One of the promises was that the state might cover up to 50% of college tuition for students who had served in the army. This deal seemed particularly attractive to one young man who feels has been cheated.
“I was a conscript and, before starting my service, I had asked at the recruitment office if I’d be entitled to the 50% compensation for my tuition fees – and they said that yes, I should be,” he wrote in a letter to DELFI.
“I finished my service, I enrolled at Vilnius Technology and Design College and when I looked into the compensation, it turned out that this applied only to those who had served before April 21, 2015, that is before the compulsory conscription.”
Promises from PM and defence minister
Lithuania had scrapped compulsory conscription back in 2011, but reintroduced it last year as military threats from Russia once again appeared quite palpable.
Under the law passed by the Lithuanian parliament, all young men between 18 and 26 would be included into a database from which an algorithm would draw about 3,000 names of those who would go into nine-month service. Volunteers, of course, were also welcome.
To assuage those who now faced nine months being taken out of their lives, politicians were coming up with ideas for benefits that could sweeten the deal, including monetary payments of €238 to draftees, but not just that.
“In fact, we will set aside much more funds to the conscripts than that,” Defence Minister Juozas Olekas said on March 21, 2015. “There will be compensations for tuition fees, employers will get money for keeping them in jobs. So the total compensation will be much bigger than €238.”
Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, too, mentioned tuition fee reimbursements as a possibility. “Importantly, we envisage compensations for part of the tuition fee as well as subsidies for employers of the young people performing compulsory initial military service. There could also be additional preferential measures for those applying to universities and public service,” Butkevičius said on March 4, 2015.
Monetary payments instead of compensations
It turns out, however, that the tuition fee compensations had indeed been offered to volunteers who signed up for military service before the reintroduction of compulsory conscription, but the law was changed after that.
“In spring 2015, when the military draft was reinstated, the benefits changed,” says Defence Ministry spokeswoman Asta Galdikaitė. “Instead of the partial tuition fee compensation, there is now a cumulative monetary payment.”
She explains that conscripts are entitled to payments of about €300 per month, depending on their performance in the army, which they collect upon finishing their nine-month service, up to €3,000 in total.
“Tuition fee compensations had been offered to soldiers who finished basic military training before April 2015. This programme was suspended after the reintroduction of the compulsory initial military service,” Galdikaitė says.
Defence Minister Olekas comments that he is surprised that conscripts are unaware of the new rules.
“Instead of €34, they now get €300, which they can use for tuition or for starting a business,” Olekas says, adding that monetary payments was a fairer form of incentive, since not everyone plan to go to university after serving in the army.
“We agreed that everyone who signs up for the service is entitled to some sort of compensation to be used for whatever they want, studies or other things,” he adds.