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Soldiers training
Berlin fears there may be a shortfall in recruit numbersImage: AP

Help from outside

February 14, 2011

Germany's Defense Ministry is thinking about allowing foreigners who live in the country to join the armed forces. The government hopes to avoid a shortage of recruits as conscription effectively comes to an end.


Germany's defence ministry is considering allowing foreign nationals to join the Bundeswehr, after the government effectively put an end to conscription.

"Existing regulations are to be to broadened so that residents of Germany can be recruited into the armed services, if they are suitable, even if they are not German nationals," according to a Defense Ministry document quoted by the weekly newsmagazine Focus.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
Guttenberg is eager to modernize the militaryImage: AP

The proposal is part of a 37-page paper, which includes proposals aimed at increasing the attractiveness of the German military to potential recruits.

Official statistics show that in 2009, there were 7.1 million foreigners living in Germany. Non-Germans are normally not eligible to serve in the Bundeswehr although there are already some exceptions.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has announced plans to cut Germany's 250,000-strong military to 185,000 under in an effort to reduce spending and modernize.

Reliance on short-term volunteers

From March, the military draft for young German men effectively comes to an end, with short-term military service becoming the preserve of those who volunteer to serve. The government expects 15,000 of its total number of troops to fall into this category in future.

Meanwhile, the armed forces are worried that they may be unable to attract enough career soldiers to make up the remaining 170,000 personnel needed and are keen to tap into new potential.

A further aim to attract recruits is to make the services more family friendly, with increased child-care services.

In addition, sabbatical programs for service personnel as well as internships and university placements are planned. It would also be easier for soldiers moving to the private sector to take pension entitlements with them.

According to Guttenberg, the reforms will make the armed forces more efficient and better able to serve in overseas missions.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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