The German army is understaffed. To solve the problem, the defence ministry announced it is seriously considering allowing foreigners from other European Union member states to serve in the unified armed forces (Bundeswehr).

“The Bundeswehr is growing. For this, we need qualified personnel,” a defence ministry spokesman told the German news agency DPA.

The plan to boost enrolment is backed by both governing parties. The Social Democrats (SPD) said citizenship must be given to new soldiers to avoid the risk of it becoming a mercenary army.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Social Democrat (SPD) defence expert Karl-Heinz Brunner told the local newspaper Augsburger Allegemeine, that he could imagine EU citizens serving in the Bundeswehr. But he warned that any soldier who fought for Germany must be promised citizenship.

“If citizens of other countries are accepted, without the promise of getting a German passport, the Bundeswehr risks becoming a mercenary army,” he said.

In comments to the same publication, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) defence spokesman Florian Hahn said that “using the framework of European liberalism, a modern model could be developed here. However, a certain level of trust with every solider must be guaranteed”.

Meanwhile, proposals to increase the defence budget are extremely unpopular in Germany.