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Bilderberg 50th anniversary


The Bilderberg group, an elite coterie of Western thinkers and power-brokers, has been accused of fixing the fate of the world behind closed doors. As the organisation marks its 50th anniversary, rumours are more rife than ever.
Given its reputation as perhaps the most powerful organisation in the world, the Bilderberg group doesn't go a bundle on its switchboard operations.

Telephone inquiries are met with an impersonal female voice - the Dutch equivalent of the BT Callminder woman - reciting back the number and inviting callers to "leave a message after the tone".

Anyone who accidentally dialled the number would probably think they had stumbled on just another residential answer machine.

Leiden in Holland, the inauspicious base of the Bilderberg group
But behind this ultra-modest fašade lies one of the most controversial and hotly-debated alliances of our times.

On Thursday the Bilderberg group marks its 50th anniversary with the start of its yearly meeting.

For four days some of the West's chief political movers, business leaders, bankers, industrialists and strategic thinkers will hunker down in a five-star hotel in northern Italy to talk about global issues.

What sets Bilderberg apart from other high-powered get-togethers, such as the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), is its mystique.

Not a word of what is said at Bilderberg meetings can be breathed outside. No reporters are invited in and while confidential minutes of meetings are taken, names are not noted.

The shadowy aura extends further - the anonymous answerphone message, for example; the fact that conference venues are kept secret. The group, which includes luminaries such as Henry Kissinger and former UK chancellor Kenneth Clarke, does not even have a website.

This year Bilderberg has announced a list of attendees
They include BP chief John Browne, US Senator John Edwards, World Bank president James Wolfensohn and Mrs Bill Gates  

In the void created by such aloofness, an extraordinary conspiracy theory has grown up around the group that alleges the fate of the world is largely decided by Bilderberg.

In Yugoslavia, leading Serbs have blamed Bilderberg for triggering the war which led to the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic. The Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the London nail-bomber David Copeland and Osama Bin Laden are all said to have bought into the theory that Bilderberg pulls the strings with which national governments dance.

And while hardline right-wingers and libertarians accuse Bilderberg of being a liberal Zionist plot, leftists such as activist Tony Gosling are equally critical.

A former journalist, Mr Gosling runs a campaign against the group from his home in Bristol, UK.

"My main problem is the secrecy. When so many people with so much power get together in one place I think we are owed an explanation of what is going on.

Timothy McVeigh was among those who believed the conspiracy theory
Mr Gosling seizes on a quote from Will Hutton, the British economist and a former Bilderberg delegate, who likened it to the annual WEF gathering where "the consensus established is the backdrop against which policy is made worldwide".

"One of the first places I heard about the determination of US forces to attack Iraq was from leaks that came out of the 2002 Bilderberg meeting," says Mr Gosling.

But "privacy, rather than secrecy", is key to such a meeting says Financial Times journalist Martin Wolf, who has been invited several times in a non-reporting role.

"The idea that such meetings cannot be held in private is fundamentally totalitarian," he says. "It's not an executive body; no decisions are taken there."

As an up-and-coming statesmen in the 1950s, Denis Healey, who went on to become a Labour chancellor, was one of the four founding members of Bilderberg (which was named after the hotel in Holland where the first meeting was held in 1954).

The alternative - the WEF welcomes journalists
His response to claims that Bilderberg exerts a shadowy hand on the global tiller is met with characteristic bluntness. "Crap!"

"There's absolutely nothing in it. We never sought to reach a consensus on the big issues at Bilderberg. It's simply a place for discussion," says Lord Healey.

Formed in the spirit of post-war trans-Atlantic co-operation, the idea behind Bilderberg was that future wars could be prevented by bringing power-brokers together in an informal setting away from prying eyes.

"Bilderberg is the most useful international group I ever attended. The confidentiality enabled people to speak honestly without fear of repercussions.

"In my experience the most useful meetings are those when one is free to speak openly and honestly. It's not unusual at all. Cabinet meetings in all countries are held behind closed doors and the minutes are not published."

That activists have seized on Bilderberg is no surprise to Alasdair Spark, an expert in conspiracy theories.

"The idea that a shadowy clique is running the world is nothing new. For hundreds of years people have believed the world is governed by a cabal of Jews.

"Shouldn't we expect that the rich and powerful organise things in their own interests. It's called capitalism."

Here's a list of known 2004 participants:

N - Auser, Svein - CEO, DnB NOR ASA

D - Ackermann, Josef - Chairman, Group Executive Committee, Deutsche Bank AG

I - Ambrosetti, Alfredo - Chairman, Abbrosetti Group

TR - Babacan, Ali - Minister of Economic Affairs

P - Balsemao, Francisco Pinto - Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA, SGPS, Former Prime Minister

ISR - Barnavie, Elie - Department of General History, Tel-Aviv University

I - Benedetti, Rodolfo De - CEO, CIR

I - Bernabe, Franco - Vice Chairman, Rothschild Europe

F - Beytout, Nicolas - Editor In Chief, Les Echos

INT - Bolkestein, Frits - Commissioner for the Internal Market, European Commission, former leader of Dutch right wing Liberal Party VVD.

