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The Bilderberg meetings are a series of elite, off-the-record, European-American conferences named after the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands, which hosted the first meeting in 1954.[1]

In a report on the 2003 meeting, the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby described Bilderberg as "an extremely influential lobbying group with a good deal of political clout on both sides of the Atlantic", noting that "meetings are cloaked in secrecy and participants rarely reveal their attendance". According to Will Hutton, 'the consensus established is the backdrop against which policy is made worldwide'.[2] In recent years the conference has begun to publish its attendees and agenda, but remains steadfastly silent on the proceedings and its outcomes.


According to Richard Aldrich, "the same small band of senior officials, many of them from the Western intelligence community, were central in supporting the three most important 'insider groups' emerging in the 1950s: the European Movement, the Bilderberg Group and Jean Monnet's Action Committee for a United States of Europe."[3] Many of these relationships had roots in World War Two special operations and resistance networks.[4]

Among those who had previously been involved in the European Movement was the prime mover in the creation of the Bilderberg Group, Joseph Retinger. By 1952, Retinger's focus had moved from European unity to the Atlantic alliance and the growing mutual distrust between the United States and Europe.[5]

Following conversations with his friend Paul Rykens, Retinger approached Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands with a proposal. A group of eminent Europeans would assemble a report on the causes of European anti-Americanism, to be submitted to a counterpart group of Americans. who would respond at a private meeting. This, it was hoped, would inaugurate a dialogue that would lead to a new level of transatlantic understanding.[6] Paul Van Zeeland was also involved in the initial conversations, according to Retinger:

Acting on the advice of my three friends, I approached about a dozen other people, viz.: Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, Major General Sir Colin Gubbins, Mr. Ole Bjorn Kraft, M. Guy Mollet, Dr. Rudolf Mueller, M. Antoine Pinay, M. P. Pipinelis, M. Max Brauer, Marshal of the R.A.F. Lord Portal of Hungerford, Ambassador Quaroni, and Signor de Gasperi.[7]

On the basis of reports from these figures, Retinger produced a paper summarising European objections to American policy, which was discussed at a meeting at the home of Baron Francois De Nervo.[8] Retinger described the event as follows:

A first meeting was held in Paris on 25 September 1952 and was attended by all the original members of the group: Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, Sir Colin Gubbins, M. Guy Mollet, Dr. Rudolf Mueller, M. Antoine Pinay, M.P. Pipinelis, Dr. J.H. Retinger, Mr. Paul Rykens, and M. Paul van Zeeland. The only two who could not attend were Lord Portal and Signor de Gasperi. At this meeting we discussed what could be done to improve American-European relations and on the initiative or M. van Zeeland we decided to set up a corresponding group in the United States.[9]

Bernhard contacted Walter Bedell Smith, then head of the CIA, who asked Eisenhower adviser Charles Douglas Jackson to deal with the suggestion.[10]


The group meets annually bringing together "some of the West's chief political movers, business leaders, bankers, industrialists and strategic thinkers to talk about global issues".[11]

The group does not have formal membership; instead a secret steering committee extends invitations to powerful figures in the fields of business and politics.[12]

The steering committee includes two members from each of approximately 18 nations.[13] Official posts, in addition to a chairman, include an Honorary Secretary General.[14] 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".[15] In addition to the committee, there also exists a separate advisory group, though membership overlaps.[16]

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's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.[17]

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.[18] The Bilderberg group's unofficial headquarters is the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.[19]

According to the American Friends of Bilderberg, the 2008 agenda dealt "mainly with a nuclear free world, cyber terrorism, Africa, Russia, finance, protectionism, US-EU relations, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islam and Iran".[18]

Chairmen of the Steering Committee


Proponents argue that it was formed in the 'spirit of post-war trans-Atlantic co-operation' to prevent future wars by 'bringing power-brokers together in an informal setting away from prying eyes' with 'the confidentiality enabl[ing] people to speak honestly without fear of repercussions'. They further argue "It's not an executive body; no decisions are taken there."[22]

Analyses of Bilderberg

Richard Aldrich says of the group:

Although Bilderberg and ACUE-European Movement shared broadly the same founders, members and objectives, arguably Bilderberg constituted the more effective mechanism of transatlantic dialogue, developing into what some have regarded as the most significant of the discreet fora for Western elites.[23]

Kees van der Pjil writes of networks like Bilderberg:

