Germany is considering enlisting foreign nationals into the military to address current recruitment shortfalls.
The move aligns with the country’s plan to recruit an extra 20,000 troops in the face of growing regional threats.
Under German law, only citizens are allowed to join the military. Those born and raised in Germany but who do not hold German citizenship are also permitted to enlist in some instances.
Berlin will reportedly prioritize citizens from EU member states if the plan is approved.
However, the country has not ruled out the possibility of extending non-German enlistment to nations outside the union – like the UK and Switzerland – or even to other NATO states.
Last year, the German defense ministry announced that it was struggling to attract new recruits due to various factors, including “pitiful” living conditions in military barracks.
According to a report by DW, the idea has already received support from some lawmakers, even from the opposition party.
Even so, defense committee chair Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann said the proposal would face legal scrutiny once it reaches the German parliament.
She urged her fellow lawmakers to “think a little bolder and bigger” and “more European.”
She also referenced her hometown, Düsseldorf, where more than 10,000 Greeks reportedly reside.
“If someone says, ‘I can imagine myself joining the Bundeswehr,’ then I think we should look into this possibility,” Strack-Zimmermann told the outlet.
Non-Citizen Recruitment in Other Nations
Allowing foreign nationals to serve in the military is not a new policy in Europe.
Denmark allows people born in other countries to enlist in the military with a work or residence permit.
France also permits foreigners aged 17-40 to join the armed forces provided that they can pass the grueling selection and training processes.
Slovakia also allows non-citizens if they meet certain conditions, such as permanent residency or being a citizen of an international defense organization to which Slovakia belongs.
Preparing for Russia
German defense minister Boris Pistorius said the country thinks the war in Ukraine may escalate in the next few years.
A leaked German military document outlined a potential “worst-case scenario” of the armed conflict, in which Russia wages war against a NATO country.
Recruiting an extra 20,000 troops – Germans or not – would reportedly make Berlin “war-ready” within the next five to eight years.
“We have to take into account that Vladimir Putin will one day even attack a NATO country,” he told The Telegraph. “Our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this could be possible … at the moment I don’t think a Russian attack is likely.”