The Macedonian Army is to become professionalised as of October, when the final class of conscripts completes its service. The country is thus set to become the first in the Western Balkans to end the requirement for military duty.
By Zoran Nikolovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 21/04/06
The Macedonian Army will be the first in the region to consist fully of professional soldiers. [Getty Images]
The Macedonian Army (ARM) will become the first army in the Western Balkans to end military conscription and consist fully of professional soldiers and volunteers, under a new plan announced earlier this month. Compulsory service is being phased out and the final class of conscripts has already joined the service as of April. Their military service will end in October.
The changes are part of the overall defence reform strategy, aimed at creating a small, flexible and well-equipped army that can meet new asymmetrical security threats and take part in international peace missions.
"For the ARM and the ministry of defence, this means abandoning a non-professional model and introducing a model under NATO standards," Defence Minister Jovan Manasievski told reporters. He said the steps are being taken ahead of schedule and are the result of progress in defence reform.
A class of soldiers who enroll voluntarily will complement the professional army personnel. Volunteers will undergo three months of training and the most promising ones will be allowed to serve as professional soldiers. Men and women under the age of 26 will be eligible for the voluntary service.
"Previously, about 13,000 young people were obliged to do army service," Manasievski said. "The new model frees additional resources that will be welcomed for the professional military and streamlining of the army. At the same time, young people are relieved from a serious obligation."
The ministry is also terminating the opportunity for civil community service as an alternative to military service. According to Manasievski, that has not produced any results, though it has raised costs.
Ending the conscription system was discussed at a meeting of the National Security Council a year ago.