By Constantinos Psillides
Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou said on Thursday he would be taking his proposal to reduce military service to 14 months to the next cabinet meeting as part of the plan to modernise the National Guard.
The next cabinet meeting is likely to be on Wednesday.
The Cyprus News Agency cited an unnamed source inside the defence ministry saying that the reduction would be gradual, starting with a cut of six months. The full reduction to 14 months would come at a later stage.
Currently, military service lasts for 24 months.
The defence minister made clear he would not be releasing any specific details of the proposed modernisation of the National Guard before presenting his plan to the House defence committee and discussing its finalised version at the cabinet.
Fotiou was set to brief the House defence committee in February but his meetings were postponed after developments on the Cyprus problem, DIKO’s departure from the coalition, and the semi-government privatisation vote at the House plenum.
“It is commonly accepted that military service is too long, and reducing it is an imperative,” said Fotiou. “We need to restructure and modernise our army and in that direction, ministry officials have been working tirelessly to produce this plan,” he added.
Reducing military service was a commitment President Nicos Anastasiades made before the 2013 presidential election.
“Reducing this long service will be beneficial for everyone involved, according to studies. What you have to understand though is that reducing the service can’t be an isolated reform. It must be part of a larger frame of modernisation and restructuring of the National Guard,” the defence minister said.
Fotiou made clear that reducing military service would not affect the combat readiness of the National Guard, according to studies.
Later in the day, and in an apparent jibe at Fotiou, his party DIKO released the following statement:
“Reducing military service is not an issue to be used for populism or for scoring political points.”
DIKO said it would weigh the pros and cons of the military service plan when it is brought before the House defence committee, likely next week.
Citing sources, Kathimerini said the DIKO statement had not gone through the normal channels before hitting the airwaves. The statement had not been cleared with the party secretariat, the paper said.
It’s understood that Fotiou is keen to hold on to his ministerial portfolio despite instructions to the contrary from his party.
Energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, who also wants to stay on, has already resigned from DIKO.
Four DIKO cadres serve on the cabinet, which is expected to be reshuffled by March 15. The reshuffle was made necessary after DIKO last month quit the government coalition, citing irreconcilable differences with the President’s handling of peace talks.