On Wednesday 12 July, the secretary of state Francine Closener, pictured left next to Romain Mancinelli, chief of staff, and Alain Duschène, deputy chief of staff, presented the guidelines for a new defence policy up to 2025.
Photo: Maison Moderne
Army plans to recruit more foreigners
For the first time ever, the government has published a political document which lays out the framework for Luxembourg’s defence policy and for the army which the public can scrutinise.
Partly as a response to Nato calls to increase defence spending, the government has reaffirmed its commitment to spend €412m by 2020.
Luxembourg is currently last on the list in reaching the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on the military, but Francine Closener, secretary of state for defence, said this will still be the case, as it would not be realistic to reach that goal.
Closener presented the new guidelines on defence for 2025 and beyond on Wednesday 12 July.
Luxembourg’s foreign policy is based on the “3D approach”: diplomacy, development, defence.
Goals clearly spelled out
Defence spending was anchored on three goals: first, “that our financial efforts for the EU and for Nato have an added value”, which means that spending is focused on where there are shortages, for example, in transport such as fighting jets Airbus A330 MRTT, said Closener.
The second goal is that defence spending should be more focused on the army itself. New infrastructure at the army base at Herrenberg in Diekirch, new equipment to protect strategically important structures, and equipment to help in natural disasters are some of the points the secretary of state mentioned. The modernisation of defence implies that investments flow primarily in projects which are economically beneficial for the grand duchy.
Romain Mancinelli, the army chief of staff, welcomed this report, saying that:
“it was the first time that the army and the directorate of defence receive some political orientation for the next seven years. This gives us an immense amount of security in planning, which we have never had before--that is why it’s a fantastic tool!”
The army chief of staff will also be reorganised to make it more effective. All those concerned with strategic issues, such as planning, investments, international relations and control will move to the new common building with the directorate of defence. The operational part of the chief of staff will be in Diekirch.
New capacities for the army
The government has decided to build on its existing strengths, such as intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. The major technology used is drones, as they help guarantee the safety of soldiers. This will stay one of the main tasks of the army.
In aviation, Closener repeated that more transport possibilities were needed, also for humanitarian missions and medical evacuations. The government plans to develop a helicopter programme with Belgium. This also encompasses a military base at the airport Findel, in order to do maintenance.
Closener announced that there will be “more opportunities for private operators who already work together with the army and police to ensure certain services”.
The helicopters that the army ordered will mainly assist in medical transport, but also in search and rescue services. She also stressed satellite communication and Govsat, the project between the government and the state which offers satellite communications for governments and military. Closener also talked again about the project of a medical crisis centre, and that an increased number of staff was recruited in the cyber defence field.
Closener has also repeated the call to set up a pool of civilian reservists which would help in a crisis.
Closener emphasised that current soldiers needed new job opportunities and new training since exclusivity in most administrative posts had been abolished. The army training lasts for three years, and afterwards 90% of soldiers enter some administration or continue their training. The selection process for the army had also been reformed, whether it was the recruitment age or the preparation courses for the army physical.
The recruitment strategy was currently being developed. Closener announced that both the defence directorate and the army were continuously recruiting. The need is for more legal experts, experts in IT, logistics, communication, health, aviation and other areas.
They were looking for new profiles and experts. Mancinelli also stressed the need for good personnel, and that new civil and army careers would be created.
Mancinelli said that foreigners who applied to the army needed to have lived here for at least three years, but in reality they were often people who were born and attended school here.
When asked whether the percentage of foreign residents working for the army was increasing, Patrick Heck, the head of the defence directorate, replied that the army was a reflection of society, and that both in the recruitment of soldiers and civil personnel, that percentage was increasing, and was normal.
Mancinelli added that the foreign know how in technical and IT matters was a reality, which did not mean that they would prefer foreigners. Several questions remained open, as to the statute of the foreigners, or questions of international detachments, and questions of cohesion.