Parliament needs to vote through a bill amending current legislation which allows new army recruits to evade their mandatory service citing psychological problems, Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides said on Monday.
Speaking from Paphos’ boot camp (KEN) after this year’s II Esso recruits began their national service, he said this was the second year since Cabinet had cut compulsory service from 24 months to 14.
Since the move, fewer soldiers are evading their service, Fokaides said, but warned that the law still allows conscripts to evade their service too easily and that this needed to be resolved. He appealed to the parliament and the House defence committee to address the issue before parliament closes for summer recess.
Last year’s recruits, the first batch to serve just 14 months will be completing their term in two months, Fokaides added as he welcomed the new recruits.
“We welcome new recruits today, in a new national guard which is modernised, upgraded and being transformed into a modern army based on professionalism.”
The army has opened a second round of applications for professional soldiers.
Fokaides said there were 14 programmes in place for recruits to take advantage of, including distance learning, sports, martial arts and first aid for all soldiers in a bid to make the recruits as productive as possible.
Fokaides said the national guard should be a place where the recruits learn as much as they can, and that it was unfair on those who did their service that others were taking advantage of legislative gaps and avoiding their service citing psychological problems and going abroad instead – a widespread practice that had gone down in the past two years, Fokaides said.
Fokaides was then given a tour around Paphos Ken with deputy national guard chief Andreas Markides and had a chance to speak to the new recruits.
The defence minister told them not to worry about their service and briefed them on the European Youth Card allowing them to have access to over 100,000 businesses and stores across Europe with special prices.
Responsible for issuing the card in Cyprus is the Youth Board of Cyprus.
“I’m sure I’ll honour the gun my country gave me, with joy and pride for Cyprus,” new recruit Alexandros Antoniou told the Cyprus News Agency.