An End to Conscription in Germany

Germany’s Defense Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, announced on Monday that conscription for the country’s armed forces will come to an end in the summer of 2011. The all-volunteer Bundeswehr will have approximately 185,000 persons, down from the current 240,000. That is roughly in line with the current number of volunteers serving.

I wonder whether anyone will say that the change has come too soon, or that preparations have been rushed. That’s because I flagged it as on its way, oh, more than six and a half years ago. Embarrassingly enough, I used the phrase “sooner rather than later” in the previous post, and this qualifies as “sooner” only by the very generous standard usually reserved for EU institutions. Nevertheless, it is a welcome and necessary change, for all the reasons I outlined in January 2004.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Germany, Political issues by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

2 thoughts on “An End to Conscription in Germany

  1. The timing is probably also significant for Guttenberg’s political ambitions (or at least for the hype machine that seems to currently surround him in the media). In a relatively pacifist country like Germany, defence minister doesn’t sound like much of a springboard to power, but a reform as big as this obviously draws attention to whoever presides over it.

    Expect to see stories focusing on the chief losers in this: the organisations that currently rely on Zivis and would struggle to attract true volunteers.

  2. Yes, in my background reading I came across a Reuters story about a very nice young man who did meals-on-wheels for the Johanniters, complete with quotes from a very nice old lady who didn’t know what she would do without her very nice young man. At the end of the article, the author noted that he was the only Zivi presently working out of that office (there used to be more) and would likely be the last. That suggests to me that the Johanniters and others who relied on Zivis have in fact used the seven intervening years to figure out how to get on without them. Maybe not all of the organizations have, but my sneaking suspicion is that the Reuters reporter went looking for the kind of story you expect and didn’t find it.

    As far as Chancellor zu Guttenberg goes, my take is that he is Bavarian and will not be elected if nominated. But yes on the hype.

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