The Vienna Document: Greater confidence through transparency

17.02.2021 - Article

The Vienna Document is a key instrument of military confidence-building between the participating States of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe).

It is based on the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and was adopted in 1990 after the end of the Cold War. The Vienna Document was last updated in 2011. It includes measures for greater military transparency (e.g. in training, exercises and manoeuvres), military confidence-building (e.g. building up contacts) and conflict prevention (e.g. preventing military incidents).

On-site verification under the terms of the Vienna Document (file photo)
On-site verification under the terms of the Vienna Document (file photo)© Bundeswehr

In the Vienna Document, the OSCE participating States commit to sharing detailed information once a year on their armed forces and principal weapon systems, as well as information on military budgets, defence and armed forces planning, and planned manoeuvres.

There are two different ways in which the information provided can be verified:

  1. Inspections of a specific area are conducted in order to check whether military activities are taking place in this area and, if so, what purpose they serve.
  2. Inspections of military units at their locations are conducted in order to verify the reported numbers of troops and amount of military material on the ground.

These verification measures are conducted by unarmed inspectors. They are arranged in consultation with the host country and communicated to all OSCE participating States in advance. They provide military transparency and predictability with regard to military activities and troops in Europe.

Confidence-building, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation are cornerstones of German foreign and security policy. The Federal Government therefore advocates ongoing development and modernisation of the Vienna Document within the OSCE, including during Germany’s Chairmanship of the Forum for Security Co‑operation in the third trimester of 2020.

The Federal Armed Forces Verification Centre coordinates Germany’s contribution

In Germany, the Federal Armed Forces Verification Centre plans, coordinates and conducts all verification measures on the basis of the Vienna Document. It also guarantees that other countries are able to conduct these measures in Germany and assists them in doing so. In addition, Germany actively supports the efforts of other OSCE participating States to implement the Vienna Document through exchanges of experience, meetings of experts, organisational and technical support, and training of verification personnel.

Further information


Related content

Top of page