The proposal – controversial because to critics it evokes a “mercenary army” rather than a force of loyal citizen-soldiers — is “one option” being looked at, General Eberhard Zorn told the Funke newspaper group.
As Germany's armed forces and other employers battle a shortage of skilled professionals on the labour market, the military “needs to look at all possibilities,” Zorn said in reported comments that the Bundeswehr, the German army, confirmed to AFP.
Germany has already sounded out the idea within the bloc but received a mixed response, with especially eastern European members fearing Germany will poach their own military specialists with higher pay.
“Of course we have to be careful that we aren't viewed as competitors by our European partners,” said Zorn.
One option would be to only recruit from EU states that themselves look for new recruits abroad, and only on the basis of bilateral agreements, said the report.
Germany's parliamentary defence commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, said that recruiting citizens with migrant backgrounds or dual nationality was already “kind of normal,” applying to some 13 percent of men and women in uniform.
Germany abolished military conscription for adult males in 2011 and has in recent years sometimes struggled to find enough suitable recruits, leading it to launch marketing campaigns in traditional and social media.
The troop strength has since risen to 182,000 for the end of this year – 6,500 more than at its low two years ago — with a target of 203,000 for 2025, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
The possible new recruitment drive would target the estimated 530,000 citizens from other EU countries aged 18 to 30 who already live in Germany.
To enlist in the German armed forces, they would have to be German speakers, present a police certificate of good conduct, and pledge a commitment to the German state, said the report.