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        • Police Academy Students Need More Practice and Less Theory
          • Publications

          • Autor: Ana Milosavljevic, Sasa Djordjevic
          • Police Academy Students Need More Practice and Less Theory

          • "I realized when I started to work in the police that we did not even learn about the basics of policing in the Academy. Every student of this Academy should spend at least a year doing elementary police work to get to know the job and issues, so they could later be a good manager."

        • Do We Know What We Are Buying?
          • Publications

          • Autor: Katarina Djokic
          • Do We Know What We Are Buying?

          • BCSP Researcher Katarina Djokic wrote for Pescanik.net about issues related to the current practices regarding procurement for the purposes of Serbian Armed Forces.

        • The Citizens’ Opinion of the Police in Serbia - 2018
          • Publications

          • Autor: Bojan Elek , Sasa Djordjevic
          • The Citizens’ Opinion of the Police in Serbia - 2018

          • Trust in the police has been growing in parallel with the perception of corruption and the impression that the work of the police is politicised. This is the main conclusion of the fourth annual public opinion survey "The Citizens’ Opinion of the Police Force" conducted by Belgrade Centre for ...

        • Today and Tomorrow: Social Media and Police Services in the Western Balkans
          • Publications

          • Autor: Marko Zivkovic
          • Today and Tomorrow: Social Media and Police Services in the Western Balkans

          • The importance of police using social media to communicate with citizens and build trust, current practices in Western Balkans, and recommentations for police to improve their social media presence and way of engaging citizens is detailed in the new BCSP publication.

        Police Academy Students Need More Practice and Less TheoryDo We Know What We Are Buying?The Citizens’ Opinion of the Police in Serbia - 2018Reactivating Conscription in Serbia – How Much Does it Cost and What is the Purpose?Today and Tomorrow: Social Media and Police Services in the Western Balkans
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          • Year: 2018
          • Reactivating Conscription in Serbia – How Much Does it Cost and What is the Purpose?

          • The cost of reactivating mandatory conscription, unclear model according to which this would be realized, inconsistencies with the strategic documents and a massive departure of professionals from the Army are the topics analysed by BCSP researcher Marija Ignjatijevic.

        • Seven years after the mandatory conscription was suspended with a National Assembly decision, President of Serbia announced the possibility of reintroducing or de-freezing this obligation. It is of great importance to consider this relevant social issue, which affects all the citizens, from the perspective of defence interests and needs, but also taking the economic and political
          context into account.

           

          According to the analysis conducted by the Ministry of Defence itself, presented by the then Defence Minister at the National Assembly session in November 2016, only the first year of returning the military service would cost 70 billion dinars (approximately 600 million euros). Serbia’s entire military budget for 2018 is about as much. In the previous days, officials made different statements and offered other estimates claiming the price of the re-introducing of the military service would be from 90 to 130 million euros, depending on the duration of the training.

           

          In order to discuss the price or length of the training, it is necessary to opt for a model of military service. Most countries where compulsory military service exists have developed a combined model, where conscripts serve only as a supplement to the professional army. In certain countries with a combined model, such as Denmark or Lithuania, not all of those susceptible to conscription have to serve, since the required number of recruits is primarily filled by volunteers. This is the so-called “limited conscription”, where usually a small percentage of those subject to military duty actually complete the military service (e.g. in Denmark, at the beginning of 2018, about 98% of recruits were volunteers). However, the type of military service, as well as the fate of professional soldiers in Serbia, has not been discussed so far.

           

          Regardless of the speculations and estimates of the exact figure the reactivation of mandatory military service would cost, it is clear that such a move would bring a huge financial burden to the Ministry of Defence, and hence it seems unfeasible in the foreseeable future. The question arises, how the additional resources would be provided, as well as whether it is necessary to invest in other defence system needs or other public goods, such as infrastructure, health, education and the like.

           

          The second issue that comes up after the announcement of potential reintroduction of conscription is which new security challenges and risks is Serbia facing, so such a move would help in increasing national security. Other countries that have restored the obligatory military service have made such a decision after assessing that the country is faced with external threats. In Europe, the perception of security threats has changed after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine and the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Afterwards, debate about the military service re-activation was stirred in many European countries and some of them like Ukraine itself, as well as Sweden and Lithuania, have done so in the past few years. Consequently, the return of military service was directly related to the assessment of the threat coming from the outside, in this case it was the proximity of the military superior Russia. Similarly, some countries retain (Turkey, Cyprus, Greece) or introduce conscription for the first time (the United Arab Emirates, Qatar) due to the ongoing conflicts in their neighbourhood.

           

          Naturally, the question arises what kind of security threats Serbia is exposed to, which require the strengthening of defence capacities in this way. Officials have never brought the need for conscription in correlation with the threat of external aggression, possibility of a conflict in the region or similar. Several occasions have been missed to clearly identify and clarify the foreign policy and security direction of Serbia, as well as to consult wider and expert public on major challenges, risks and threats to security. At this moment, bringing the topic of mandatory military service back to the agenda can rather be interpreted as a political signal than an argument based on a comprehensive analysis of Serbia's economic and security interests.

           

          Just a few months ago, the Ministry of Defence formally conducted a public debate on the drafts of the new National Security Strategy and the Defence Strategy. In the documents, as well as during the public debate, the need to reactivate compulsory military service was not mentioned. The draft strategies introduce a new concept, total defence, which is imprecisely explained as "integral and timely engagement of all defence subjects [...] and is carried out in peace, emergency and war." During the public debate there was a question of whether the model would imply the return of a military obligation, Ministry of Defence officials gave the negative answer and emphasized that this concept relates primarily to civilian protection. Also, the draft Defence Strategy emphasized that Serbia, as a neutral state, will continue to strengthen a professional and efficient army.

           

          The argument about the introduction of conscription is supported by some media with the results of various public opinion polls, according to which even two thirds of the population positively assess the military service comeback. Without going into the credibility and methodological validity of these surveys, it is important to note that data on the number of volunteers who actually decided serve in the army from 2011 up to now contradicts alleged willingness of citizens to engage in military service. Namely, in the past 7 years, according to media estimates and publicly available information, only about 11,000 men and women applied to go to military barracks for voluntary military service.

           

          Also, it should be highlighted that most volunteers make such a decision in search for a job, to get into the base for the reception of professional soldiers. In other countries, such as Denmark or Lithuania, working conditions and military service remuneration are at a high level, and for years there has been no need to engage people outside the volunteer base. On the other hand, in Serbia, according to media reports, around 1,600 professionals annually leave the army, due to low salaries, poor working conditions, corruption, etc.

           

          In addition, cases of high-ranking officers, who after years of service have chosen to leave the system unhappy with working conditions, are often heard in the public. In this context, it is important to consider whether a compulsory military service can replace the outflow of professionals, in order for such a step to affect the operational capability of the military and ultimately the price of such an approach in the long run. For example, officials are also talking about the lack of pilots or tank drivers and the managing combat vehicles is a typical example of a task in which regular conscripts will not be able to replace professionals.

           

          The Ministry of Defence announced last week that it has begun drafting a new cost analysis for the reintroduction of conscription. It would be desirable to get the public informed about the results of this analysis and organize a broad and inclusive debate on this topic before deciding on the return of the compulsory military service. First of all, it is necessary to achieve a social consensus on the security challenges, risks and threats that Serbia faces, and then analyse the strategic responses and the necessity of conscription.

        • Tags: army, Serbian Army, Serbian Armed Forces, conscription, Armed Forces Reform, Marija Ignjatijević
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