German Military Could Recruit EU Residents To Meet NATO Commitments
French President Emmanuel Macron’s vision for a pan-European army might finally become a reality…in Germany.
According to the BBC, seven years after Germany abandoned conscription, the military of Europe’s largest economy is struggling to fill senior roles, and might need to start hiring non-German soldiers to occupy specialized positions in its armed forces like doctors and IT specialists, said Army general inspector Eberhard Zorn, who noted that Germany is being forced to “look in all directions” as it struggles to fulfill a promise to President Trump to raise its defense spending closer to the NATO-mandated target of 2% of GDP.
The country’s military has been beset by under-investment for years and is presently struggling to expand its armed fighting force by 21,000 people by 2025 and increase its defense budget from 1.2% to to 1.5% of its gross domestic product by 2024. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview on Thursday that Germany now has 182,000 uniformed soldiers, an increase of 6,500 in two years. Within seven years, that number should reach 203,000. Of these, 12% of army recruits are women, and one in three applicants to officer positions are women.
Zorn was careful to point out that non-Germans would only be considered for “specialist” positions.
Gen Zorn told the Funke newspaper group that “of course the Bundeswehr needs personnel” and the army had to “push hard for a suitable new generation”, although EU citizens in uniform were “an option” to be examined only in specialist fields.
The media group said the government had already consulted EU partners and that most had reacted cautiously, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Of course, there’s one slight complication that could create problems for the German military: After World War II, Germany passed a law mandating that soldiers in the German army must be Germans. Suggestions that an exception might be made have been met with scepticism, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Though Hans-Peter Bartels, the member of Parliament responsible with overseeing the German armed services, noted that recruiting EU citizens was already a “kind of normality” as many members of the German army are immigrants or hold dual EU citizenship. Because of these exceptions, more than 900 foreign citizens are already employed by the German military in civilian roles.
And Germany isn’t the only European power hoping to add more non-citizens to the ranks of its military. Last month, the UK said more foreign nationals would be able to join its armed forces to meet a shortfall of 8,200 soldiers, sailors and “air personnel.”
Germany is hoping to have roughly 70% of its military ready for combat at any given time due to the perceived threat from Russia in the Baltics, which recently provoked the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War. Meanwhile, some academics see a 70% chance of a “hot war” erupting between NATO and Russia.