Plan to curb army term fuels concern

The possible reduction of compulsory military service to nine months from the current 12 months, proposed by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis last week, is worrying military experts, who say the move could jeopardize the country’s defense. Many claim that another reduction to the term, which in 2001 was set at 18 months, will weaken a military that is already understaffed. «The minimum must be 12 months, there is no scope for further reduction,» said Ioannis Veryvakis, honorary commander of the army’s General Staff. According to Thanos Dokos of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), most Greeks agree on the need for «a strong military for purposes of deterrence» but «do not want to make a personal contribution.» Gerasimos Arsenis, who was defense minister from 1993 to 1996, categorically opposed the proposal. «It is erroneous and dangerous to propose the gradual abolition of military service due to advances in technology and the recruitment of more professional soldiers,» he said. But others back the idea. A retired former army officer, who asked not to be named, said a nine-month term «is long enough to instill discipline in conscripts.»

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