The Albanian government is completely reforming its military, aiming to professionalise it and to comply with NATO membership requirements.
By Jonilda Koci for Southeast European Times in Tirana – 21/08/08
Military service will no longer be mandatory in Albania. [Getty Images]
Beginning January 1st 2010, Albania will no longer have compulsory military service. The initiative is part of the reforms required by NATO, which the country hopes to join after meeting the Alliance's requirements.
Parliament passed a law last week to initiate the reform. The legislation falls under the programme launched by the Albanian armed forces -- with the help of the US Department of Defence -- to technologically upgrade and fully professionalise the military by 2010. "We aim [to build] a military with professionals," Prime Minister Sali Berisha said after passage of the law on August 13th.
"Building a professional military will offer job opportunities to young people ... within the Albanian armed forces," Defence Minister Gazmend Oketa said.
The government is still evaluating salaries for troops under the new system, but it will extend other incentives, such as access to housing and other benefits. Oketa said that in the coming months, the military will open several recruiting centres where high school graduates can enlist.
The reform will also include benefits for young people pursuing a military career. With the introduction of the professional system, the Tirana-based Skenderbe Military Academy will add several departments.
Military service has been obligatory since 1945, but its term has changed over time. In the beginning, the term was four years. In 1954, it fell to three years. In 1972, it went to 27 months, and in 1992 to 18 months. In 1996 it shrank to the current 12 months.
In January, the government announced plans to cut its armed forces by 3% by 2013. Planners envision having 14,500 professional troops by 2010.