Government Abandons Plans for Reintroduction of Military Service

By 20 June 2017

Despite announcements earlier this year, compulsory military conscription will not be reinstituted.

After more than two years of political attempts to revitalise mandatory military service, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević announced over the weekend that the government had abandoned the idea. Although some were surprised by his statement, since Krstičević was the one who strongly advocated for the idea just a few months ago and was saying that it was almost certain to be implemented, earlier this month the decision was made to abandon the whole project, reports Novi List on June 20, 2017.

Minister Krstičević received a detailed analysis of how much it would cost to reinstitute military service, and the amount was so high that it was not financially feasible. The Minister had initially hoped that the return of mandatory military service would not be excessively financially demanding for the defence budget. According to some media reports, short military service of just several weeks would cost about 300 to 400 million kunas a year. In the end, the detailed analysis has shown that the return of military service would take away a major part of the defence budget and would require significant initial investment due to the overhaul of the military infrastructure.

The initial idea for the reintroduction of compulsory military service was launched by the then newly-elected President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović back in in 2015. In public statements, she said that the reinstatement of military service was her political idea, but that the moment was not right at the time. Interestingly, as a Foreign Affairs Minister a decade earlier, she supported the abolition of military service proposed and adopted by the then government led by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

In 2016, the idea of the reintroduction of compulsory military service was discussed once again, now with additional details that it would last between one and three months. “That would not be a bad solution, especially for students and those who finish high school and cannot find a job in that period. My idea was not that this military conscription would be something you would have to do for the state, but it would rather be more of a modern concept and you would get certain financial rewards for it,” said the President at the time. Due to the government crisis last year, the idea was not implemented.

At the beginning of this year, the idea was discussed again, and some media portals even reported that it was sure to be implemented. But, the decision was finally made to abandon the plans for reasons which were clear from the very beginning – it would be too expensive, and all those who would not want to serve would have the option of registering as conscientious objectors anyway.

Military service was compulsory until 2007 when it was replaced with voluntary service, which is done by several hundred men and women a year. Also, Croatia has a professional military with about 16,000 soldiers.

The major political consequence of this latest attempt to reintroduce military conscription was the revelation that the current Prime Minister Andrej Plenković had never served in the army because he was diagnosed with mild anaemia, something that has been recycled as a joke on his behalf ever since.