Government plans to scrap conscription

Government plans to scrap conscription
Photo: Andreas Karlsson - Försvarets Bildbyrå
The government is hatching plans to replace Sweden's 200-year-old conscription army with a professional force, news magazine Fokus reports.

Next week the government is expected to launch an inquiry into “changing National Service Duty”. The move is being interpreted as a first step in the direction of a professional army.

In recent years, the number of young people enlisting in the army has far exceeded demand. According to Fokus, less than one percent of young women and just a tenth of all men who sign up are eventually called upon to perform military service.

With the armed forces’ dwindling resources increasingly being channeled into highly specialized foreign missions, military service has become all but voluntary, Fokus reports.

Under current legislation, all Swedish citizens are required to report for national service duty in the event of war. But with six of the seven parliamentary parties open to change, this may soon be a thing of the past.

Defence Minister Mikael Odenberg was reluctant to answer the magazine’s questions but has now conceded that there are changes afoot.

“Today’s legislation is not well-adapted to reality. A lot of young people who want to do military service don’t get the chance. At the same time we are putting 40 people in jail each year for refusing to sign up,” he told news agency TT.

Sources within the Moderate Party and the Ministry of Defence have also confirmed that plans to scrap conscription will feature in the autumn budget.

“Since so few people are called up we have every reason to examine military service,” Centre Party defence spokesman Staffan Danielsson told Fokus.

Once the main defenders of military service, the Social Democrats have now completed a full reversal on the issue.

“If we can reach our goals without laws requiring compulsory service then let’s do it,” deputy party secretary Håkan Juholt told Fokus.

Last week Green Party spokesman Peter Eriksson made the case for an army consisting of 6,000 professional soldiers and 3,000 officers.

Only Left Party leader Lars Ohly has consistently spoken out in favour of retaining military service.

Ohly does however enjoy the support of Håkan Syrén, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, who Fokus says is likely to talk up the importance of strength in numbers should a threat arise on Sweden’s borders.

But Syrén’s voice is almost certain to be drowned out in the political clamour for a new military order, according to the magazine.