Serbian army’s call-up push ‘no spark for conflict’, says defence chief


Serbia’s defence minister Miloš Vučević has denied that a re-introduction of the draft will raise tensions in the Balkans.

The proposal comes after a 13-year hiatus, sparking debates about Serbia’s security needs and the potential societal impacts of such a move.

It also comes amid the country’s standoff with Kosovo and Bosnia, where the Serbian half of that country is threatening to secede.

Vučević said discussion about military service was “not a call for any conflicts” but a “proactive step” to defend the nation.

“After 13 years, we have a need to fill the reserve. Our security needs new recruits always ready to protect the country,” he said.

“Many European countries [have] mandatory military service,” he added.

“Germany is talking about reintroducing military service in 2027. Austria, Switzerland and Greece have mandatory military service.”

The proposal suggests a military-service duration of up to four months, a timeframe seen by authorities as practical for training without imposing an extended service period.

Vučević emphasised that the Serbian Army’s role is to prepare for “worst-case scenarios” and the initiative aimed to safeguard the State in the face of “contemporary threats”.

He said he also believed that should Serbia succeed in reinstating military service “it will be healing for the entire society”.

“I would say it will help families and young men.”

Serbian politics has fractured following recent elections; the opposition claims President Aleksandar Vučić’s party is guilty of “voter fraud” regarding the outcome.

For many Serbs the army is a deeply respected and unifying national institution.

“Many Serbs will look to the Army or the Church for national leadership before they look to the Parliament or even the President,” Jovan, a student from Belgrade told Brussels Signal.

Serbia’s defence ministry stated: “In order to increase the defence capabilities of the Serbian Armed Forces, through the rejuvenation and improvement of the filling and training of the active and reserve forces, the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces launched an initiative to reintroduce mandatory military service for a period of up to four months.”

While Serbia officially seeks European Union membership, it maintains close ties with Russia, which supplies it with a a significant amount of armaments.

Serbia’s relations with Kosovo, which it refuses to recognise and considers to be a “rogue province”, are still fraught. Tensions have also risen among the Serbian minority in Kosovo following a violent shooting in September.

The situation is similar with neighbouring Bosnia, which is split between federal districts of Croats, Serbs and Bosniak Muslims, all overseen by a UN-appointed High Representative.

Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik’s trial, over his challenging of High Representative Christian Schmidt and the Dayton Agreement, could lead to Bosnia’s collapse, observers say, with Dodik threatening secession.