While the news cycle focuses on the U.S. presidential election and Democratic primaries, another event this week may influence the course of world events equally if not more, though it’s hard to say, given its secrecy. The 2016 meeting of the Bilderberg Group kicks off in Dresden, Germany this Thursday and lasts through the weekend.
Bilderberg is an annual conference named for the Hotel De Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, where the first meeting was held in 1954. The website for the meetings bills them as a “forum for informal discussions designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.” Critics, however, point to the secrecy surrounding the conferences – which are attended by elite representatives of the banking, business and political worlds – as cause for concern.
“The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed,” the Bilderberg website states.
“Thanks to the private nature of the meeting, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”
Despite these friendly reassurances, not everyone is convinced that the closed-door meetings of international power brokers are inherently benign.
Charlie Skelton, who for several years has covered the meetings for the Guardian, writing today in the International Business Times UK, notes that two Goldman Sachs representatives, James A. Johnson and Robert Zoellick, sit on the group’s steering committee.
“For Bilderberg, as for Goldman Sachs, the idea that there might be any kind of push-back against globalisation is a horrific one,” Skelton writes. “I suspect we’ll glimpse some frowning faces behind the tinted glass as the limousines start rolling up on Thursday.”
Also notably on the Bilderberg Steering Committee are Silicon Valley billionaires Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder who recently made headlines for financing lawsuits against the news and gossip site Gawker, and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., the new parent company of Google, which Schmidt has previously been CEO of.
Meanwhile another American billionaire is in a category all his own. Listed on the same page as the steering committee, but in a separate one-man list of persons in the “Advisory Group” is David Rockefeller. Though not presently on the steering committee, Henry Kissinger continues to regularly attend the meetings, according to published lists of past participants.
The Bilderberg website states that between 120 and 150 participants are invited to the conference each year, including “political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media,” although the conference “is closed to reporting journalists in order to encourage the highest level of openness and dialogue.”
The site includes a page of “frequently asked questions,” including the question “With such high-calibre guests, why is there so little media coverage on Bilderberg?” Presumably, this question is typically worded in exactly this way when frequently asked.
In response to the question, the site begrudgingly concedes that “the list of participants, main topics and the location are always published a few days before each meeting.” It is now officially a few days before this year’s meeting, though a list of 2016 topics and participants does not appear to have been published as of this writing.
Indeed, while the Bilderberg Group has become ever-so-slightly more transparent about its activities in recent years, the website also notes that the group “has never sought any public attention.”
In an interview posted with his article today, Skelton responds to a question as to whether the limited transparency that Bilderberg has implemented in the last few years has been an internally driven effort to clarify the group’s activities.
“Absolutely not,” Skelton says. “It’s pressure that’s being brought by journalists and by interested members of the public who simply want a little bit more transparency around this international policy summit.”