Which countries have conscription

CDU politicians are discussing whether to reintroduce compulsory military service, which was abolished in 2011, or at least to revive it in the form of general compulsory service. On the one hand, the shortage of personnel in the Bundeswehr is to be counteracted; on the other hand, vacancies in health care and nursing can be filled at least temporarily.

The trend in recent years actually went against conscription in Europe. There are currently significantly more professional armies than armies, some of which are made up of conscripts. At the turn of the millennium, 28 European countries, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, had compulsory military service.

After the Czech Republic was the first European country to turn away from compulsory military service in 2004, a large number of other European nations gradually followed suit. This also included Lithuania (abolished in 2008) and Sweden (2010), although they reversed this in 2015 and 2018.

Today ten states in Europe are sticking to conscription. An overview:


According to Article 81 of the Danish Basic Law, every male citizen is required to do military service. The duration of compulsory military service has been flexible since 2017: If the personnel requirements of the "Forsvaret" are adequately covered by volunteers, the conscripts only have to serve the weapon for four months, otherwise up to twelve months.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia gained its independence in 1991 and in the same year re-founded "Eesti Kaitseväg". General conscription was introduced in 1992 and has been eight months since then. There have been no recent debates about the abolition of compulsory military service - which could also be due to the fact that there are constant tensions with Russia.


Compulsory service in the "Puolustusvoimat" lasts between six and twelve months, depending on the level of training. This can be refused and replaced with a twelve-month alternative service, but according to the Ministry of Defense, most Finns are doing their job. Since 1995, women have also had the opportunity to do voluntary military service.


Men between 18 and 45 years of age are required to do military service in Greece for nine months. More recently, the Ministry of Defense has examined an extension of compulsory military service to 12 months. Abolition is probably not an option given the geographical location on the border of Europe. The Greek government recently relocated 7,000 soldiers to the border with Turkey.


The development of "Lietuvos kariuomenė" was very similar to that of Estonia: general conscription was introduced in 1992, after the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from the country in 1993, the army organized itself according to the western model. In 2008, conscription was abolished and reintroduced in 2015 in the face of the Ukraine crisis. The mandatory period of service is currently nine months.


In Central Europe, Austria is, together with Switzerland, the only country that still adheres to compulsory military service. In a referendum in 2013, around 60 percent of Austrians voted in favor of maintaining conscription and so-called civil service. Even before the survey, the government had announced that it would adhere to the legally non-binding referendum in its decision. Military service in Austria now lasts six months. A community service of nine months or a one-year service abroad is permitted as a substitute. According to experts, community service in particular is necessary in order to be able to fill sufficient positions in care and ambulance transport.


Next to Sweden, Nowegen is the only European country in which women also have twelve months of compulsory military service. With this decision, Norway also secures the troop strength of its military, there is no alternative service in Norway. Every year, significantly more young adults are tested for their suitability than are ultimately drafted.


Sweden returned to conscription in 2018. In order not to violate the principles of equality, military service was also extended to women. In 2010, the previous conservative government abolished the professional army. As a result, an average of only 2500 volunteers registered for the professional army each year. In order to keep the troop strength at 20,000 soldiers, 4,000 volunteers would have been necessary per year. Last year, government and opposition parties therefore decided to reintroduce compulsory military service.


Switzerland has a model that is atypical for European conditions. After basic training - in Switzerland called a recruiting school - of 18 or 21 weeks, men between 18 and 32 years of age are repeatedly asked to do exercises alongside their job. Since 1992 conscientious objectors have been able to do community service. Abolition was also debated several times in Switzerland; in a popular initiative in 2013, the majority voted against repeal.


In Cyprus, conscription was reduced from 24 months to 12 months in 2016. The area of ​​operations of the National Guard is limited to the part of the island that is mostly inhabited by Greek-speaking Cypriots.