RIGA - The government coalition on Wednesday endorsed the Defense Ministry's proposal to introduce a national defense service, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) told journalists following the weekly coalition meeting, adding that the content of the proposal has yet to be discussed, including in a broad public debate.
There are still many unanswered questions about the national defense service, and the Defense Ministry will continue to work on the idea to make it clear for people how they can get involved in strengthening Latvia's security, the prime minister said.
Karins indicated that the national defense service has to be introduced because Latvia needs larger defense forces to guard "our democracy and freedom".
As reported, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (For Development/For) said at the beginning of July that considering the threat posed by Russia and the need to improve the recruitment system, the Defense Ministry will propose introducing a comprehensive national defense service.
The present system is outdated, the minister said, adding that reforms are needed because there is no reason to think that Russia will change its conduct.
The compulsory national defense service will be introduced in five years. Starting from January 1, 2023, the transition period will be started with recruits invited to apply for voluntary defense service.
During the first year, some 1,000 people might be recruited.
Recruiting will take place twice a year - on January 1 and July 1. Also, recruits will be able to choose among four kinds of service, including alternative services in the Interior, Health or Welfare Ministry structures.
The service will last for 11 months. Recruitment age will be 18-27 years. Women may join the service voluntarily.
Recruits will be paid EUR 400 a month.
After completion of the service, persons will be reserve troops, which means that they will have to return to short-term training on a regular basis.
The Defense Ministry's goal is to increase the NAF wartime structure to 50,000 people in five years. It would include 14,000 troops in active service, 16,000 people in the National Guard and 20,000 reservists.