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          • How does the COVIDー19 pandemic influence Serbia's foreign policy - read in the op-ed writen by BCSP Director Igor Bandovic for the weekly "Vreme".

        • Why Are People Leaving the Serbian Defence System?
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          • Autor: Katarina Djokic, Marija Ignjatijevic
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          • BCSP Researchers Katarina Djokic and Marija Ignjatijevic analysed the reasons for employees leaving the Serbian defence system and gave recommendations that could overturn this negative trend.

        The Security Sector in the State of Emergency: Testing DemocracyThe Masks Have Slipped: Serbia in a Geopolitical PandemicCrime in the Western Balkans Six at the Time of Coronavirus: Early FindingsPandemic of geopoliticsWhy Are People Leaving the Serbian Defence System?
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          The concern caused by a topic such as payment in lieu of military service causes much of reflection, for all those who have ever uniforms; I find myself caught in between the deep seeded conscious that military service is less of an obligation, and more a right and honour, and the reality that it is a very difficult obligation for most people. However, in order to seriously discuss the idea of introducing the possibility of payment in lieu of military service in a country such as ours, in a practical sense, several prerequisites are necessary:

          1.       We must know what country we are citizens of - today, tomorrow, and in ten years.

          2.       We must know what our defence strategy is.

          3.       We must know how many soldiers are needed to carry out the defence strategy.

          Since answers to these questions are light years away, enough time is left for issues that have piled up on the relationship between the individual - conscript and state be resolved in a mutually satisfactory way, and payment in lieu of military service is only one of the ways to resolve these relations.

          Namely, it is clear that the present situation does not suit the individual, nor the state, as the times of "patriotic" recruitment for military service are over, and the turnout of recruits e.g. in Montenegro is 12%, while in Serbia it is something more, which causes the State to react by bringing up criminal charges, that in turn, creates more resistance in the individual to this obligation by law.

          The idea of payment in lieu of military service is not originally ours, but because there are not enough examples in the world, we are not able to learn from the experience of others. A solution such as this even exists in some form in Cuba, as well as in Turkey, but applies only to conscripts that have been living abroad for over three years, while in our region, amongst countries in transition - Slovenia, Croatia, Romania… there have been such ideas and still are, but there has been no step made beyond these ideas.

          It is also unknown to me who, at this time, brought up this idea - was it, as it was stated, the association of our citizens abroad, Minister of Diaspora, or someone else, which isn’t such an unimportant fact, because it is peculiar that this idea was immediately well accepted by the hardcore military top leadership, which allegedly wants the right to payment not be limited to the place of residence of the conscript, as proposed by the diaspora, but to be the overall right without any limitations.

          It is clear that the issue of military service for our citizens permanently living abroad should have been resolved long time ago and it was wrong to leave it to the General Staff to issue permits of residence to our citizens who live abroad, even to those who were born abroad, but it was a case according to the Art. 321 and 322 of the Law on the Yugoslav Army (VJ). This permission, in principle, was impossible to obtain, so many conscripts stood trial for not fulfilling their military service duty, and each punishment consequently causes a person to give up the homeland and acquire a new citizenship. Those who came back to serve conscript service, jeopardized their existence in the foreign country and this existence, in most cases, was actually the initial motivation for living abroad.

          Also, one should not only think about people who live abroad, but also about those that live in the "motherland", because when we put the individual in the centre of attention, and not the state, everyone can then have some personal reasons for choosing this "other way" of regulating conscript service.

          What I do hope is that there is no dispute over the future of the professionalization of the military as a way of finally retreating from the principle of an "armed nation". It is evident that we are now in a "transitional period" when the country does not have money for a professional army, and the "people" do not wish to participate in defence in the presently prescribed manner.

          Payment in lieu, in its essence, represents the possibility of replacing conscript service duty with mandatory financing defence - payment of an allotted amount of money.

          Of course, this is an idea, just like any other, that is not resistant to criticism from the standpoint of equality and human rights, which privileges the rich to the detriment of the poor, but conscript service and payment in lieu of conscript service is only a drop in a sea of inequalities amongst people, which our nation has become used to, and in my opinion, the following dilemmas are much more serious:

          1.       If conscript service is a MUST meaning that certain number of people that are armed and are ready to react to dangers of the country must be physically present, how is it possible to then replace this physical presence with money?

          2.       If there is no need for physical presence, what is it then that the conscript is paying for?

          I think that the idea is appealing to both the state and military leadership, because they are not able to collect funds for defence and other state functions in any other way, and therefore accept the willingness of the conscripts to make up for their absence with money. The state is aware that it has an advantage over the individual - it knows, in detail, what the practical purpose of the army is at the present military-political moment, and also that the individual no longer is given the importance that it was given earlier.

          Apart from this, the possible support of professional members of the army will depend on the way these funds from payments for military service are spent. If the funds are spent on the overall needs of the army - salaries, housing, and other kinds of improvement of standards of the army, then the support will be much wider. But, if another body outside of the army is to manage this expenditure, and if money is to go to different state functions, then this support will be missing, with excuse of moralizing on the inequalities before the law and privileging of the rich to the detriment of the poor.

          Living in such a reality, this idea can have one solution more, provided it is discussed and decided upon by responsible and competent people and in case this is in accordance with the defence strategy: the possibility of payment in lieu of military service should be introduced AS A RULE AND NOT AS AN EXCEPTION. Namely, establishing a professional army, for which, at the moment, there are not enough budget funds, would be financed by recruits, because this would be a legal obligation (of course the amount and means of payment would be a matter of discussion depending on the social-economic strength of individuals), and those who are not able to or do not want to fulfil their military duty by financing the army, would become part of the professional army and would be paid for this.

          The calculation is simple - if the annual contingent of recruits is 32,000 and if the price of payment were 1,000 Euros, then annually this would amount to 32,000,000 Euros, which represents more than the present 16,000 average annual salaries of soldiers contracted by The Army of SCG. Other than the assured financing of 16,000 workplaces, the rest of the younger generation is left with the possibility to achieve their potentials in other fields and in this way, contribute to the development of society.

          Finally, I think the level to which this idea has been developed is identical to the seriousness with which those who proposed this solution publicly debate it, as each change of the basic idea upon which the present situation is based, changes the position of the individual who is to make a final decision.

        • Tags: military, reform, soldier, Serbia, Montenegro, military service, recruit, youth
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