Sweden Reintroduces Conscription

The Swedish government has announced that conscription, a practice which was formally discontinued in 2010, will be reintroduced to help meet the recruitment needs of the country’s armed forces. The reason for this policy reversal is the increased turbulence in global politics, but also the decreasing numbers of volunteers for armed service. Unlike the previous program of conscription, the new procedure will apply to both men and women, though due to the limited recruitment needs of the Swedish armed forces and the relatively large number of expected volunteers the impact of conscription is expected to be slight.

According to preexisting legislation all Swedish citizens between the ages of 16 and 70 are at the military’s disposal, and can if national security requires it be ordered to serve in such a capacity as their health and moral convictions allow. The reintroduction of conscription is based on this law, though according to the new governmental guidelines the practice will in peace time be limited to individuals born 1999 or later who are 18 years of age or older and who are not currently attending high school or similar educational programs.

When a Swedish citizen turns 18 they will receive a questionnaire from the Swedish recruitment authority, which they have a legal obligation to complete and send in. It mainly consists of questions about the individual’s health and physical fitness, but also allow the individual to attest to their willingness to serve or lack thereof. Willing individuals are generally prioritised during the later selection procedure. These annual surveys were, for statistical purposes, kept up even during the years when no conscription took place, and failure to fill out this questionnaire when asked can lead to a fine. Older Swedish citizens who have not previously taken part in one of the armed forces basic training programs can apply to be included in the selection process.

Starting on the 1st of July 2017 the Swedish military will, based on the returned questionnaires, select around 13,000 young men and women for mustering and related medical testing. Of these a minimum of 4,000 will be selected for compulsory military training, which will begin during 2018. The basic service period varies between 9 and 11 months, depending on in which capacity the conscript is to serve. For conscientious objector’s various other forms of community service will, upon application, be available as an alternative to military training. In the absence of war or national crisis no conscripts will be ordered into battle, though individuals who have finished their basic training can apply for a place with Sweden’s peace keeping missions abroad.

During the muster and later military service each participant will be provided with food, lodging and transport by the armed forces. During basic training each individual also receives a tax free monthly stipend, which is currently set to SEK 4,400, and upon the completion of the training they also receive a lump sum of about SEK 49,000.

Failure to comply with a military mustering order, or to serve if called up, is punishable with a fine or in some cases a short prison sentence. Since the current stock of service willing individuals in the right age categories is approximated to around 20,000 the reintroduction of conscription is in its initial phases not expected to lead to anyone being forced into basic training against their expressed will.