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Conservatives resume infighting over military service

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Conservatives resume infighting over military service
Photo: DPA
13:23 CEST+02:00
After a short pause to digest the departure last week of Hamburg's mayor Ole von Buest, the fighting within the two conservative parties has gathered pace again, with a concerted attack on Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Guttenberg's plans to turn the German army from a conscription-based one to a professional organisation has hit upon massive opposition within conservative circles, with several mid-ranking politicians speaking out against, him in the Der Spiegel magazine.

“Our Bundeswehr is an army of sons and daughters, the anchoring of it in the population is a valuable asset, which is why I am in favour of keeping military service,” said Thuringia's state premier Christina Lieberknecht, from the Christian Democratic Union.

She was joined by party colleague Peter Müller, state premier of Saarland, who said there was no evidence to suggest that a professional army would be cheaper to run than the current system.

Guttenberg's plans were not only slammed by members of the CDU – Joachim Herrmann, state interior minister in Bavaria, and a member of Guttenberg's own Bavarian sister party to the CDU, the Christian Social Union, also weighed in.

“Despite the difficult budgetary situation, and the necessary restructuring of the Bundeswehr, we should hold onto military service,” he said.

The potential for grave disagreement on the subject has prompted CDU head, Chancellor Angela Merkel and CSU head Horst Seehofer to agree to decide on a joint position before the CSU party conference at the end of October.

“If military service is abolished, the social service would also have to be ended, and with that the engagement of 90,000 young men would disappear,” said Jens Kreuter, federal organiser of social service, which is an option for young German men who do not want to take part in military training.

He said this would have a serious effect on the social infrastructure in the country.

Former defence minister Volker Rühe, from the CDU, said the reduction of military service from nine months to six, had already pushed the system towards irrelevance.

Germany was robbing itself of “the possibility in a future case of a serious crisis, of being able to quickly increase its armed forces.”

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