Conscription Reform

The Lithuanian parliament – Seimas decided on June 20, 2024, that the conscription list in Lithuania will include 17-year-olds, and 18-to-22-year-olds will be called for a period of  military service ranging from three to nine months. A total of 85 MPs voted in favour of the conscription reform, three were against it, and 14 abstained.

Under the new law, young men aged 18 to 22 will be drafted after graduation from secondary school. The existing conscription age is 18-23 years. People aged between 18 and 39 years will be able to volunteer for enlistment in the Armed Forces. At the age of 17, young men will now be required to contact the National Defence System institution in charge of conscription and provide the necessary documents and contact details. They will have their health checked, and, if they are fit, they will be called up for service when they turn 18.

The amendments also aim to provide opportunities for those willing to serve but unable to do the mandatory military service due to health issues. These people will have to declare their willingness to serve, and the duration and form of service will be decided by the chief of defence.

The possibility of deferring service while studying at a higher education level was the subject of major debate in Seimas. The Defence Ministry proposed that studying should no longer be considered an exception, but this proposal was not accepted.

Young men enrolled in higher education before they were added to the annual conscription list will be able to defer their compulsory initial military service for one period of study. In addition, Seimas approved a proposal by members of the Freedom Party political group that students should be able to defer their service for a further nine months after their short-term, bachelor’s and master’s studies, during which they would have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the next level of studies.

The Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence did not support this proposal, saying that this would lead to a situation where conscripts with acquired qualifications would not be called up. Moreover, it said, the proposed deferment period would be “clearly too long”.

The reform also proposes varying the length of military service, offering options of three, six, or nine months.

Higher education students could do their military service by enrolling in the Junior Officer Command Training Program or by joining the National Defence Volunteer Force, thus combining their service with studies. They could also pause their studies to perform regular service.

In addition, Seimas extended the duration of alternative service from 10 to 12 months.

The new regulations, if signed by the president, will come into effect in stages – starting in July and until early 2026.

Defence Minister Laurynas Kasčiūnas says the proposed changes do not constitute universal conscription, adding that they will only allow more young people to be called up for military service. Last week, Seimas also gave its initial backing to plans to increase the threshold number of conscripts from 4,240 to 7,040. The military estimates that up to 7,000 young men graduate from school each year and are fit for service.

Plans to reform military conscription in Lithuania were announced in February 2023. The relevant legislative proposals were registered in August and approved by the government in December. Currently, about 4,000 conscripts are called up for mandatory military service annually.

The conscription lists for 2024 included 27,291 Lithuanian citizens and were randomly generated by a computer program in the presence of independent observers. The draftee lists were published online at in January of this year.