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Germany

Germany to Continue Draft

The country's highest constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that times had not changed enough as to make the draft an "unusual intrusion" on a young man's life.

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Not a purely professional army

In a victory of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his defense minister, Germany’s highest court ruled that the draft was constitutionally sound and didn’t violate the rights of young men.

In its decision, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe rejected the recommendation of a lower court in Potsdam that Germany do away with the draft. The lower court was ruling on the case of Volker Wiedersberg, a conscientious objector to the draft in the former East Germany who was forced to serve following reunification.

The Potsdam court ruled that conscription was an "unusual intrusion" on a person’s constitutional rights given the "fundamentally altered political security situation," the fall of the Soviet Union created in Germany. The last Russian troops pulled out in 1994.

In Wednesday’s decision, the Karlsruhe court ruled that the climate in which conscription was instituted hadn’t changed so drastically that the country’s constitution had to be changed. In addition, the Potsdam court didn’t prove there was enough evidence in Wiedersberg's case to throw all of conscription into doubt.

Getting rid of conscription is more a political question than anything else, the constitutional court said in its decision.

A political question

Rudolf Scharping

Rudolf Scharping

For the time being, the politicians leading Germany's government want it to stay. Defense Minister Rudolph Scharping (photo) said the draft brings many young men into Germany's professional army by providing the first introduction to military life.

He praised Thursday's ruling, calling it a victory for the German model of "a citizen in uniform."

But opposition politicians in the Free Democratic Party as well as politicians in Schröder's junior coalition partner, the Green Party, promised to keep the topic in the political debate. Those in the opposition consider the draft relic of an era where Germany faced threats from its neighbors.

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