Reducing military conscription was just one of several pre-election pledges made by President Nicos Anastasiades and, according to Alithia newspaper, the government is keen to move on with reducing the amount of time spent in National Service by army conscripts.
Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou had ordered a pilot scheme and a feasibility study within the National Guard to determine whether or not reducing National Service is possible.
Military sources claim that as early as the beginning of next year, National Service will be reduced to 18 months with that figure trimmed down further to 14 or 15 months before the end of 2014.
At present, conscripts are obliged to serve 24 months while some can serve less time depending on their family status or whether they have lived abroad.
The paper claims that during a cabinet session at the Presidential Retreat in Troodos, President Anastasiades said he was keen to push on with reducing conscription after being briefed by the ministers of defence and finance – as the army must become more cost-effective.
Also in attendance at the session were National Guard Chief Lieutenant-General Stylianos Nasis, Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides, as well as representatives and heads of several parliamentary committees.
Earlier this summer, Fotiou told The Cyprus Daily that he was in favour of reducing National Service adding that Cyprus has a lot to gain from having young people back in society as opposed to being confined to army camps and guard posts.
Some sceptics have questioned how the government will save on costs by reducing the time that conscripts spend in the army while others argue that such a move could even compromise the island’s defence.
“People shouldn’t think only about the hiring of personnel to reduce national service but instead also focus on the advantages,” Fotiou told The Cyprus Weekly recently.
“If we were to reduce national service to say 15 or 14 months, then won’t it be a help to not have conscripts in the army for those ten to 12 months that have been removed? One has to know that those conscripts will be back in society and in universities.”
For the last four months, the National Guard has been undergoing a major reshuffle which – according to Fotiou – aims to modernise the army.
Reducing national service goes a long way to fulfilling that target, the minister believes.
“Cyprus currently has the second longest national service term in the world after Israel and I think the time has finally come for us to look into this issue. This is one of the targets of the President and it is something that has to happen.”