German defence ministers are seeking experts from EU countries, to compensate for the shortfall of workers in medical and IT sectors in the army.
This comes after years of under-investment and ceasing conscription in 2011 after fifty-five years.
Defence Chief Eberhard Zorn claimed the German army (Bundeswehr) sorely lacked highly skilled workers, such as doctors and IT specialists.
Zorn told German publication Funke that EU citizens in uniform were to be considered, but strictly in the aforementioned specialist fields.
Deutsche Welle confirmed that 21,000 officers’ posts were unfilled. Compounding this, according to Die Zeit only a third of newly manufactured tanks, jets and helicopters are combat-ready.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said 182,000 uniformed officers were in force in the Bundeswehr. She expects this number to rise to 203,000 within 7 years, responding to criticisms from certain NATO member states of low defence spending.
Currently, the Bundeswehr does not allow foreign nationals to serve in uniform, only Germans with duel citizenship. However, there is an estimated 900 foreign citizens already in civilian roles.
This led German ombudsman, Hans-Peter Bartels, to say recruiting EU foreigners is a “normality” in the Bundeswehr.
Some EU states however have expressed reservations concerning the plans, especially in Eastern Europe.
The UK announced similar plans to recruit overseas personnel into its military in November, after a National Audit Office report stated the institution lacked 8,200 soldiers, sailors and air personnel, the worst shortage since 2010. The plans allow Commonwealth citizens to be considered for roles, even if they have not lived in the UK.
The German military sorely requires more personnel; however, motivations of politicians and the public often fail to meet at the crossroads.
Why is the German military so underfunded?
Despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning that Germany can ‘no longer rely’ on traditional allies like the United States of America, stressing the need for Germany to fight in the name of Europe, many Germans are sceptical to tread this path.
This is because the shadow of history still looms large, as Germans have lost all trust in the army following Second World War atrocities against both soldiers and civilians.
West Germany’s resulting military force, the Bundeswehr (later adopted in reunified Germany), was designed purely in a defensive capacity, as enshrined into the German Basic Law.
Despite this, reunited Germany has involved itself in multiple United Nations missions in Kosovo, former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
It is clear, being Europe’s leading economy and the globe’s 4th largest, that Germany possesses the monetary means to enforce its foreign policy goals through its military. However, public opinion is strongly anti-militaristic and sceptical even towards the prospects of a common European army.