USA - Boot, Max - Neoconservative, Council on foreign Relations, Features Editor, Wall Street Journal

CH - Borel, Daniel - Chairman, Logitech International S.A.

I - Bortoli, Ferrucio de - CEO, RCS Libri

S - Brock, Gunnar - CEO, Atlas Copco AB

GB - Browne, John - Group Chief Executive, BP plc

NL - Burgmans, Antony - Chairman, Unilever NV

F - Camus, Phillipe - CEO, European Aeronautic Defence and Space NV

I - Caracciolo, Lucio - Director, Limes Geopolitical Review

F - Castries, Henri de - Chairman, AXA Insurance

E - Cebrian, Juan Luis - CEO, PRISA (Spanish language media company), former Chairman, International Press Institute

TR - Cemal, Hasan - Senior Columnist, Milliyet Newspaper

GB - Clarke, Kenneth - Member of Parliament (Con.), Deputy Chairman, British American Tobacco

USA - Collins, Timothy C - MD and CEO, Ripplewood Holdings LLC, Yale School of Management, Trilateral Commission

USA - Corzine, Jon S. - Senator (D, New Jersey), Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs

CH - Couchepin, Pascal - Former Swiss President, Head of Home affairs Dept.

GR - David, George A. - Chairman, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company SA

B - Dehaene, Jean-Luc - Former Prime Minister, Mayor of Vilvoorde

TR - Dervis, Kemal - Member of Parliament, former senior World bank official

GR - Diamantopoulou, Anna - Member of Parliament, former European Commissioner for Social Affairs

USA - Donilon, Thomas L - Vice-President, Fannie Mae, Council on Foreign Relations

I - Draghi, Mario - Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Goldman Sachs

USA - Edwards, John - Senator (D. North Carolina), Democratic Presidential Candidate

DK - Eldrup, Anders - Chairman, DONG gas company (becoming privatised) A/S

DK - Federspiel, Ulrik - Ambassador to the USA

USA - Feith, Douglas J. - Undersecretary for Policy, Department of Defense

I - Galateri, Gabriele - Chairman, Mediobanca

USA - Gates, Melinda F. - Co-Founder, Gates Foundation, wife of Bill Gates

USA - Geithner, Timothy F. - President, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

I - Giavazzi, Francesco - Professor of Economics, Bocconi University; adviser, world bank and European Central bank

IRL - Gleeson, Dermot - Chairman Allied Irish Bank Group (currently being investigated for personal and corporate tax evasion)

USA - Graham, Donald E. - Chairman and CEO, Washington Post Company

USA - Haas, Richard N. - President, Council on Foreign Relations, former Director of Policy and Planning staff, State Department

NL - Halberstadt, Victor - Professor of Economics, Leiden University

B - Hansen, Jean-Pierre - Chairman, Suez Tractabel SA

S - Heikensten, Lars - Governor, Swedish Central Bank

USA - Holbrooke, Richard C - Vice Chairman, Perseus, former Director, Council on Foreign Relations, former Assistant Secretary of State

USA - Hubbard, Allen B - President E&A Industries

USA - Issacson, Walter - President and CEO, Aspen Institute

USA - Janow, Merit L. - Professor, International Economic Law and International Affairs, Columbia University

USA - Jordan, Vernon E. Senior Managing Director, Lazard Freres & Co LLC

USA - Kagan, Robert - Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

GB - Kerr, John - Director, Shell, Rio Tinto, Scottish American Investment Trust

USA - Kissinger Henry A. - Chairman, Kissinger Associates Inc.

TR - Koc, Mustafa V. - Chairman, Koc Holdings AS

NL - Koenders, Bert (AG) - Member of Parliament, president, Parliamentary Network of the World Bank

USA - Kovner, Bruce - Chairman Caxton Associates LLC, Chairman, American Enterprise Institute

USA - Kravis, Henry R. - Founding Partner, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., acquisitions financier

USA - Kravis, Marie Josee - Senoir Fellow, Hudson Institute Inc.

