Germany's last military conscripts report for duty

3rd January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Some 12,150 young Germans reported for compulsory military service on Monday, the last contingent to do so after the government suspended conscription, a defence ministry spokesman said.

From March onwards, only volunteers will be accepted for military service. The government expects around 15,000 people to do so each year.

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg wants to slash Germany's 250,000-strong military to 180,000-185,000 to cut spending and better respond to 21st century security threats, two decades after the Cold War ended.

Germany was one of the few countries in the NATO military alliance to retain the draft and it was popular, with 51 percent of voters wanting it upheld, according to an opinion poll published in July.

Introduced after World War II, it was aimed at ensuring that the military never again became an elitist force with its own political power.

The government has kept conscription in the constitution but suspended it, effective July 1, 2011. The length of compulsory service had already been cut to six months from 18 months.

The move is aimed at helping save 8.3 billion euros (11.0 billion dollars) in military spending over the next four years, part of an 80-billion-euro package of austerity cuts launched in 2010.

Kristina Schroeder, family and labour minister, said last month she wanted to recruit 35,000 volunteers per year to replace people who had opted to do social work instead of military service.

© 2011 AFP

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