Meeting with Norway's chief of defense on Tuesday in Tallinn, Estonia's defense minister said that the demographic crunch will mean Estonia will increase the involvement of women in national defense, though he did not say whether the country would follow Norway's suit and require all women to complete basic training.
“Norway has made a bold step – unique in Europe – by expanding general compulsory military service to include female citizens,” said Sven Mikser at a meeting with Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen in Tallinn. “Estonia follows Norway’s experience with interest as we have to think about how to increase the involvement of women in national defense.”
Mikser said Estonia was facing a smaller call-up pool in the years ahead, and it would be harder to muster up the necessary number of conscripts. “The demographic situation will require women to play a significantly larger role in national defense,” Mikser said.
Norway’s decision meant it was the first European country and NATO member to expand compulsory military service - which is itself uncommon - to include women. The obligation will enter into force in 2016.
Women have served in the Norwegian armed forces for the last 30 years and today, women make up 13 percent of conscripts. In Estonia, 12 percent of active-duty personnel are women, but voluntary servicewomen account for less than 1 percent of conscripts.
The minister and the chief of defense also discussed recent security related developments in the region and the Arctic.
Bruun-Hanssen also met Maj. Gen. Riho Terras, the Commander in Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces, laid a wreath at the foot of the War of Independence monument, checked in at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence and the Baltic Defense College.
He also got out to the regions, touring the Kuperjanov Battalion in Võru and the 1st Infantry Brigade in Tapa, and the Defense League’s Viru defense district.