From 11 to 14 June 2017, a symposium concerning military ethics was held at the Leadership Training Centre of the Federal Armed Forces in Koblenz. Experts from different countries exchanged views on topical issues and continued to work on the Euro-ISME initiative aiming at the development of a “Code of Conduct” / Ethical Compass for European soldiers.

Colonel (GS) Dr. Reinhold Janke, division manager for conception and future development at the Leadership Training Centre, had invited the members of the long-standing D-A-CH-Community in the field of military ethics to this yearly conference, offering a demanding work programme. The abbreviation D-A-CH stands for Germany (D), Austria and Switzerland (CH), which were all represented by high-ranking military chaplains, psychologists, political scientists and sociologists coming from the respective Armed Forces of the three countries.

For this specific meeting, they were joined by several Board Members of the Euro-ISME association coming from Germany, France and the Netherlands. Euro-ISME is the European branch of the International Society for Military Ethics which currently promotes an initiative for setting up a European canon of military virtues and values as a common ground for a harmonised code of conduct for soldiers being engaged in European Crisis Management Operations. Thus, the initiative was in the focus, but special lectures given by Dr. Florian Demont and Ms. Nadine Eggimann from the Swiss Military Academy completed a very fruitful workshop. Furthermore, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Brendel introduced the Training Board on “Ethical Decision-Making” and the educational game “Ethixx” as useful pedagogical products of the Leadership Training Centre.

Source: ZInFü/Schönbrodt

Source: ZInFü/Schönbrodt

Concept paper and agreement

After intensive discussion, which was methodically structured by a conclusive concept paper submitted by Dr. Ted van Baarda from the Netherlands and courageously monitored by Ms. Kristina Tonn from zebis (Centre for Ethical Education for the Armed Forces), it was ultimately agreed, that important progress was made regarding the Euro-ISME initiative. The results of the D-A-CH-Meeting will serve as a solid starting point for promising further work on this forward-looking topic.

In the end, the participants expressed their appreciation for the exemplary organisation of the meeting and guidance through the programme by their German hosts. Dr. Magdalena Revue from the French Military Academy in Saint-Cyr got to the heart of this gratitude by stating: “Once more, I would like to thank you for these wonderfully organized, enriching and in every sense inspiring project days.”

Looking ahead

The next D-A-CH-Meeting on military ethics will take place in June 2018 at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt, to which the Military Superior Mmag. Stefan Gugerel from the Catholic Military Chaplaincy of the Austrian Armed Forces kindly invited. In between, the Euro-ISME Association will examine the arguments and proposals for continuing the work on its initiative and eventually organize further workshops in the perspective of harmonising the elements of an ethical compass for European soldiers.

Key questions and discussion elements on the flipchart