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German Defense Ministry to close 31 military bases

The German Defense Ministry has presented plans to drastically reduce the size of its military bases, and in several cases close them altogether. Some are calling for financial aid to ease the transition.

Row of soldiers

The government plans to cut some 90,000 military jobs

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Wednesday announced the closure of 31 military bases and the drastic reduction of dozens of others as part of his plans to shrink the armed forces by nearly one fifth.

A large number of the closures are to take place by 2015, while others are to be finished by 2017 or later. The German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, currently has 381 bases across the country.

Hardest hit by the cuts were the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Bavaria and Saarland. Schleswig-Holstein is to have eight complete closures - more than any other state - while Bavaria is to lose the largest number of soldiers, nearly 20,000. Proportionately, Saarland is affected the greatest, with its military personnel being cut by nearly a half.

Calls for compensation

Thomas de Maiziere

De Maiziere said the main criterion for the closures was base functionality

There were few if any protests from the states, but several state premiers and soldiers' advocacy groups called for financial aid to the regions hardest-hit by the reductions.

"For decades, the cities and communities affected by the current base closures were good guests for the Bundeswehr," Gerd Landsberg, head of the Alliance of German Cities and Municipalities, told the daily Passauer Neue Presse.

He said the federal and state governments must make sure that the closures do not destroy communities in which the Bundeswehr is the main employer.

De Maiziere said the central criterion for deciding which bases would be cut was the functionality of the base for the troops, and that only in individual cases did the potential effect on a region prevent a base from being closed.

The Defense Ministry's broader plans to reduce the size of the military will eliminate about 90,000 positions for long- and short-term soldiers, conscripts and civilian contractors. Conscription was abolished altogether in March.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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