|Formation||29 May 1954|
|c. 150 invitees, smaller core group|
Chairman of the Steering Committee
|Henri de Castries|
The Bilderberg Meeting is an annual conference established in 1954 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands "to foster dialogue between Europe and North America". Participants are European and North American political leaders, experts from industry, finance, academia, and the media. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule. The Bilderberg meetings are also unofficially called the "Bilderberg Group", "Bilderberg conference" or "Bilderberg Club".
The first conference was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, from 29 to 31 May 1954. It was initiated by several people, including Polish politician-in-exile Józef Retinger who, concerned about the growth of anti-Americanism in Western Europe, proposed an international conference at which leaders from European countries and the United States would be brought together with the aim of promoting Atlanticism—better understanding between the cultures of the United States and Western Europe to foster cooperation on political, economic, and defense issues.
Retinger approached Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands who agreed to promote the idea, together with former Belgian prime minister Paul van Zeeland, and the then-head of Unilever, Dutchman Paul Rijkens. Bernhard in turn contacted Walter Bedell Smith, the then-head of the CIA, who asked Eisenhower adviser Charles Douglas Jackson to deal with the suggestion. The guest list was to be drawn up by inviting two attendees from each nation, one of each to represent "conservative" and "liberal" points of view. Fifty delegates from 11 countries in Western Europe attended the first conference, along with 11 Americans.
The success of the meeting led the organizers to arrange an annual conference. A permanent steering committee was established with Retinger appointed as permanent secretary. As well as organizing the conference, the steering committee also maintained a register of attendee names and contact details with the aim of creating an informal network of individuals who could call upon one another in a private capacity. Conferences were held in France, Germany, and Denmark over the following three years. In 1957, the first U.S. conference was held on St. Simons Island, Georgia, with $30,000 from the Ford Foundation. The foundation also supplied funding for the 1959 and 1963 conferences.
The participants are between 120 to 150 people composed of political leaders, experts from industry, finance, academia and the media. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; one third from politics and government and the rest from other fields. Historically, attendee lists have been weighted toward bankers, politicians, directors of large businesses and board members from large publicly traded corporations, including IBM, Xerox, Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia and Daimler. Heads of state, including former King Juan Carlos I of Spain and former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, have attended meetings. A source connected to the group told The Daily Telegraph in 2013 that other individuals, whose names are not publicly issued, sometimes turn up "just for the day" at the group's meetings.
Activities and goals
The group's original goal of promoting Atlanticism, of strengthening U.S.–European relations and preventing another world war has grown; the Bilderberg Group's theme is to "bolster a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe" according to Andrew Kakabadse. In 2001, Denis Healey, a Bilderberg group founder and a steering committee member for 30 years, said, "To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn't go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing."
According to the web page of the group, the meetings are conducted under the Chatham House Rule, allowing the participants to use any information they gained during the meeting, but not to disclose the names of the speakers or any other participants. According to former chairman Étienne Davignon in 2011, a major attraction of Bilderberg group meetings is that they provide an opportunity for participants to speak and debate candidly and to find out what major figures really think, without the risk of off-the-cuff comments becoming fodder for controversy in the media. A 2008 press release from the "American Friends of Bilderberg" stated that "Bilderberg's only activity is its annual Conference and that at the meetings, no resolutions were proposed, no votes taken, and no policy statements issued." However, in November 2009, the group hosted a dinner meeting at the Château of Val-Duchesse in Brussels outside its annual conference to promote the candidacy of Herman Van Rompuy for President of the European Council.
Meetings are organized by a steering committee with two members from each of approximately 18 nations. Official posts include a chairman and an Honorary Secretary General. The group's rules do not contain a membership category but former participants receive the annual conference reports. The only category that exists is "member of the steering committee." Besides the committee, there is a separate advisory group with overlapping membership.
Dutch economist Ernst van der Beugel became permanent secretary in 1960, upon Retinger's death. Prince Bernhard continued to serve as the meeting's chairman until 1976, the year of his involvement in the Lockheed affair. The position of Honorary American Secretary General has been held successively by Joseph E. Johnson of the Carnegie Endowment, William Bundy of Princeton, Theodore L. Eliot Jr., former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and Casimir A. Yost of Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
According to James A. Bill, the "steering committee usually met twice a year to plan programs and to discuss the participant list."
In 2002, author Jon Ronson wrote that the group has a small central office in Holland [sic] which each year decides what country will host the forthcoming meeting. The host country then has to book an entire hotel for four days, plus arrange catering, transport and security. To fund this, the host solicits donations from sympathetic corporations such as Barclays, Fiat Automobiles, GlaxoSmithKline, Heinz, Nokia and Xerox.
