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Latvia Reintroduces National Defence Service

Library image of Latvian troops on exercise on the Ādaži national training area in 2017 [© Bob Morrison]

The Saeima [Latvian Parliament] has adopted the State Defence Service Law which reintroduces National Defence Service from 1st July.

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Press Release, Riga, 06 April 2023: Saeima Adopts State Defence Service Law.

The Saeima adopted the State Defence Service Law in the third reading on 5 April. After the final reading, the new law will regulate the roll out of state defence service across Latvia.

“Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine has completely changed the geopolitical and security landscape. Comprehensive national defence requires Latvia to develop all capabilities – from weapon systems to necessary rate of population with military training. State defence service is our response to new regional security challenges. Ukraine is a clear example of the importance of morally resilient and well-prepared civilian population in pushing back any aggressor. Members of the parliament have shown deep understanding and facilitated speedy adoption of the law that will enable first volunteers to join national defence forces already this year,” Ināra Mūrniece, Defence Minister of Latvia, underlined.

According to State Defence Law, all Latvian nationals – men aged 18 and full-aged men who have not completed their primary or secondary education – shall be drafted within 12 months of reaching the age of 18 or graduation in the case of those still in education system until the age of 24. Law also allows female Latvian nationals aged 18-27 to voluntarily choose state defence service.

The first draft will be announced on 1 July, primarily targeting volunteers. Military service will become compulsory on 1 January 2024. The second draft, however, will also be voluntary for Latvian nationals as long as necessary number of recruits is achieved. If not, force will be completed with

Latvian nationals aged 18-19 who will be officially notified of mandatory enlistment in national defence forces via electronic mail, letter to registered address or in person. In the first round, volunteers willing to enlist in national defence forces will be able to apply until 15 May.

Before entering into force, the State Defence Service Law must be signed by President of Latvia. Law comes to force as of next day of its publishing in the official journal Latvijas Vēstnesis.

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Library image of Latvian troops on a multinational exercise in Estonia in 2019 [© Bob Morrison]

Press Release, Riga, 10 April 2023: [auto-translated] Compensation upon voluntary application to the national defence service is planned at 7,700 Euros per year. With the adoption of the Law on the National Defence Service, it is determined that the soldiers of the National Defence Service will be provided with a series of benefits and other service-related guarantees.

It is planned that a soldier of the national defence service, who volunteered for the service, will receive a monthly compensation of 600 Euros, while conscripted soldiers will receive 300 Euros per month. Compensation for retirement after the end of the service is also planned in the amount of 1,100 Euros. Therefore, it is planned that the compensation for voluntary involvement in the national defence service will be 7,700 Euros per year. The Cabinet of Ministers will make the final decision on the amount of monthly and retirement compensation for soldiers of the National Defence Service.

For the soldiers of the National Defence Service who will serve in the National Guard or who will study the reserve officer course intended for university and college students, the amount of compensation will be calculated proportionally for the days in which the service will be performed.

The soldiers of the National Defence Service will be provided with food and accommodation in the barracks. Also, the service soldier will receive paid health care, and in some cases will have the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license corresponding to his specialisation. Likewise, employers will be obliged to maintain the previous work of a national defence service soldier or provide similar or equivalent work with no less favourable working conditions and employment terms for the employee. On the other hand, the educational institution retains the right of a citizen who is exempted from studies to continue his studies under the same conditions as before he was drafted into the national defence service.

It has already been reported that on April 5, the Saeima adopted the State Defence Service Law in the third – final – reading, determining that the State Defence Service is being introduced in Latvia.

The National Defence Service Law stipulates the obligation to serve in the national defence service for every citizen of Latvia, male, within one year after reaching the age of 18, or if the citizen continues to receive education at the basic or secondary level, within one year after graduating from an educational institution, but no later than for the age of 24. At the same time, it is determined that Latvian citizens and women between the ages of 18 and 27 can voluntarily apply for the national defence service.

The first enlistment will start the service on July 1 of this year on a voluntary basis, but from January 1, 2024, the service is defined as mandatory. It should be noted that also in the second conscription Latvian citizens will initially be invited to join voluntarily. However, if necessary, the missing number of persons aged between 18 and 19 will be drafted by sending a decision on conscription to the national defence service to an electronic address or the address of the declared place of residence, or delivered personally.

Voluntary application for the first draft of the National Defence Service will take place until May 15.

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Library image of Latvian troops on a multinational exercise in Germany in 2020 [© Bob Morrison]

¤ Editor’s Footnote: Latvia became a full member of NATO in 2004 and subsequently dropped National Service from 2007, by which time its Armed Forces (Latvijas Nacionālie Bruņotie Spēki) had become fully professional.

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