Germany mulls foreign recruits for army

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Germany could recruit foreigners into its army as part of a plan to ensure it has enough manpower now that conscription has effectively been scrapped, a defence ministry official said at the weekend.

"We have to broaden the regulations to allow residents in Germany to be recruited into the armed services, if they are suitable, even if they are not German nationals," said a draft defence ministry plan, cited by Focus weekly.

A ministry official confirmed to AFP that this was one of the measures under consideration to "increase the attractiveness of army service."

Germany's army, the Bundeswehr, needs to open up to "new potential" for demographic reasons, the spokesman added. Germany has a rapidly ageing population.

In 2009, there were some 7.1 million foreigners living in Germany, according to official statistics.

Germany's popular defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg aims to slash Germany's 250,000-strong military to 180,000-185,000 under plans to reduce spending and reform the army to meet the challenges of 21st century warfare.

But now that conscription has effectively been scrapped, the army is worried is might not be able to attract enough career soldiers.

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

Other measures designed to make an army career more attractive include offering childcare facilities on certain military bases and sabbaticals, Focus cited the draft plan as saying.

© 2011 AFP

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