THE cabinet approved on Friday the recruitment of 3,000 professional soldiers as part of the National Guard restructuring scheme, which also entails a reduction in mandatory service for conscripts from 24 to 14 months.
Defence Minister Christophoros Fokaides said the procedure will start immediately following the parliamentary elections on May 22.
The plan is based on a new force structure, redeployment and modernisation, armament programmes for all three branches – army, navy, air force – and recruitment of professional soldiers that would enable the government to cut the service by 2017.
The professional soldiers will be on three-year contracts with an annual gross salary of €14,700. This means €1,000 net a month, plus 13th salary, Fokaides said.
Benefits for the professional soldiers will include scholarships in private universities or higher education institutions, and a health care plan which is also in place for National Guard members.
Applicants need to be up to 32-years-old, have completed their conscription, have a clean police record and a school leaving certificate, while a grade benchmark will be used to filter applicants.
Transparency is a key element to the applications, Fokaides said and these will be submitted online.
Soldiers will also have free travel across Cyprus and will be hired on a one-year trial. Their contract can be renewed three consecutive times.
Announced late in March, the decision to cut service took everyone by surprise and drew criticism from political parties.
They said they did not object to the decision, but questioned the timing – two months before the parliamentary elections – and censured the fact that they had not been informed of the government’s intentions.