Young Germans will have to serve a period of compulsory service in the army or civic organisations as part of a “Germany internship”, if a junior partner in government gets its way.
The proposal by the Christian Social Union (CSU) would require young adults to undertake military or civil service so that “they understand what it means to perform a meaningful duty for their country.”
The four-page policy paper, titled “Commitment to the Bundeswehr and alliances”, does not give a timeline for when the compulsory service would be introduced or how long it would last.
The CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s CDU, are confident that the proposal will win support in the CDU, after its new leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed a year-long service for both Germans and refugees last year.
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The idea of compulsory service is coming back into vogue in some European countries. Emmanuel Macron’s government said last year that it intends to make French teenagers serve a month of civilian service with the option of military training afterwards. Sweden also recently re-introduced conscription.
In Germany, conscription was abolished in 2011 by then defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a senior CSU figure who drove the policy through against the will of his own party.
The CSU deny they are now attempting to reverse that decision through the back door.
Party secretary general Florian Hahn told Sueddeustche Zeitung newspaper that, unlike the old military service, the internship would apply to both sexes and would have a stronger focus on civil engagement than on military training.
“The Germany internship would strengthen our citizenry, societal cohesion and our country,” Mr Hahn said.
But the policy paper, which also includes commitments to build a European army by 2030 and to beef up military spending, is clearly intended to win back the support of soldiers who have drifted over to the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD).
For decades the CSU and CDU could bank on votes from the ranks of the German army. But scandals over under-funding and equipment shortages have fuelled the sense that the centre-right parties no longer hold the armed forces in the esteem they once did.
Disillusioned soldiers have instead turned to the AfD, who reportedly count over 2,000 service men among their 35,000 members.