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Restoring Conscription in Germany: Lessons from Scandinavian Models and Key Considerations

Written by: Melanie Garcia Flores

Edited by: Rosário Frada

Supervised by: Riccardo Angelo Grassi

The Russo-Ukrainian War has heightened security concerns across Europe. In response, European countries are not only looking to enhance their capabilities to face modern types of warfare but also experiencing a resurgence of interest in traditional security measures such as military conscription (Silva, 2024). This shift is evident as nations reassess their defence capabilities, both within multinational alliances such as NATO and by bolstering their national defence.

In response to these evolving security needs, the German government has turned its attention to the recently restored Scandinavian conscription systems as a role model to embark on the process of reintroducing conscription (Deutsche Welle, 2024a). The success of these Scandinavian systems, which makes them attractive to other European countries, lies in adapting to their changing societies by presenting innovative models of conscription (Jonsson et al., 2024; Strand, 2021). Furthermore, this type of draft is based on choosing the best and most motivated people. The highly selective draft is helping these countries to move from military service as something men were forced to do to something now people select to do for their personal and professional growth (Braw, 2017).

Following the success factor of Scandinavian models in reflecting changing societies and making it attractive for professional growth, the reintroduction of conscription in Germany presents significant challenges, with wider social implications in terms of making the Bundeswehr an inclusive and attractive model for professional and personal growth for youth (Jonsson et al.; Jäckle, 2023). A reformed conscription system in Germany can be achieved by focusing not only on intermediate security needs but on how the military can provide opportunities for youth. Germany’s government should consider including the essential elements that make Scandinavian models successful, such as being highly selective or competitive in the job market. Moreover, in Germany’s particular case, an essential element to reflect its social reality is the inclusion of migrants or inhabitants with a “migrant background”. This would help to foster greater social cohesion (Winnick,2017) and counter recent events where nationalist sentiments have resurfaced. The latter is of paramount importance given Germany’s historical context and the risk of the military’s potentiality to fuel nationalist sentiments. The careful management of nationalist discourse within recruitment campaigns is essential.

The first section of this paper provides an overview of the Swedish and Norwegian conscription models highlighting the elements of success that are necessary to achieve a renovated conscription system in Germany. The second section briefly presents the context of conscription in Germany. Then the paper outlines a key consideration for restoring conscription in Germany when trying to reflect their current social reality.

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