Compulsory military service in Europe: Trends


The return of compulsory military service in several European countries raises questions about the preparedness of young people for future challenges and the importance of cybersecurity and logistics

In an unexpected and controversial move, the British Conservatives Party has announced its intention to reinstate compulsory military service for a period of 12 months if it wins the upcoming elections. This measure aims not only to strengthen national spirit but also to train young people in critical areas such as cybersecurity and logistics. The plan, although ambitious, faces a significant challenge: funding. The cost of the program is projected to reach £2.5 billion. Despite the controversy surrounding this proposal, its supporters argue that it could provide young people with valuable skills and a renewed sense of national pride.

According to Óscar Ruiz, an analyst specializing in Geopolitics and Defense at ACK3: “Europe is aware that the ‘Pax Americana’ as we knew it is over, and that Europeans themselves will have to largely look after their own security. This inevitably includes the training of more soldiers, whether they are recruited voluntarily or forcibly.”

In contrast, Spain perceives a considerably lower threat compared to other European countries. Currently, the reintroduction of compulsory military service is not being considered. However, the situation on the continent suggests that this perception could change. The trend towards greater independence in defense and the increase in national capabilities could lead to a reflection on our own approach to national security. The defense discussion in Spain has traditionally focused on collaboration with European allies and participation in international missions. Nevertheless, the possibility that other European countries reintroduce compulsory military service could prompt Spain to reassess its stance.


Countries with compulsory military recruitment

  • Norway: Implements a system of compulsory military service for both men and women. The service lasts 12 months and all young people must register, although only a portion is selected to serve.
  • Sweden: Reintroduced compulsory military service in 2017. It affects men and women over 18 years old, with a service duration of 11 months.
  • Finland: All men must complete military service, which lasts between 165 and 347 days, depending on the training. Women can serve voluntarily.
  • Denmark: Military service is compulsory for men for a period of 4 to 12 months, depending on the branch of service. Women can join voluntarily.
  • Switzerland: All men must perform military service starting at the age of 18, with basic training of 21 weeks. Women can participate voluntarily.
  • Greece: All men between the ages of 19 and 45 must complete military service, which lasts 9 months in the army and 12 months in the navy and air force.
  • Austria: All men must complete 6 months of military service or 9 months of alternative civil service.
  • Estonia: Compulsory military service lasts between 8 and 11 months for men. Women can join voluntarily.
  • Lithuania: Reintroduced compulsory military service in 2015 for men between 19 and 26 years old, with a duration of 9 months.
  • Cyprus: All men must perform 14 months of military service.
  • Turkey: All men must complete 12 months of military service starting at the age of 20.


Countries with recruitment in case of emergency

  • Germany: Abolished compulsory military service in 2011, but maintains the capacity to reintroduce it in emergency situations.
  • France: Eliminated compulsory military service in 1997, but has implemented a “Universal National Service” which, although not strictly military, includes a defense phase and can be expanded in times of crisis.
  • Italy: Suspended compulsory military service in 2005, but has laws that allow its reactivation in emergencies.
  • Spain: Abolished compulsory military service in 2001, but retains the ability to reactivate it if necessary.
  • Portugal: Suspended compulsory military service in 2004, but maintains a reserve for emergencies.
  • Netherlands: Suspended compulsory military service in 1997, but laws allow its reactivation in times of emergency.


A necessary debate: Does military service add value?

The reintroduction of compulsory military service in the UK and the general trend in Europe raise important questions about the future of defense and security on the continent. Are we prepared for future challenges? How should we train our youth to face them? This debate affects not only governments and armed forces but also involves the entire society. Training in areas such as cybersecurity, logistics, and other critical skills could be crucial not only for national defense but also for economic development and social cohesion.


NEXO Transmil: Facilitating the transition of military personnel to the civilian world

At ACK3, we are proud to introduce NEXO Transmil, our flagship Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project designed to facilitate the transition of military personnel, whether they are in the early or later stages of their careers seeking new horizons or retirees, to the civilian business world. Understanding the unique challenges these individuals face, NEXO aims to ensure their successful reintegration into the workforce with promising new career opportunities.

Many members of the ACK3 team come from military backgrounds, finding a new professional life within the private sector through our various projects, leveraging the multiple tools and knowledge acquired during their military service in the business world. From engineering collaborations to international missions and economic development, our veterans leverage their disciplined training, strategic thinking, and unparalleled resilience in a multitude of roles. Their success stories within ACK3 are a testament to the potential inherent in this transition.

As a living example of this evolution, Óscar Ruiz considers: “After 10 years in NATO working side by side with military personnel from Alliance countries, I can assure you that continuous training, preparation, and transition to civilian life is crucial for our professional soldiers. Whether due to contract completion or personal choice, soldiers leaving the armed forces must be equipped for a possible civilian future where they can apply what they have learned and experienced during their years of service. The government, companies, academia/universities, and ACK3 must form an indivisible team regarding the transition from military to civilian, at any age and in any part of our geography, or even outside our borders.”

Useful tools from military training

Military training provides unique skills that are highly valued in the private sector. Discipline, leadership, the ability to work under pressure, and problem-solving are essential competencies that veterans bring to their new careers, in addition to the previously mentioned cybersecurity, logistics, and other more technical concepts. At NEXO Transmil, we leverage these skills to facilitate a smooth and successful transition, ensuring that each veteran finds their place and purpose in the civilian private world.


Is military service for young people a thing of the past?

While the UK and Germany advance with bold defense proposals, it is essential that countries like Spain and others carefully consider their own strategies and capabilities. Defense and security are dynamic issues that require continuous attention and constant adaptation to new global challenges. With initiatives like NEXO Transmil from ACK3, we support the transition of military personnel to the civilian sector, making Spain a more resilient country prepared to proactively adapt to the new risks surrounding us, leveraging their unique skills and experiences for new professional opportunities.