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Estonia Plans to Extend Conscription

Number of conscripts per year to increase to 4,000 – months after a bill to expand female involvement in military service was signed into law.

6 December 2017

Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik has told parliament of plans to increase the number of youths conscripted annually into compulsory military service from 3,200 to 4,000, reports The Baltic Times.


Although a general conscription service exists in Estonia, Luik said that only about one-third of eligible young men each year take part, and the “question arises why we have a national obligation at all if only some citizens are subjected to it.” 


The minister added that the Defense Ministry is planning to change the health requirements of the defense forces so that disabled people could also work in the field if they wish to do so.


If the plans become law, it will be the latest in a series of decisions by Estonia to expand the recruitment pool and increase the participation of a greater number of citizens in the country’s defense.


NATO soldiers train in Estonia for the Pitka Challenge – named for Admiral Johan Pitka, the founder of the Estonian Defense League. Image : US Army


In September, a bill to extend the access of women to all units of the Estonian Defense Forces was signed into law, reports ERR News, the news service of the Estonian public broadcaster.


Women have been able to participate in the national military conscription service since 2013. Signing up is voluntary but once conscripted they become subject to the national defense obligation, writes the Estonian government portal.



  • It is compulsory for male Estonian citizens to enter the national defense registry at the age of 17, after which time they may be called for compulsory service for a period of 10 years. The national military training program lasts between eight and 11 months, and calls are made three times a year.


  • While conscription fills the majority of recruits annually, about one-third of Estonian conscripts enter service voluntarily, immediately after high school, writes EER News.


  • In May, Sweden’s parliament voted to reinstate military conscription from January 2018. A Ministry of Defense spokesperson told the BBC that the vote was in response to increased military activity in the Baltic region, the annexation of Crimea, and the Ukrainian conflict.


  • Both Latvia and Lithuania abolished conscription in 2007 and 2008, but Lithuania temporarily reinstated compulsory military service in 2015 when tensions in Ukraine were escalating.

 Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont

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