Horst D. Deckert

Conscription is Coming Back to Europe, But Which EU Countries Have Re-Introduced Compulsory Military Service?

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With Germany considering to re-introduce conscription, Hungarian news outlet Divány reviewed which countries across Europe enforce mandatory military service.

While several countries are reintroducing compulsory military service, some EU politicians would welcome a uniform reintroduction across the EU. Hungarian news portal Divány has rounded up the countries that have reintroduced conscription.

Professional armies are understaffed across the continent, as more and more European countries are recognizing. In recent weeks, not only EU leaders but also the leadership of the German Christian Democratic Party has brought up the idea of reintroducing compulsory military service.

At its party congress at the beginning of May, the CDU adopted a proposal that young people should be obliged to serve for a certain period either in the army or the social sector. Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, made a similar statement recently, saying he would extend conscription to the whole continent.

Germany abolished conscription in 2011, and this is what would be gradually rebuilt. The former compulsory military service would be reintroduced as a year of community service, either in the Bundeswehr or a social institution. The initiative would also open up the possibility for women to enter the military. The German government would reintroduce conscription based on several scenarios, making it compulsory for all 18-year-olds.

The Swedish model is seen by many as an example, with all citizens in the Nordic country, both men and women, having to register and, at the same time, indicate their willingness to serve in the military. In Sweden, only a small proportion of those who are of age are actually conscripted into the army.

Germany is not the only country to revisit the idea of compulsory military service, with Denmark planning to introduce the recruitment of women in 2026.

Military service is compulsory in the following European countries: Cyprus, Greece, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Cyprus, Denmark and Sweden.

Latvia was the latest country to reintroduce the system, with all men aged between 18 and 27 having to re-enlist in 2023 for 11 months of compulsory service, just 16 years after its abolition, while military service is voluntary for women. The Baltic State’s decision was influenced by the Russian-Ukrainian war. Lithuania decided in 2015 to introduce compulsory military service, also in response to the geopolitical situation.

Finland has also just decided on compulsory military service, with periods of 165, 255, or 347 days. From the age of 18, all men can be called up, and military service is compulsory until the age of 30, after which Finns are considered reservists. The Swedish example, already mentioned, is a curiosity in Europe, where women, in addition to men, can also enlist on the basis of their declaration.

In Greece, military service is compulsory between the ages of 19 and 45, usually for 9-12 months, the length depending on the type of force, and in Cyprus it is compulsory for those over 18. In Denmark, the military service is similar to the abolished Hungarian system, with 18-year-olds having to serve for 4-12 months, which can be replaced by community service. 

Those who wish to continue their education after secondary school can postpone their compulsory military service until the age of 25. In Austria, in a 2013 referendum, more than 59 percent of the population voted in favor of conscription, with all men having to serve for eight months, which can also be replaced by community service.


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