Defence Minister says annual reserve to become “effectively voluntary” by 2025

Juansher Burchuladze, the Georgian Defence Minister, on Monday spoke about the country’s new Defence Code. Photo: Defence Ministry press office, 18 Jul 2023 - 12:55, Tbilisi,Georgia

Juansher Burchuladze, the Georgian Defence Minister, on Monday said his body was working to increase remuneration for reservists called up for annual training and use the pay increases to ensure voluntary annual service would effectively replace mandatory call-ups by 2025. 

Speaking about the country’s new Defence Code - passed by the legislative body with its second reading last week - with Imedi TV, the official stressed there was currently “no alternative to mandatory conscription” for reservists in the country “due to many reasons”.

However, Burchuladze noted monthly wages of the reserve service had been increased from ₾53 ($21) to ₾250 ($96) over the past several years and would be further increased next year. 

We will reach the point by 2025 where we will make the service [effectively] voluntary by offering a pay closer to market values”, he told the channel. 

He highlighted a “well-prepared and large reserve” was “important” for Georgia considering its geopolitical location and security challenges, adding his body planned to have at least 100,000 trained reservists by 2035. 

Burchuladze highlighted the new Code also offered “significant social guarantees” to servicemembers, including growing salaries and accommodation. 

The Government has increased the pay of all military personnel by at least 40 percent over a year and a half, and the process will continue next year”, he said. 

In remarks on boosting the country’s defence capabilities, the official claimed his body had signed the “largest and most significant” deals for the purpose over the past three years. 

He said the agreements involved purchase of anti-armour systems, and highlited a new deal with Sweden’s SAAB, which he described as “one of the world's leading manufacturers” of the hardware. 

The Minister also rejected claims by the domestic opposition on the country’s “deteriorated relations” with NATO, and stressed the cooperation with the alliance was at an “all-time-high” and demonstrated by the bloc’s defence drills hosted in Georgia in 2022. 

The Parliament is expected to approve the Code with its third and final reading during its autumn session.