FIN -  Lehtomaki, Paula - Minister of Foreigh Trade and Development

FIN - Lipponen, Paavo - Speaker of Parliament

CHN - Long, Yongtu - Secretary General, Boao forum for Asia

P - Lopes, Pedro M. Santana - Mayor of Lisbon

USA - Luti, William J. - Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs

CDN - Lynch, Kevin G. - Deputy Minister, Department of Finance

USA - Mathews, Jessica T. - President, Carnegie Endowment for International War Peace

USA - McDonough, William J. - Cahirman and CEO, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, former president, Federal Reserve Bank of New York  

CDN - McKenna, Frank - Counsel, McInnes Cooper, former premier of New Brunswick

I - Merlini, Cesare - Executive Vice Chairman, Council for the United States and Italy, Council on Foreign Relations, former director, Italian Institute for International Affairs

F - Montbrial, Thierry de - President, French Institute of International Relations

INT - Monti, Mario - Competition Commissioner, European Commission

USA - Mundie, Craig J. - Chief Technical Officer, Advanced Strategies and Policies, Microsoft Corporation

N - Myklebust, Egil - Chairman, Scandinavian Airline System (SAS)

D - Naas, Matthias - Deputy Editor, Die Zeit

NL - Netherlands, Beatrix HM Queen of The - Lady Shell, nuff said

GB - Neville-Jones, Pauline - Chairman, QuinetiQ (UK privatised military research/services company), governor of the BBC, Chairman Information Assurance Advisory Council, formar Chairman Joint Intelligence Committee, former Managing Director NatWest Markets

USA - Nooyi, Indra K. - President  and CEO, PepsiCo Inc.

PL - Olechowski, Andrzej - Leader, Civic Platform

FIN - Ollila, Jorma - Chairman, Nokia Corporation

INT - Padoa-Schioppa, Tommaso - Director, European Central Bank

CY - Pantelides, Leonidas - Ambassoador to Greece

I - Passera, Corrado - CEO, Banca Intesa SpA

USA - Perle, Richard N. - Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, former Likud policy adviser, former chair Defence Policy Board, former co-chairman, Hollinger Digital

B - Phillipe, HRH Prince

USA - Reed, Ralph E. - President, Century Strategies

CDN - Reisman, Heather - President and CEO, Indigo Books and Music Inc.

I - Riotta, Gianni - Editorialist, Corriere della Serra

USA - Rockefeller, David - Member JP Morgan International Council, Chairman, Council of the Americas

E - Riodriguez Inearte, Matias - Vice Chairman, Grupo Santander

USA - Ross, Dennis B - Director, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

D - Sandschneider, Eberhard - Director, Research Institute, German Society for Foreign Policy

I - Scaroni, Paolo - CEO, Enel SpA

D - Schilly, Otto - Minister of the Interior

USA - Schnabel, Rockwell A. - Ambassador to the EU

A - Scholten, Rudolf - Director, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG

D - Schrempp, Jurgen E. - Chairman, DaimlerChrysler AG

E - Serra Rexach, Eduardo - Head, Real Institute Elcano

RUS - Shevtsova, Lilia - Senior Associate. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

PL - Sikora, Slawomir - President and CEO, Citibank Handlowy

I - Siniscalo, Domenico - Director General Ministry of the Economy

P - Socrates, Jose - Member of Parliament

USA - Strmecki, Marin J. - Smith Richardson Foundation

B - Struye de Swielande, Dominique - Permanant repressentative of Belguim, NATO

IRL - Sutherland, Peter D. - Chairman, Goldman Sachs International, Chairman, BP plc

USA - Thornton, John L. - Chairman, Brookings Institution, Professor, Tsinghua University

I - Tremonti, Giulio - Minister of Economy and Finance

INT - Trichet, Jean-Claude - President, European Central Bank

I - Tronchetti Provera, Marco - Chairman and CEO, Pirelli SpA

N - Underdal, Arild - Rector, University of Oslo

CH - Vasella, Daniel L. - Chairman and CEO, Novartis AG

NL - Veer, Jeroen van der - Chairman, Committee of Managing Directors, Royal Dutch/Shell

GB - Verwaayen, Ben J. M. - CEO, British Telecom; former director, Lucent Technologies

I - Visco, Ignazio - Foriegn Affairs Manager, Banca D'Italia

INT - Vitorino, Antonio M. - Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, European Union

INT - Vries, Gijs M. de - EU Counter Terrorism Co-ordinator

S - Wallenberg, Jacob - Chairman, SEB investments (including biotech); Chairman, W Capital Management AB

D - Weber, Jurgen - Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deutche Lufthansa AG

GB/USA - Weinberg, Peter - CEO, Goldman Sachs International

NL - Wijers, Hans - Chairman, AkzoNobel NV

D - Wissmann, Matthias - Member of Parliament

GB - Wolf, Martin H. - Associate Editor/Economic Commentator, The Financial Times

INT/USA - Wolfenson, James D. - President, The World Bank

RUS - Yavlinsky, Grigory A. - Member of Parliament

USA - Yergin, Daniel - Chairman, Cambridge Energy Research Associates

D - Zumwinkel, Llaus - Chairman, Deutche Post Worldnet AG

GB - Rachman, Gideon - Brussels Correspondent, The Economist

GB - Wooldridge, Adrian D. - Foreign Correspondant, The Economist



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