The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, Bilderberg meetings or Bilderberg Club is an annual private conference of approximately 120–150 political leaders and 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.
The original 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, concerned about the growth of anti-Americanism in Western Europe, who 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.
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 supplied further funding for the 1959 and 1963 conferences.
Meetings are organized by a steering committee with two members from each of approximately 18 nations. Official posts, in addition to a chairman, include an Honorary Secretary General. There is no such category in the group's rules as a "member of the group". The only category that exists is "member of the Steering Committee". In addition to the committee, there also exists a separate advisory group, though membership overlaps.
A 2008 press release from the "American Friends of Bilderberg" stated that "Bilderberg's only activity is its annual Conference. At the meetings, no resolutions are proposed, no votes taken, and no policy statements issued" and noted that the names of attendees were available to the press. The Bilderberg group's unofficial headquarters is in Leiden in the Netherlands.
In 2013, a source involved in the planning for the group's meeting that year in Watford, UK, was reported to have said that people whose names are not publicly issued may sometimes turn up "just for the day".
2005 (5–8 May) at the Dorint Sofitel Seehotel Überfahrt in Rottach-Egern, Germany
According to chairman Étienne Davignon, 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. However, partly because of its working methods to ensure strict privacy, the Bilderberg Group has been criticised for its lack of transparency and accountability. Concerns about lobbying have also arisen. Due to its privacy, Bilderberg is also accused of conspiracies. 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 2001, Denis Healey, a Bilderberg group founder and, for 30 years, a steering committee member, 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." In 2005 Davignon discussed these accusations 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."
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. Paradoxically, 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".
^"Japan–U.S. Relations—Past, Present and Future". The 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."
^ abHatch, Alden (1962). "The Hôtel de Bilderberg". H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: An authorized biography. London: Harrap. OCLC2359663. "The idea was to get two people from each country who would give the conservative and liberal slant"
^ abAubourg, Valerie (June 2003). "Organizing Atlanticism: the Bilderberg Group and the Atlantic Institute 1952–63". Intelligence & National Security18 (2): 92–105.
^Hatch, Alden (1962). "The Hôtel de Bilderberg". H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: An authorized biography. London: Harrap. OCLC2359663. "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"