The original Bilderberg conference was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg, near Arnhem in The Netherlands, from 29 May to 31 May 1954. It was initiated by several people, including Denis Healey and Jozef 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 understanding between the cultures of the United States and Western Europe.
Retinger approached Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who agreed to promote the idea, together with Belgian Prime Minister Paul Van Zeeland, and the head of Unilever at that time, the 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.
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 US conference was held in St. Simons, 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 around eighteen 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.
Dutch economist Ernst van der Beugel took over as 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.
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 unofficial headquarters is the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1954-1975)
Alec Douglas-Home (1977-1980)
Eric Roll (1986-1989)
Lord Carrington (1990-1998)
The steering committee does not publish a list of attendees, though some participants have publicly discussed their attendance. Historically, attendee lists have been weighted towards politicians, bankers, and directors of large businesses.
Heads of state, including Juan Carlos I of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, have attended meetings. Prominent politicians from North America and Europe are past attendees. In past years, board members from many large publicly-traded corporations have attended, including IBM, Xerox, Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia and Daimler.
The 2009 meeting participants in Greece included: Greek prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis; Finnish prime minister, Matti Vanhanen; Sweden foreign minister, Carl Bildt; U.S. State Department number two, James Steinberg; U.S. Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner; World Bank president, Robert Zoellick; European Commission head, Jose Manuel Barroso; Queen Sofia of Spain; and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
List of Bilderberg Participants
In a European Parliament session in Brussels, Mario Borghezio, an Italian member of European Parliament, questioned the nominations of Bilderberg and Trilateral Commission attendees for the posts of EU President and EU foreign minister. The Trilateral Commission was established by David Rockefeller in 1972 after the Bilderberg Group refused to incorporate Japan.
In 2009 the group had a dinner meeting at Castle of the Valley of the Duchess in Brussels, in the 12th of November, with the participation of Herman Van Rompuy, who later became the President of the European Council. The newspaper De Tijd (and several others afterwards) reported that, at this meeting, Van Rompuy showed support for a European green tax: "Van Rompuy told the elite club that the European government leaders are increasingly becoming proponents of Europe tapping off green income, so that the contributions of member states to the EU can be decreased."
Because of its secrecy and refusal to issue news releases, the group is frequently accused of secretive and nefarious world plots. Critics include the John Birch Society, the Canadian writer Daniel Estulin, British writer David Icke, American journalist Jim Tucker and radio host Alex Jones.
Bilderberg founding member and, for 30 years, a steering committee member, Denis Healey has 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 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".
2009: May 14-16 - Astir Palace resort in Athens, Greece
2008: June 5-8 - Westfields Marriott in Chantilly, Virginia, United States
2007: May 31 - June 3 - Ritz-Carlton Hotel, in Sisli, Istanbul, Turkey
2006: June 8-11 - Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
2005 May 5-8 - Dorint Sofitel Seehotel Uberfahrt in Rottach-Egern, Germany
List of Bilderberg Meetings
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In the News ...
Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group BBC - October 7, 2005
The Ultimate Conspiracy - 50th anniversary BBC - June 3, 2004
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