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Military conscription phase out under fire

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09:40 CEST+02:00
Conscription into the Swedish military will be phased out in 2010 in three stages. Recruitment to the armed forces with thereafter on a voluntary basis. However, the reform has come under criticism from the Social Democrats and the Conscription Council (Värnpliktsrådet).

When the conscription system officially ends on July 1, 2010, those who have already begun will have the choice to complete their training. Those who have been drafted but have not yet begun training may also begin an equivalent programme on a voluntary basis. Mandatory enlistment will remain in effect until June 2010.

“We hope that most or all will elect to undergo the training voluntarily. It might be a positive pressure – the training must be good in order for people to want to stay. And soldiers who have chosen to be there are better motivated and raise the quality of the armed forces,” Minister of Defense Sten Tolgfors told TT news agency.

As of January 1, 2011, the current education will be replaced entirely by a three-month voluntary military training. Thereafter, soldiers will be offered a longer education related to a particular position with the goal of creating permanent and contract-based military units.

Paulina Rehbinder of the Conscription Council told TT that there was a concern that the military would not solve current problems related to conscription if the reform was implemented gradually.

But Lars Fresker, chairman of the Swedish Military Officers Union (Officersförbundet), believes that the transition to voluntary recruitment can improve the quality of training.

“I think that the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) realizes the importance of recruiting those who are currently in the system. If we don’t succeed in keeping those who have already been drafted, how will we be able to attract others? The Armed Forces must demonstrate that they are an attractive employer,” he said.

The reform has also been criticized by the Social Democrats. Anders Karlsson, chairman of the defense committee, doesn’t believe that a sufficient number will choose a career in the military.

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