The evolution of security industry regulation in the European Union

Mark Button, Peter Stiernstedt

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The European private security sector has grown from a handful of small companies at the end of the Second World War into a multibillion Euro industry with thousands of firms and millions of security staff. In Europe, the demands for security is not just expressed notionally but also officially in The European Agenda on Security stating the European Union (EU) aims to ensure that people live in an area of freedom, security, and justice. This article will begin by exploring the role of private security in society. It will then move on to consider the main phases in the development of private security regulation in Europe. Following on from this, some of the main areas of policy development will be considered, such as European bodies, initiatives, and standards. Finally, the article will explore some of the potential options for the future in better regulating the European private security sector. From a historical perspective, the evolution of private security regulation can be divided into three phases: the laissez-faire, the centrifugal, and the centripetal era – each with its own distinct characteristics and impact on the concurrent industry. In the EU where there is the legal framework for the development of a single market in services, the key social partners have been at the forefront of developing a series of standards and guidance documents which promote standards across borders at the European level. However, the institutions of the EU have been reluctant to intervene at a European level in setting minimum standards of private security regulation. Thus, the changing terrain of the EU relating to security, regulation, and the private security industry means the current trajectory may be in need of an injection of more radical thought and consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245–257
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice
Issue number4
Early online date26 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • private security
  • regulation
  • European Union
  • security industry
  • security directive


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