Chairmen of the Steering Committee
Criticisms and conspiracy theories
Partly because of its working methods to ensure strict privacy, the Bilderberg Group has been criticised for its lack of transparency and accountability. The undisclosed nature of the proceedings gave rise to several conspiracy theories. This outlook has been popular on both extremes of the political spectrum, even if they disagree about the exact nature of the group's intentions. Some on the left accuse the Bilderberg group of conspiring to impose capitalist domination, while some on the right have accused the group of conspiring to impose a world government and planned economy.
In 2005, Davignon discussed accusations of the group striving for a one-world government with the BBC: "It is unavoidable and it doesn't matter. There will always be people who believe in conspiracies but things happen in a much more incoherent fashion. ... When people say this is a secret government of the world I say that if we were a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves."
One of the most concise academic papers critical of Bilderberg's 'Deep State' role in influencing geopolitical events out of the public spotlight was written in 1996 by Prof. Mike Peters of Leeds Metropolitan University and published in Lobster. Entitled "The Bilderberg Group and the Project for European Unification", Peters expresses incredulity that so few academics have examined the Bilderberg Group's international financial and political lobbying clout but closely examines links between the post-war effort for a united Europe and specific individuals connected with the Bilderberg Group.
To anticipate what will be said later, I believe that one of the key assumptions often made by structural Marxists, namely that the capitalist class is always divided into competing fractions which have no mechanisms for co-ordination other than the state, is not empirically sustainable. Part of this misconception, it could be said, derives from an over-literal understanding of the concept of the 'market' as constituting the only social relation amongst different fractions of capital. At least as far as the very large, and above all, the international (or as we would say in today's jargon, the 'global') corporations are concerned, this is definitely not the case: very sophisticated organs do exist whereby these capitalist interests can and do hammer out common lines of strategy. Bilderberg is one of these mechanisms.
In a 1994 report Right Woos Left, published by the Political Research Associates, investigative journalist Chip Berlet argued that right-wing populist conspiracy theories about the Bilderberg group date back as early as 1964 and can be found in Phyllis Schlafly's self-published book A Choice, Not an Echo, which promoted a conspiracy theory in which the Republican Party was secretly controlled by elitist intellectuals dominated by members of the Bilderberg group, whose internationalist policies would pave the way for world communism.
In August 2010, former Cuban president Fidel Castro wrote a controversial article for the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma in which he cited Daniel Estulin's 2006 book The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club, which, as quoted by Castro, describes "sinister cliques and the Bilderberg lobbyists" manipulating the public "to install a world government that knows no borders and is not accountable to anyone but its own self."
Proponents of Bilderberg conspiracy theories in the United States include individuals and groups such as the John Birch Society, political activist Phyllis Schlafly, writer Jim Tucker, political activist Lyndon LaRouche, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and politician Jesse Ventura, who made the Bilderberg group a topic of a 2009 episode of his TruTV series Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. Non-American proponents include Lithuanian writer Daniel Estulin.
Concerns about lobbying have arisen. Ian Richardson sees Bilderberg as the transnational power elite, "an integral, and to some extent critical, part of the existing system of global governance", that is "not acting in the interests of the whole". An article in The Guardian in June 2017 criticized the world view expressed in an agenda published by the Bilderberg group.
- List of Bilderberg participants
- Trilateral Commission
- Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs)
- Council on Foreign Relations
- World Economic Forum
- Bohemian Club
- Le Cercle
- Valdai Discussion Club
- "Japan–US Relations – Past, Present and Future". Daily Yomiuri. 8 December 1991.
Rockefeller: The idea (of creating the Trilateral Commission) was incorporated in a speech that I made in the spring of 1972 for the benefit of some industrial forums that the Chase held in different cities around Europe, … Then Zbig (Zbig Brzezinski) and I both attended a meeting of the Bilderberg Group … and was shot down in flames. There was very little enthusiasm for the idea. I think they felt that they had a very congenial group, and they didn't want to have it interfered with by another element that would—I don't know what they thought, but in any case, they were not in favor.
- "ABOUT BILDERBERG MEETINGS". BILDERBERG MEETINGS the Official Website. Retrieved Jul 12, 2018.
- "Bilderberg mystery: Why do people believe in cabals?". BBC News. 7 June 2011. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- Hatch, Alden (1962). "The Hôtel de Bilderberg". HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: An authorized biography. London: Harrap. OCLC 2359663.
The idea was to get two people from each country who would give the conservative and liberal slant
- Aubourg, Valerie (June 2003). "Organizing Atlanticism: the Bilderberg Group and the Atlantic Institute 1952–63". Intelligence & National Security. 18 (2): 92–105. doi:10.1080/02684520412331306760.
- Rockefeller, David (2002). Memoirs. New York: Random House. p. 412. ISBN 978-0679405887.
