Emergency Planning

Reviving Military Service?

small 2 Angela Merkel chancellor soldier weapon defense military source KAY NIETFELD AFP Getty Images 64944601
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is leading a broad review of Germany's military and civil defense.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has not updated its civil defense strategy in two decades, making it vulnerable in an age of domestic terrorism and conflicts at the edges of the European Union.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The last time Germany modernized its so-called “Civil Defense Concept” was in 1995.
    • Germany scrapped military conscription in 2011 and switched to a professional army.
    • The new strategy stipulates how Germany can cope with chemical attacks, cyber assaults and the breakdown of essential supply networks, such as water and electricity.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière was doing his best to focus on the matter at hand – the presentation of a new civil defense plan. But the first question at his press conference Wednesday was on the possible reintroduction of military conscription.

He was quick to clear the air after leaked excerpts of the so-called “Civil Defense Concept,” a document that was last updated in 1995 and lays out how the country should defend itself and organize society in emergencies. The leaks had suggested military service could be reinstated, just five years after it was suspended.

“A reintroduction of conscription, and everything I’ve read about this topic, is not at all under discussion,” Mr. de Maizière told reporters.

The interior minister went on to point out that conscription is only ever mentioned a couple of times in passing in the 76-page document. For example, the document says, in a time of crisis, the delivering of some letters – such as any informing people they were drafted – would take priority over others.

Whether the plans are real or not, the mere mention of reviving conscription has put the country on edge ever since excerpts of the document leaked on Tuesday, stirring a heated debate in a country still burdened by its Nazi past.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.