Bilderberg Group

Bilderberg Group

Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands, eponymous location of the first conference in 1954
Formation 29 May 1954 (1954-05-29)
c. 150 invitees, smaller core group
Chairman of the Steering Committee
Henri de Castries

The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, Bilderberg meetings or Bilderberg Club is an annual private conference of 120 to 150 people of the European and North American political elite, experts from industry, finance, academia, and the media, established in 1954.[1]


The first conference was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, from 29 to 31 May 1954.[2] 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.[3]

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, then head of the CIA, who asked Eisenhower adviser Charles Douglas Jackson to deal with the suggestion.[4] 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.[3] Fifty delegates from 11 countries in Western Europe attended the first conference, along with 11 Americans.[5]

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.[6] 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.[4]

Activities and goals

The group's original goal of promoting Atlanticism, of strengthening US-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.[2] 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."[7]

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.[8] 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."[9] 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.[10]

Organizational structure

Meetings are organized by a steering committee with two members from each of approximately 18 nations.[11] Official posts include a chairman and an Honorary Secretary General.[12] The group's rules do not contain a membership category but former participants receive the annual conference reports.[13] The only category that exists is "member of the steering committee."[14] Besides the committee, there is a separate advisory group with overlapping membership.[15]

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.[16]

According to James A. Bill, the "steering committee usually met twice a year to plan programs and to discuss the participant list."[17]

Chairmen of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group

Chairmen of the Steering
Committee of the Bilderberg Group
Tenure as Chairman Country Office(s)
Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld
29 May 1954 – 29 September 1976
(22 years, 123 days) [18]
 Netherlands Prince consort of the Netherlands
Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of the Netherlands
Alec Douglas-Home,
Baron Home of the Hirsel

22 April 1977 – 20 April 1980
(2 years, 364 days) [18]
 United Kingdom Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(1960–1963, 1970–1974)
Lord President of the Council
(1957, 1959–1960)
Leader of the House of Lords
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
Walter Scheel
15 May 1981 – 12 May 1985
(3 years, 362 days) [19][20]
 Germany President of Germany
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Economic Cooperation
Eric Roll, Baron Roll of Ipsden
25 April 1986 – 14 May 1989
(3 years, 19 days) [21]
 United Kingdom
Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington
(born 1919)
11 May 1990 – 17 May 1998
(8 years, 6 days) [5][22]
 United Kingdom Secretary General of NATO
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Secretary of State for Energy
Secretary of State for Defence
Leader of the House of Lords
First Lord of the Admiralty
High Commissioner to Australia
Étienne Davignon, Viscount Davignon
(born 1932)
3 June 1999 – 12 June 2011
(12 years, 9 days) [11][23][24]
 Belgium European Commissioner for Industrial Affairs and Energy
European Commissioner for Internal Market,
Customs Union and Industrial Affairs
Henri de Castries, 5th Count of Castries
(born 1954)
31 May 2012 – present
(4 years, 190 days) [25]
 France Chairman and CEO of AXA (2000–2016)


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.[2][26] Historically, attendee lists have been weighted toward bankers, politicians, directors of large businesses[27] and board members from large publicly traded corporations, including IBM, Xerox, Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia and Daimler.[12] Heads of state, including former King Juan Carlos I of Spain and former queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, have attended meetings,[12][28] 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.[29]

Recent meetings

Further information: List of Bilderberg meetings


Partly because of its working methods to ensure strict privacy, the Bilderberg Group has been criticised for its lack of transparency and accountability.[30] The undisclosed nature of the proceedings have given rise to several conspiracy theories.[31][8][32] 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,[33] while some on the right have accused the group of conspiring to impose a world government and planned economy.[34]

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."[32]

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,[35] 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.[36]

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,[37] 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."[33] Proponents of Bilderberg conspiracy theories in the United States include individuals and groups such as the John Birch Society,[34][38] political activist Phyllis Schlafly,[38] writer Jim Tucker,[39] political activist Lyndon LaRouche,[40] radio host Alex Jones,[2][41][42] and politician Jesse Ventura, who made the Bilderberg group a topic of a 2009 episode of his TruTV series Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.[43] Non-American proponents include Lithuanian writer Daniel Estulin.[44]

Concerns about lobbying have arisen.[45][46] 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".[47]

