Modernising international arms control in Europe

A verification visit to Erfurt in 1993 – in the context of the Vienna Document – included this critical look into a howitzer tank cannon of Home Defence Brigade 39. The visits are conducted to strengthen mutual confidence.

A verification visit to Erfurt in 1993 – in the context of the Vienna Document – included this critical look into a howitzer tank cannon of Home Defence Brigade 39. The visits are conducted to strengthen mutual confidence., © dpa-Zentralbild

23.10.2019 - Article

On 23 October, Germany presented proposals for adjustment of the Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures in the OSCE area. Germany is thereby reacting to technological and political changes that call for an adaptation of security architecture if it is to remain effective.

Since its 2016 OSCE chairmanship, Germany has been working to modernise the Vienna Document on military confidence and transparency in Europe. The initiative wants to enhance arms control and bring it in line with the requirements of the 21st century.

What is the Vienna Document?

The Vienna Document is a politically binding agreement of all 57 OSCE participating States to increase transparency, build military confidence and promote security in Europe.

The OSCE participating States first signed the document in 1990 and updated it several times in subsequent years. It makes a key contribution to security and confidence-building in Europe by creating transparency, enabling inspections of participating States’ armed forces based on the principle of reciprocity, and setting out crisis-response measures.

Minister of State Annen commented:

The way we in Europe ensure arms control is scarcely keeping pace with reality. One element that we would like to adjust to reflect current needs is the OSCE Vienna Document.

Why do we want to modernise it?

The world of arms control has changed significantly due to technological and military developments, such as new weapons systems, more capable air defence, and high-precision weapons. Germany wants to bring the agreement in line with present-day requirements, so that the OSCE can make a tangible contribution to security in Europe. That is why Germany asked fellow NATO member countries to help develop a package of measures to modernise the Vienna Document.

These would, for example, adapt OSCE procedures so that the organisation can better react to crises. Another important step would be for the document to state how participating States must provide notification about snap troop exercises. In the past, this has time and again created unease. Moreover, the modernisation would allow for enhanced inspections in the participating States, so that the transparency of their military equipment can be improved.

What are the next steps?

Germany’s ambassador to the OSCE presented the modernisation package in Vienna on 23 October 2019 and subsequently discussed it in detail with experts. Now, all OSCE participating States must examine the package and take up negotiations with one another. If and when the participating States agree, it could be adopted as early as 2020.


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