- Hatch, Alden (1962). "The Hôtel de Bilderberg". HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: An authorized biography. London: Harrap. OCLC 2359663.
anybody who has ever been to a Bilderberg Conference should be able to feel that he can, in a private capacity, call on any former member he has met
- Moorehead, Caroline (18 April 1977). "An exclusive club, perhaps without power, but certainly with influence: The Bilderberg group". The Times. London.
- "Bilderberg Meeting of 1997 Assembles" (Press release). PR Newswire. 13 June 1997. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011.
- Oliver, Mark (4 June 2004). "The Bilderberg group". The Guardian. London.
- "Bilderberg Group? No conspiracy, just the most influential group in the world". The Daily Telegraph (London). 6 June 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
- Ronson, Jon (10 March 2001). "Who pulls the strings? (part 3)". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
- "A special report on global leaders". The Economist. 22 January 2011. pp. 12–14.
- "Bilderberg Announces 2008 Conference". businesswire.com. BusinessWire. 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- Waterfield, Bruno (16 November 2009). "EU Presidency candidate Herman Van Rompuy calls for new taxes". The Daily Telegraph. London.
during a secret dinner to promote his candidacy hosted by the elite Bilderberg Group
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- Introduction p. 3 in Bilderberg meetings, Schnews, 1999
- "Parliamentary questions: Answer given by Mr Prodi on behalf of the Commission". European Parliament. 15 May 2003.
- Entry for Conrad Black, The International Who's Who. Europa Publications. 2000.
- "Bilderberg: List of Invitees" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. 31 January 1996. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2006. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
- Bill, James A. (August 1998). George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0300076462.
- Ronson, Jon (2015) [First published 2002]. Them: Adventures with Extremists. London: Picador Classic. pp. 271–72. ISBN 978-1447275466.
- "Twenty-fifth Bilderberg meeting held in St joseph MO". Facts on File World News Digest. 14 May 1977.
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- "Final List of Participants of the 2011 Bilderberg annual conference". Official website. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011.
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- Meacher, Michael; Skelton, Charlie (11 June 2013). "Bilderberg 2013: The sun sets on Watford". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- Gowen, Annie (2 June 2012). "Is Bilderberg a conference on world affairs or a powerful global cabal? Depends on who you ask". The Washington Post.
- Bill Hayton (29 September 2005). "Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 February 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
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- Mike Peters, criticising Marxist academics' fundamental errors in studying capitalist power in 1996 
- Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice Not an Echo: The Inside Story of How American Presidents Are Chosen (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN 0686114868
- Chip Berlet (1994). "The New Right & the Secular Humanism Conspiracy Theory".
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- Berlet, Chip (2000). "John Birch Society". Retrieved 6 October 2010.
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- Dixon, Hayley (9 June 2013). "'Idiot' Bilderberg conspiracy theorist disrupts BBC politics show". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- Taylor, Adam (9 June 2013). "Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Goes Berserk During BBC Show". Business Insider. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- "List of Season 1 episodes for Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura". truTV. 30 December 2009. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
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- "Bilderberg Conference Watford 'Too Secret'". Sky News. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "My brush with Bilderberg". New Statesman. 10 June 2013. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- Ian Richardson (31 May 2012). "Chantilly Laced: Holding Bilderberg and the Transnational Policy Elite to Account". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- Skelton, Charlie (2 June 2017). "Bilderberg: the world's most secretive conference is as out of touch as ever". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- Ronson, Jon (2001). Them: Adventures with Extremists. London: Picador. ISBN 0330375466.
- Eringer, Robert (1980). The Global Manipulators. Bristol, England: Pentacle Books. OCLC 26551991.
- Estulin, Daniel (2007). The True Story of the Bilderberg Group. Oregon, United States of America: Trine Day. ISBN 0977795349.
- Hodapp, Christopher; Alice Von Kannon (2008). Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN 0470184086.
- Richardson, Ian N.; Andrew P. Kakabadse; Nada K. Kakabadse (2011). Bilderberg People: Elite power and consensus in world affairs. Hoboken, NJ: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415576352.
- Klimczuk, Stephen; Gerald Warner (2010). Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries: Uncovering Mysterious Sites, Symbols and Societies. Sterling. ISBN 1402762070.
- Retinger, J.H (August 1956). The bilderberg group. – A short essay on the origins of the group
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bilderberg Group.|
- Official website of the Bilderberg conference (since 2010)
- Bilderberg Group Steering-Committee
- Bilderberg: The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory
- Ex-BBC journalist Tony Gosling: published history on Josef Retinger, Prince Bernhard and Bilderberg group origins
- "Elite power brokers meet in secret". BBC News. 15 May 2003.
- Charlie Skelton's Bilderblog The Guardian
- Ken Clarke: Bilderberg conspiracy claims are nonsense BBC
- Bilderberg meeting reports from WikiLeaks