Conscription to end as German armed forces cut

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The Independent Online

In its biggest military reform in more than 50 years, Germany plans to end conscription next summer and trim its forces down from 250,000 troops to a volunteer service of 185,000.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet agreed on the changes yesterday – the most significant since the German army, the Bundeswehr, was founded in 1955, after the country was completely disarmed following the end of the Second World War.

"The Cabinet made a very far-reaching, even historical decision regarding the suspension of conscription," Defence Minister Karl zu Guttenberg told reporters in Berlin.

The plan envisions ending national conscription in July and replacing it with a volunteer term of service. In the case of a national emergency, an automatic reactivation of conscription would take place.

Both Germany's Lower House and Upper House of Parliament still need to vote on the new rules, but it is widely expected to pass. No date has yet been set for the vote.

Germany's military was set up after the Second World War to deal with the European land battles that were seen as a very real possibility during the Cold War. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the country has been becoming increasingly active in peacekeeping and other missions abroad.

Mr Guttenberg has been pressing for the changes, noting that Germany's military can only support foreign deployments of around 7,000.