The parliament will consider laws to regulate private security companies in order to harmonise with EU standards.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 17/08/13
Members of the Association for Private Security and the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies organised a discussion on the private security sector. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
The July 25th beating death of a Belgrade man by three private security guards put Serbia's private security sector in the spotlight and raised questions about the need for tighter regulations.
The three men who were arrested for beating Fedor Frimerman to death outside a Belgrade nightclub are among the estimated tens of thousands of private security guards in Serbia. The country lacks an umbrella law to govern this industry, which is one of many that must be reformed as Serbia begins work to meet EU standards. Laws that would set guidelines for the security sector are awaiting consideration by Serbia's parliament.
Without stringent regulation, it is possible for private security employees to work illegally and without professional training. Jelena Milic, director of the Belgrade Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, has researched the industry and said the number of private security workers could also threaten the state's monopoly over the legitimate use of force.
"Having in mind that the ministry of interior employs 35,000 police officers, while the Serbian armed forces employ 28,000 soldiers, the prevalence of the private security sector, which employs between 25,000 and 60,000 people, possessing an estimated 47,000 pieces of weapons, becomes obvious," Milic told SETimes. "The state must not allow private security companies to become competition in providing the security which the state provides for all. If this was to happen, stratification of society might take place into classes which can afford security for themselves, and classes which cannot."
Milic added that many state police officers work in private security when they are off duty, creating the potential for corruption and confusion in the chain of command. "This problem becomes even more serious when considering that the ministry of interior is the administrative and control mechanism over the private security sector, which creates a direct conflict of interest," Milic said.
Zoran Milicevic, secretary of the Association of Private Security at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, said the security sector has been positioned in the country's National Security Strategy, which defines private security as an integral part of the national security system.
The Association of Private Security also has joined the EU's Confederation of European Security Services (CoESS), an umbrella group of private security associations, and it is promoting EU standards and professional training.
Milicevic added that pending laws on private security and detective work conform to EU standards. Because EU accession is the one of the state's main aims, the new laws will be based on the principles of rule of law, political pluralism and the market economy, he said.
"It is necessary to adopt regulation and standards from the most developed EU countries and implement them within our conditions and standards. The main precondition for such politics is harmonisation of our legal system with the EU one. These two laws are incorporated solutions presented in the legislation of the countries in the region, with which we have a similar legal and administrative tradition, heritage and practices, and some of them are already full members of the European Union [Slovenia and Croatia], and some else are trying to join it (Macedonia, Montenegro)," Milicevic told SETimes.
Dragan Sormaz, a Serbian Progressive Party MP, told SETimes that the parliament will take up the laws in accordance with the process of EU negotiations.
"This sector should be regulated because of the huge number of people who are working there and could use weapons," Sormaz said
Milic said that although the EU does not have a single, harmonised approach to private security, there are commonly accepted international standards which form basic guidelines for the field.
The Montreux Document, a 2006 collaboration of the Swiss government and the Red Cross, sets criteria for selecting private security services, including training, licensing and monitoring guidelines.
CoESS and UNI Europa, a network of more than 900 trade unions, has a document outlining technical requirements for security companies and emphasising the importance of balancing cost considerations with the need for quality.
There also is the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (IcoC), which highlights the need for respect for human rights, covering issues such as use of force, prevention of torture, human trafficking and other human rights violations.
Chapters 23 and 24 of Serbia's EU accession negotiations will deal with freedom, justice and security, which will force Serbia to closely examine its security sector, Milic said.
"All three areas are intertwined in the functioning of the private security sector and its adequate position in the modern state, and it would thus be appropriate to enact a law which will be in line with EU expectations in these fields," Milic said "The lack of the umbrella law prevents adequate development of this economic and public field, its professionalisation and its ability to keep up with global trends."
What guidelines should Serbia put in place to regulate the private security sector? Share your thoughts in the comments section.