“Conscription” bill to create register of volunteers willing to serve country

Photo: European Commission

At the end of 2004 the Czech Republic ended compulsory military service after over six and a half decades. Now, however, there are plans to introduce what is being billed as “conscription”. Under legislation just approved by the government, from 2017 all Czechs will have to report to the army when they turn 18 – and declare whether they would be willing to serve their country.

Photo: European Commission
I discussed the new bill with security expert and reserve general Andor Šándor.

“We don’t want to get back to the conscript army that we used to have until 2005. The professional army will be preserved.

“Under the current legislation, the government can call all men and women to fight in the army if the country has been threatened.

“The new legislation wants to make it so the government has the right to register people that are able and want to serve the army in normal peacetime.

“In the last 10 years we have lost the ability to know how many people are suitable for the army. We don’t know how many of them would like to serve the army.

“That’s why the law has a part saying, if you do not want to defend this country you can say that and we will charge you with other duties during a time of threat to the country, or whatever.

“These are the two reasons why the government plans to have a new conscription, in a way. To be perfectly sure how many men and women can serve – and to do it in peacetime.

“Every man over 18 will be asked to come and answer questions, and one of the questions will be whether he wants to serve or not.”

At the time that compulsory military service was ended in the Czech Republic an Active Reserve was created. Given that that exists, why do we need this new legislation?

Andor Šándor,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
“It’s very simple. Because there are only 1,200 men in the reserve army, which is not enough. If you compare it to the Territorial Army in Britain or the National Guard in the United States, it’s peanuts.

“Twelve hundred people cannot be used for the mobilisation of the current army, which totals up to 20,000.

“The current army is lacking 7,000 troops. So first of all the government should do all it can to make sure that the army has full numbers.

“Then obviously it can count on the 1,200 in the Active Reserve and others who would be registered under the new law for serving in the army.”

So if I understand it right, you think this is a good thing? You’re for the government introducing this kind of “conscription”?

“Absolutely. We should be perfectly aware of how many people we can count on if the country is threatened.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that these people will be called up to the army.

“But the government and the minister of defence in particular will know how many people he can count on in a situation where we will have to fight.”

Do you know how their training would compare to the training of real soldiers, professional soldiers?

Photo: Olga Haladová
“The law doesn’t say anything about training. It only speaks about the register. That’s why it is done during peacetime.

“There is no talk about special training – I mean from official sources. There are people who think that something like a conscript army taking, whatever, three months should be introduced.

“But the politicians refuse to introduce anything like that. So for the time being we will have just a register.”