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Regulating Private Military Companies: What Role for the EU?

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Following allegations that private security guards were involved in the torture of Iraqi prisoners and in the wake an attempted coup by private mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea, the proliferation of so-called ‘private military companies' (PMCs) is receiving considerable attention. Of particular concern is the lack of effective national and international controls of the industry. This article argues that much of the current debate about PMCs underestimates the extent of regulation that directly or indirectly applies to the industry. Especially in Europe, private military services are increasingly controlled by national and international legislation. The European Union (EU) plays a crucial role in this development because of two factors. First, the EU's free internal market in goods and services is putting pressure on the EU to harmonize national regulations on private security and policing and thus regulate the ‘soft' end of the private military industry. Second, the growing role of the EU in foreign and defence issues is leading the EU to act as a driving force in assuring the implementation of non-proliferation policies among its member states. Following an examination of national and EU policies on the provision and export of specific private military services, this article concludes that, as the overlap and tensions between national and international policies grows, the EU is coming under increasing pressures to create common controls which subsume both.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Bristol

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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