They function not as single-minded conspiracies, but as flexible, open structures in which the conflicting lines of development can be identified and synthesised. Ruling class strategists rely on these networks to elaborate a hegemonic strategy aimed at winning over intermediate strata; they can thus establish a bloc of forces committed to a comprehensive, broadly accepted concept of control. This presumes a keen appreciation of the real balance of forces, both in the geopolitical arena and in class terms. Disagreement and discussion are therefore ultimately as vital as a measure of compromise and consensus.[24]

Hugh Wilford agrees with Van der Pjil that Bilderberg emerged as a fundamentally transnational phenomenon:

One does not have to accept all the Marxist assumptions inherent in the Dutch scholar's analysis to agree that there were striking correspondences between the Group and earlier attempts to construct a bourgeois transnational network or 'imagined community' through such élitist, secretive, male-only organisations as the Freemasons or the Rhodes/Milner 'Round Table'. That said, there is considerable explanatory force in his argument that the early Cold War witnessed the emergence of a new 'Atlantic ruling class' whose power was based on the liberal corporate order of New Deal America but which also incorporated fractions of European élites who shared its modernising internationalist outlook.[25]

List of Bilderberg conferences


2010 Steering Committee

Member Advisory Group


External links


  1. Home, Bilderberg Meetings, 17 June 2010.
  2. Will Hutton, Kinder Capitalists in Armani Specs, The Observer, 1 February, 1998.
  3. Richard J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence, Overlook Press, 2002, p.344.
  4. Richard J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence, Overlook Press, 2002, p.369.
  5. Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wulitzer: How the CIA played America, Harvard, 2008, p.242.
  6. Hugh Wilford, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? Frank Cass, 2003, p.242.
  7. Dr. J.H. Retinger, THE BILDERBERG GROUP, August 1956, archived at the website of Jan Chciuk-Celt.
  8. Hugh Wilford, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? Frank Cass, 2003, p.243.
  9. Dr. J.H. Retinger, THE BILDERBERG GROUP, August 1956.
  10. Valerie Aubourg Organizing Atlanticism: the Bilderberg Group and the Atlantic Institute 1952–63.  
  11. Jonathon Duffy, Bilderberg: The ultimate conspiracy theory, BBC News Online Magazine, 3 June, 2004.
  12. Emma Jane Kirby, Elite power brokers meet in secret, BBC News, 15 May, 2003.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group.  BBC News.  Retrieved 5 August 2008.
  14. Bilderberg Meeting of 1997 Assembles.  PR Newswire.
  15. Parliamentary questions: Answer given by Mr Prodi on behalf of the Commission.  European Parliament.
  16. Entry for Conrad Black, The International Who's Who.  Europa Publications
  17. Bilderberg: List of Invitees.  United States Department of Defense.  Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Bilderberg Announces 2008 Conference. BusinessWire.  Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  19. Bilderberg meetings remain a mystery.  Stars and Stripes.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Twenty-fifth Bilderberg meeting held in St joseph MO. 14 May 1977.  Facts on File World News Digest
  21. Who's Who.
  22. Emma Jane Kirby, Elite power brokers meet in secret, BBC News, 15 May, 2003.
  23. Richard J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence, Overlook Press, 2002, p.369.
  24. Kees van der Pjil, Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq, Pluto Press, 2006, pp.68-69.
  25. Hugh Wilford, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? Frank Cass, 2003, pp.254-255.
  26. Conferences 2009-1954 - 50's,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  27. Conferences 2009-1954 - 60's,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  28. Conferences 2009-1954 - 70's,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  29. Conferences 2009-1954 - 80's,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  30. Conferences 2009-1954 - 90's,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  31. Conferences 2009-1954 - 00's,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  32. Bildergerg Metings,, accessed 6 July 2010.
  33. Bilderberg Meetings St. Moritz, Switzerland 9-12 June 2011,, accessed 15 June 2011.
  34. [ Bilderberg Meetings Chantilly, Virginia, USA, 31 May-3 June 2012],, accessed 2 June 2012.
  35. Rowena Mason, British taxpayers to pay 'millions' towards secretive Bilderberg meeting security,, 30 May 2013.
  36. 62nd Bilderberg conference to take place from 29 May - 1 June 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. bilderbergmeetings, accessed 2 June 104.
  37. Governance, Bilderberg Meetings, 18 June 2010.
  38. Governance, Bilderberg Meetings, 18 June 2010.