In the early 1990s a surplus of idle military expertise, brought about by the of the Cold War, and rapid regulatory liberalisation in the service sector gave rise to the contemporary incarnation of a highly skilled and well-organised mercenary – the private security company (PSC). While PSCs are much more constrained in their operations, concerns reminiscent of their late medieval counterparts have not been uncommon, with lack of transparency, criminal accountability and grave-human rights abuses defining their public image. Equally alarming is the extent to which state institutions have come to rely on their services and how this has in turn spurred a similar trend in the wider security sector.
Despite the fact that, apart from North America, Europe is home to the largest number of private security companies, private military and security services remain predominantly unregulated at the European level. Given the increasing number of both UN and EU peace operations, accompanied by the rationalisation of national militaries, this raises several concerns. To prevent PMCs abusing their power, protect people who are directly or indirectly engaged with them, including those they employ, and provide a legitimate basis for the solicitation of their services, a transnationally harmonised approach is required. To accomplish this, foreign ministers representing member states in the Foreign Affairs Council configuration of the Council of the EU will need to skilfully navigate a complex terrain of common security aspirations, military budget restraints, mutually exclusive legal provisions, numerous vested interests, and divergent views on what the security landscape should look like in the 21st century.