Privatization has certainly been one of the main events of the economic and financial history of the 20th century. Between 1997 and 2004 more than 4,000 privatization operations were carried out in the world, bringing to governments revenues for over 1,350US$billion. Western Europe emerges as the most important region, having implemented the greatest number of privatizations and raised a half of global revenues. The relevance of Western Europe in the process can be ascribed to several factors. This paper investigates the causes of this process, summarizes the main trends of privatization activity at the country level, analyzes the main privatization drivers and provides an account of the main findings of the effects of privatization at the macro and microeconomic level.