2020.