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'End peacetime conscription': government commission

TT/The Local · 29 Oct 2008, 09:08

Published: 29 Oct 2008 09:08 GMT+01:00

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The commission’s investigation won’t be completed until the end of the year, but it plans to issue an interim report on Wednesday in order to help the government formulate its upcoming defence budget.

The Social Democrats, the Left Party, and the Centre Party have been the biggest supporters of compulsory military service.

But according to the TT news agency, the investigative commission is primarily interested in exploring a system which puts a halt to conscription during peacetime.

Conscription wouldn’t be scrapped altogether, however.

Rather, it would be made dormant until a threatening situation arose and the government could then approach the Riksdag for permission to quickly re-activate the programme.

However, the Social Democrats have criticized the commission’s work in a special statement added to the interim report, contending that the group only considered alternatives which involved ditching conscription.

Despite their frustration, however, the Social Democrats say they have no plans to leave the commission.

“We still want to have conscription,” said Social Democrat Anders Karlsson, chair of the Riksdag Committee on Defence.

The most challenging issue, which the commission plans to investigate further, is how the military should conduct recruitment.

Several parties want to end mandatory enlistment. The Armed Forces, however, want to continue with enlistment in addition to voluntary recruiting.

Such an arrangement presents some legal problems, however, in that a large number of people would be required to enlist when only a smaller subset will eventually be recruited.

The Left Party nevertheless wants to keep some form of mandatory enlistment.

“We don’t want recruiting to happen in the same way as it does for the police, which is based on interested candidates applying to the police academy,” said Gunilla Wahlén, the Left Party’s representative in the Riksdag defence committee.

The conscription commission is examining several less stringent forms of enlistment in place in other countries.

Today all young Swedish men must complete a questionnaire which appears in their mailboxes when they turn 17 in order to determine their qualifications for military service.

Those who are later called to perform military service are required to do so.

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For women, responding to the questionnaire is optional, and even if they are found fit, women are not required to carry out military service.

The commission plans to continue looking into developing a completely gender-neutral system.

Of those who enlist today, approximately 5,000 eventually go through with military service.

At the same time as there are more candidates interested in military service than there are available spaces, some continue to be sent to prison for refusing to come when called.

General conscription is uncommon among countries in the European Union, but continues to exist in neighbouring Finland.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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