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Conservatives approve end to conscription

The Local · 27 Sep 2010, 14:14

Published: 27 Sep 2010 14:14 GMT+02:00

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Senior members of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), backed the move at a meeting on Sunday, CDU secretary general Hermann Gröhe announced Monday morning.

In doing so, they have accepted Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s argument that an end to compulsory military service is an essential part of overhauling the creaking military.

However, the overall size of the armed forces will not drop as sharply as Guttenberg had previously suggested.

Guttenberg’s reforms aim to slash spending while making the armed forces leaner and better able to tackle the sorts of expeditionary missions expected in the future, such as counter-terrorism and peace-keeping.

Some details were still to be decided, including the actual size of the Bundeswehr, Gröhe told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. Guttenberg has previously flagged a reduction in personnel from the present 250,000 to as few as 163,500.

Government sources told newsagency DAPD that overall troop numbers would lie “clearly” above Guttenberg’s lower limit, with a figure of 180,000 being discussed. Many in the CDU and particularly in their sister party the CSU – to which Guttenberg himself belongs – believed more soldiers were needed.

Indeed, the CSU has been the main opponent to Guttenberg's push for reforms, saying it is an important duty that keeps civil society in touch with the military.

The decisions still need to be approved by the CSU’s party conference at the end of October and the CDU’s conference in mid-November.

Christian Schmidt, parliamentary defence expert for the CDU and CSU, described the 163,500 personnel previously floated as “below the limit” of what the Bundeswehr needed to carry out its role.

Strictly speaking, conscription is being suspended rather than abolished, he said, explaining that provisions for military service would remain in the constitution.

Schmidt also downplayed concerns about mass closures of military bases – addressing a concern that many smaller bases will disappear, harming local communities that rely on them economically.

“We don’t want to create mega-bases,” he told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. “The Bundeswehr will remain in the community.”

Story continues below…

That was also important for attracting new recruits, he said.

The pro-business Free Democrats, the junior members of the centre-right coalition, welcomed the decision by the conservative leaders.

As part of the government’s drastic budget cuts to balance the budget in the wake of bailout and stimulus packages, Guttenberg has to slash €8 billion from his ministry’s budget by 2014. He is using the cuts as an opportunity to modernise the military to make it better suited as an expeditionary force for foreign missions, rather than one primarily geared for territorial defence, which is widely seen as a Cold War-era hangover.

DAPD/The Local/dw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:56 September 27, 2010 by ErickDDiaz
As a U.S. soldier I can't help to admire and respect the Bundeswehr. As one American leader said in 1982' Trust but Verify" (R.R) I think everyone has verified.
20:55 September 27, 2010 by wenddiver
You might want to invest a little of that saved money in a Public Relations Department, they could tell you things like equiping the Honor Guard with KAR 98 Mausers from the NAZI era is a bad idea. What would foreign leaders of countries terrorized by the NAZIS think? You might want to use weapons made during the Bundesrepublic, or the current service rifle used in Afganistan..
21:00 September 27, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

Yes, heaven forbid we equip our honor guard with a rifle that's been issued since 1898 and has fought in innumerable foreign wars as well. Obviously, the fact that it was also the service rifle during WW2 taints it forever and always.

Gimme a break. By that logic, we shouldn't use the iron cross as the military emblem, either.
01:23 September 28, 2010 by JohnPaul44
It is the purpose of an honor guard to represent the traditions of military service, not to engage in a firefight. The old rifle has a long and honorable history. Its use during the Nazi era did not destroy the honorable history of the German military, the great majority of whom fought and died honorably for their country, wrong though it might have been.

Incidentally, it is not the "iron cross" which is the symbol of the German military, it is the Maltese cross, a far older symbol adopted by the German military in 1871. It represents the "knightly virtues."
01:29 September 28, 2010 by BrianS
The K-98 rifle was used by the Israeli army in the beginning.The Germans are not the only ones to use Older wooden stock rifles for honor guard or special parades.Easier to drill with.
04:42 September 28, 2010 by Major B
Good to hear the 165,000 number is considered "too low" by the governing coalition, according to this article. Hopefully, the 180,000 number will be increased to something more credible, giving the the people a more credible force rather than an expensive "token" force.

Is Herr Guttenberg indeed a "smart and crafty" politician as well, in addition to his obvious "ambitiousness"? He can claim credit as a visionary, not afraid to make the bold and hard decisions, when needed. Is the chancellery a future possibility for him? He and his spouses' political issues look good at home and internationally, as they are also an attractive couple that would immediately claim top membership in "Star couples of the world category". Certainly as attractive "head of state" couples. Even better for Germany than "Iron Chancellor" Merkel. Think about it.
07:36 September 28, 2010 by auniquecorn
Guttenberg has to slash €8 billion from his ministry¦#39;s budget by 2014. He is using the cuts as an opportunity to modernise the military.

This just does´nt sound right.

Slash 8 Billion to Modernise?
09:22 September 28, 2010 by Alofat
@JohnPaul44 It is not the Maltese cross, it is called Cross pattée. Two different designs.
10:23 September 28, 2010 by JohnPaul44
Thanks, Alofat. I just now looked it up on Wikipedia and I agree. It is the slight convexity of the arms which makes the difference. What about the version with simple straight-sided rectangular arms?
22:49 September 28, 2010 by toemag
Am I the only one to have noticed that there is no mention of the Zivildienstleistenden (Conscientious objectors who normally swell the ranks of the old peoples homes and hospitals as menial tasks personal). Guess they will now be looking for some poor harz(less)4 goons to go and do that job on a €1 basis. It will be interesting to see just how much of the €8 billion is actually saved, or spent elsewhere.
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