Germany could soon be screening 18-year-olds to boost military recruits

Germany wants to add over 20,000 new troops by 2030

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, talks to Defense Minister Boris Pistorius prior to the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The war in Ukraine has Europe on edge, and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is proposing a new model of military service. He wants compulsory screening of potential recruits to strengthen the army in a context of heightened risk.

Under the draft, presented by Boris Pistorius to the defense committee of the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament, young people who have reached the age of 18 will be required to answer a questionnaire on their willingness and ability to serve in the army. Young women will also receive it, but without the obligation to complete it, sources said.

The idea of this screening is both to increase the possible interest of young people and, for the army, to select the most suitable or motivated ones for an interview. According to AFP information, the decision whether or not to perform military service will remain voluntary.

The model will involve basic training for six months, with the option of extending it to 17 months. The minister will present the new formula to the public on Wednesday afternoon on June 12. Young people who have completed their military service will join the reserves.

This plan is “exclusively about the ability to accelerate and strengthen the reserves for global defense,” said one participant at the parliamentary meeting. The long-term goal is to bring the Bundeswehr’s strength to 460,000 soldiers: about 200,000 permanently active in the army, the rest in reserve.

Despite a recruitment drive, the number of active military personnel in Germany fell to 181,500 last year. Boris Pistorius, now Germany’s most popular political figure, has for months been insisting on the need to make the army “war worthy” in order to defend the country and fulfill its role in NATO

After cutting its funding at the end of the Cold War, Germany has been investing heavily for two years to bring it back up to par, but the minister is calling for more resources. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, along with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Green majority allies in the governing coalition, are advocating for an all-volunteer army.

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