The Vienna Document is a key instrument of confidence‑building between the 57 OSCE participating States. It is based on the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 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 exercises and manoeuvres), military confidence-building (e.g. building up contacts) and conflict prevention (e.g. preventing military accidents). All OSCE participating States make use of this instrument to build military confidence.
Confidence‑building, arms control and non‑proliferation of weapons are cornerstones of German foreign and security policy. The German Government therefore advocates ongoing development and modernisation of the Vienna Document within the OSCE. This includes areas such as strengthening rapid response capability, increasing transparency on armed forces and their activities, improving the review of agreements made and enhancing military contacts.
Binding for all OSCE participating States
The Vienna Document, which applies to all OSCE participating States, is currently the most comprehensive agreement regulating the military aspects of confidence and security in Europe. It dates back to 1975, the year in which the CSCE (Conference on Security and Co‑operation in Europe) Final Act was signed in Helsinki. Further negotiations on confidence- and security-building measures culminated in the signing of the Vienna Document in 1990 after the end of the Cold War.
It was updated three times during the 1990s (in 1992, 1994 and 1999). The version of the Vienna Document currently in effect was adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius on 6 December 2011. Despite extensive efforts on the part of the Federal Government – including during the German chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2016, a revision planned for the year 2016 has not yet been implemented.
Exchange of detailed information
In the Vienna Document, all of the OSCE participating States have committed themselves to sharing detailed information once a year on their armed forces and principal weapon systems, military budgets, defence and armed forces planning, and planned manoeuvres.
Inspections under the auspices of the OSCE
Two types of verification can be conducted in order to check the information provided and compliance with the provisions of the Vienna Document by all OSCE participating States.
- Inspections in “specified areas” are conducted in order to check whether military activities are taking place in this area and what purpose they serve. The inspection team may inspect the area on the ground and from the air, and is accompanied by representatives of the receiving State.
- Evaluations of units at their normal peacetime location are conducted in order to check on the ground the numbers of troops and amount of military material reported in the exchange of information.
These verification measures in accordance with the Vienna Document have been carried out since the 1990s and are conducted by unarmed inspectors. They provide military transparency and make it possible to predict military activities and units of troops in Europe, thus making an important contribution to building confidence between the OSCE participating States. They are arranged in consultation with the host country and communicated to all OSCE participating States in advance.
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 supports and guarantees the conduct of such measures by other countries in Germany, provides the necessary personnel for these tasks and analyses the results of the inspections and monitoring visits.
In addition, Germany assists 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. The participating States meet once a year in Vienna to discuss current practical implementation issues concerning the Vienna Document at the Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting (AIAM).