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Serbia reinstates mandatory military service, allegedly not preparing for war

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Miloš Vučević, the acting defense minister of the Serbian government and president of the Serbian Progressive Party, has announced the reinstatement of mandatory military service. Speaking on the Happy television, considered a mouthpiece for the Belgrade government, Vučević stated that Serbia needs new recruits but denied any preparation for war. Vučević had previously sent his own son for voluntary military training, a matter reported by BALK at the time. 

According to the Serbian defense minister, Serbia aims to replenish the reserve forces through this move, while emphasizing the country’s commitment to maintaining peace as its top priority. Vučević also mentioned that other European countries, including NATO member states, are activating conscription, highlighting Germany’s preparations in this context. While the possibility of reinstating mandatory military service has long been a topic in Serbia, the timing of the announcement may serve to divert attention from the likely electoral fraud.

How long should the military service be?

Vučević announced on the nationally broadcast Happy television that the Serbian Armed Forces’ General Staff and the Ministry of Defense will officially propose to the President of the Republic, who also serves as the supreme commander of the armed forces, as well as to the new government and parliament (which has not yet been formed) to revoke the decision on the suspension of mandatory military service and reactivate, i.e., activate the legal obligation related to mandatory military service.

As Vučević is a close associate of the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, one might view the initiative for restoring military service as originating from the president himself. Considering Vučić’s prior verbal support for this move, the reinstatement could be seen as predetermined, with potential minor disputes arising only around the details that do not affect the core issue.

Hence, the primary question is not whether there should be military service or not, but rather the duration for which young, eligible individuals should be called up.

Vučević suggested that the General Staff and the ministry recommend a service period not exceeding four months. However, the decision on the duration will be made by relevant authorities, the Ministry of Human Resources, broader professional opinion, and the entire country.

The initiative to (re)activate the decision on mandatory conscription comes after a review of the country’s security situation. The decision to suspend mandatory military service was made thirteen years ago in 2011, and the need to increase the number of reserves has arisen since then.

Vučević pointed out that in the mentioned year, they did not eliminate mandatory military service but only “temporarily suspended it,” allowing the Serbian state and parliament to reactivate it at any time.

According to the acting defense minister, there is a need to replenish the reserve forces after thirteen years of suspension of conscription, resulting in the absence of thirteen (reserve) generations from the army.

We need newcomers, new conscripts, and a new team ready to defend the country from a defense and security perspective

– said Vučević. He clarified that this doesn’t imply preparation for conflicts or war, as Serbia is committed to preserving peace, considering it the most crucial value.

It has been discussed before

The topic is not new; it has been in the air for years that Serbia might reinstate conscription. This idea emerged from the belief that if conscription is not made mandatory, the country will be without an army by 2025.

Moreover, military service is tied to tradition. According to public opinion polls, 70% of people in Serbia support the reinstatement of conscription, not just for security reasons but also to allow the military to “educate” the youth.

In one of our earlier articles, we reported that according to the Serbian Ministry of Defense’s 2016 strategy, the reintroduction of conscription would cost 70 billion dinars, approximately 210 billion forints, in the first year. Recently, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić mentioned an annual “maintenance cost” of around 8 billion dinars (approximately 24 billion forints).

Introducing conscription comes with a hefty price tag, exceeding the entire annual budget of the Ministry of Defense. This means that funding for the reinstatement of mandatory military service will need to come from alternative sources.

Nebojša Stefanović, a former defense minister who has since been sidelined from public life, stated in early 2021 to Belgrade’s Politika that a decision regarding conscription might be reached by September or October of that year, which has only settled by now.

Stefanović cited the need to fill the reserve forces, as ten generations had not undergone basic training, making them ineligible for any assigned tasks due to their lack of military knowledge.

In May 2022, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, in the wake of the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, considered the restoration of conscription. At that time, he expressed that every man could contribute 90 days to his country.

Vučić explained his support for mandatory military service by stating that it teaches Serbian men about the state, the military, patriotism, work ethic, commitment, and discipline.

A BALK Hírlevele


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