See also


  1. "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.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "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.
  3. 1 2 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
  4. 1 2 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.
  5. 1 2 Rockefeller, David (2002). Memoirs. New York: Random House. p. 412. ISBN 978-0-679-40588-7.
  6. 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
  7. Ronson, Jon (10 March 2001). "Who pulls the strings? (part 3)". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  8. 1 2 "A special report on global leaders". The Economist. 22 January 2011. pp. 12–14.
  9. "Bilderberg Announces 2008 Conference". BusinessWire. 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  10. 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
  11. 1 2 "Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group". BBC News. 29 September 2005. Archived from the original on 29 December 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
  12. 1 2 3 "Bilderberg Meeting of 1997 Assembles" (Press release). PR Newswire. 13 June 1997. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011.
  13. Introduction p.3 in Bilderberg meetings, Schnews, 1999
  14. "Parliamentary questions: Answer given by Mr Prodi on behalf of the Commission". European Parliament. 15 May 2003.
  15. Entry for Conrad Black, The International Who's Who. Europa Publications. 2000.
  16. "Bilderberg: List of Invitees" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. 31 January 1996. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-19. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  17. Bill, James A. (August 1998). George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U. S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-300-07646-2.
  18. 1 2 "Twenty-fifth Bilderberg meeting held in St joseph MO". Facts on File World News Digest. 14 May 1977.
  19. "Bilderberg Meetings Conference Report 1981".
  20. "Bilderberg Meetings Conference Report 1985".
  21. Who's Who. 1999.
  22. "Bilderberg Meetings Conference Report 1990".
  23. "Booklet of the 1999 annual conference". Schnews.
  24. "Final List of Participants of the 2011 Bilderberg annual conference". Official website. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011.
  25. "Final List of Participants of the 2012 Bilderberg annual conference". Bilderberg Meetings.
  26. "Bilderberg Official Website". Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  27. Moorehead, Caroline (18 April 1977). "An exclusive club, perhaps without power, but certainly with influence: The Bilderberg group". The Times. London.
  28. Oliver, Mark (4 June 2004). "The Bilderberg group". The Guardian. London.
  29. "Bilderberg Group? No conspiracy, just the most influential group in the world". The Daily Telegraph (London). 6 June 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  30. Meacher, Michael; Skelton, Charlie (11 June 2013). "Bilderberg 2013: The sun sets on Watford". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  31. 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.
  32. 1 2 Bill Hayton (29 September 2005). "Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group". BBC News. Archived from the original on 8 February 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  33. 1 2 Weissert, Will (10 August 2010). "Fidel Castro fascinated by Bilderberg Club conspiracy theory". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  34. 1 2 Wallechinsky, David; Wallace, Irving (1975). The People's Almanac. Doubleday. cited paragraphs. ISBN 0-385-04060-1.
  35. Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice Not an Echo: The Inside Story of How American Presidents Are Chosen (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN 0-686-11486-8
  36. Chip Berlet (1994). "The New Right & the Secular Humanism Conspiracy Theory".
  37. Daniel Estulin, Los secretos del club Bilderberg (Ediciones del Bronce, 2006).
  38. 1 2 Berlet, Chip (2000). "John Birch Society". Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  39. Iain Hollingshead (4 June 2010). "The Bilderberg Group: fact and fantasy". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  40. King, Dennis (1979). "NCLC'S Private Intelligence Agency". Our Town. New York. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  41. Dixon, Hayley (9 June 2013). "'Idiot' Bilderberg conspiracy theorist disrupts BBC politics show". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  42. Taylor, Adam (9 June 2013). "Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Goes Berserk During BBC Show". Business Insider. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  43. "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.
  44. Bruce Ramsey (30 July 2009). "That Bilderberg Book". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  45. "Bilderberg Conference Watford 'Too Secret'". Sky News. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  46. "My brush with Bilderberg". New Statesman. 10 June 2013. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  47. Ian Richardson (31 May 2012). "Chantilly Laced: Holding Bilderberg and the Transnational Policy Elite to Account". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 September 2015.

Further reading

  • Ronson, Jon (2001). Them: Adventures with Extremists. London: Picador. ISBN 0-330-37546-6. 
  • 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 0-9777953-4-9. 
  • Hodapp, Christopher; Alice Von Kannon (2008). Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN 0-470-18408-6. 
  • Richardson, Ian N.; Andrew P. Kakabadse; Nada K. Kakabadse (2011). Bilderberg People: Elite power and consensus in world affairs. Hoboken, NJ: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-57635-2. 
  • Klimczuk, Stephen; Gerald Warner (2010). Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries: Uncovering Mysterious Sites, Symbols and Societies. Sterling. ISBN 1-4027-6207-0. 
  • Retinger, J.H (August 1956). The bilderberg group.  – A short essay on the origins of the group

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