Well, it's not the quickest they could have acted, but at least the conversation will happen soon. A half-day conference in Brussels next month (7 Dec 06) by the Security & Defence Agenda has two panels on privatization of force:
How Should EU Policymakers see the role of "Private Armies"
The crucial role of private security companies in Iraq looks increasingly like a pointer to the future. Private contractors are offering not only new reserves of skilled manpower but also sophisticated services ranging from intelligence-gathering and infrastructure protection to the provision in Iraq of command-and-control that links reconstruction and counter-insurgency operations. With many of these specialist security companies originating in Europe, how should EU policymakers see their roles developing? As Europe's defence and security identity takes shape, what should be the inter-relationship between EU member states' often hard-pressed military and the growing numbers of private sector security operators?
Are the NGOs and Private Security Companies Allies or Foes?
At first sight, NGOs involved in humanitarian relief or development work are far removed from private security companies. Yet they often pursue the same goals of protecting non-combatants and institution-building. How are private security specialists likely to fit into future EU-led relief and peacekeeping operations, and is there a need for a more clearly defined relationship both with EU battle groups and with the NGOs that administer the Union's world-leading aid effort?
Both of these 90min sessions ask interesting questions, but the panel titles are intentionally leading. This should not be surprising considering the SDA's target audience: Brussels-based international press. Still, it should be interesting what is said. I'm not going, but I'll be interested in their report. The different portrayals of private security contractors by different media is interesting and understudied.