Latvian mandatory defense service law conceptually approved

Take note – story published 1 year and 3 months ago

On Thursday, February 16, the Saeima conceptually supported the draft law on compulsory military service (Valsts aizsardzības dienests, VAD), which provides for the gradual re-introduction of mandatory defense service in the country, Latvian Radio reported on February 16.

The parliament still has to view the draft law in the third, final, reading. 

In the second reading, 77 MPs voted for, 11 voted against.

The version of the law currently supported provides that VAD will be executed in one of three forms: eleven months in the regular forces of the National Armed Forces (NBS) or the National Guard; five years in total in the National Guard with at least 30 days of training each year; or by acquiring the five-year education program, intended for university students, of a Reserve Lieutenant.

VAD will be mandatory for male citizens of Latvia within one year of reaching the age of 18; if the person is still at school, then within one year of graduating but not later than the age of 24, meaning that higher education can be a reason for postponing service. 

Men aged up to 27 will be subject to VAD if they have had grounds for postponing the service but those grounds are no longer valid.

As of 2028, VAD will also concern Latvian citizens living abroad. Those who have officially declared their residence abroad will not be drafted until that time.

VAD will accept young people, regardless of sex, aged 18 to 27, on a voluntary basis.

Those who, for reasons of health, opinions, religious convictions or other moral objections, cannot serve in the military, will be able to do civil service in one of the structures of the Defense Ministry. 

Avoidance of draft will be subject to penalties.

The following categories of citizens will not be recruited for VAD:

  • a citizen whose state of health does not correspond to the requirements of the VAD;
  • a citizen who is still at school or vocational school;
  • a citizen who has been punished for a serious or particularly serious criminal offense regardless of whether the penalty has been removed or suspended;
  • a citizen who is a suspect or an accused person in criminal proceedings;
  • a citizen who has been convicted of a serious or particularly serious criminal offense but not punished;
  • a citizen who has been punished for a crime if the punishment has not been removed;
  • a citizen who is the sole parent of a child;
  • a citizen who has replaced VAD with state civil service;
  • a citizen who has dual citizenship and who has served in another country's military service;
  • a professional soldier who has served no less than three years;
  • graduates of the Pulkveža Oskara Kalpaka vocational school [a military academy].

The Saeima debate on Thursday included arguments both for and against the service, touching also upon gender equality issues and monetary matters.

The first voluntary draft is planned on July 1, 2023. It is planned to recruit about 300 young people in the first draft.

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