In the middle of the Cold War, on 3 July 1973, representatives of 15 NATO member states, 7 states of the Warsaw Pact and 13 neutral states congregated at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The negotiations lasted for almost two years. The result was a document that would prove ground-breaking for the European security architecture: the CSCE Helsinki Final Act. After the end of the confrontation between the two power blocs, the “Conference” became an “Organisation”, the CSCE became the OSCE – with 57 participating states today, from A for Albania to U for Uzbekistan.

The impact of the Helsinki Final Act was huge, even though it was not binding under international law. The 35 CSCE participating states agreed to publish the text of the Final Act after it was signed. This made the mutually agreed duties and principles accessible to the general public.

The subsequent CSCE process led to a rapprochement between East and West and helped to overcome the schism in Europe and thereby the division of Germany. Numerous peace initiatives and civil right movements in the states of the Eastern bloc referred to the agreements of 1975.

At a summit of the CSCE heads of government in Paris in November 1990 the participating states declared the end of the decades of division in Europe. At the beginning of 1995 the CSCE became the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), headquartered in Vienna.

Today, the OSCE has 57 participating states, whose territories together stretch from Vancouver, at one end of the Pacific Ocean, to Vladivostok at the other.


Unterzeichnung der KSZE-Schlussakte, 1. August 1975

The Helsinki Final Act

KSZE-Schlussakte mit den Unterschriften von Bundeskanzler Helmut Schmidt für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und des Staatsratsvorsitzenden Erich Honecker für die DDR

The Helsinki Final Act had a remarkable impact, despite the fact that it was not a binding agreement under international law. As the 35 CSCE participating States had consented to publish the text of the Final Act following its signature, all citizens were given access to the obligations and principles that had been agreed on.