“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”What happens when the same trade is power? The Telegraph reports:
The Bilderberg was founded in 1954 to bring the leaders of Western Europe and the United States closer as the Soviet Union cemented its control of the Eastern bloc. They met first at the Bilderberg Hotel, near Arnhem, at the instigation of Joseph Retinger, a Polish polio victim who had fought the Nazis during the war. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was the chair. In that first meeting, the participants – including bankers, economists, and the future Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – debated the Communist threat and the prospect of European integration.Sort of like JournoList for the powerful and well-connected.
Publicly, the group says it is still merely a debating society – a forum for leaders to "listen, reflect and gather insights" unbound by official policy positions.
But while they rankle at the conspiracy theorists, former leaders of the Bilderberg confences says they were the most important events they ever went to, and the freedom of speaking away from the ears of Whitehall officials meant the discussions that took place decisively shaped modern Europe.
It is above all a club for life’s winners. George Osborne, Ed Balls and Ken Clarke, the Cabinet Minister who also serves on the group’s steering committee, will arrive this afternoon, as will Mr Mandelson. They will be joined by Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission; Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF; Francois Fillon, the former French Prime Minister; Robert Rubin and Timothy Geithner, the former secretaries to the US Treasury; and serving prime ministers, foreign ministers and finance ministers from across north west Europe.
The chairmen and chief executives of some of the world’s biggest businesses will attend, with a combined wealth running into hundreds of millions of pounds – from Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Amazon, Google, Shell, HSBC, Lazard, Prudential and Alcoa. Henri de Castries, the chairman of the Bilderberg, is the head of AXA, the insurance giant. Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal, is also on the guest list. Goldman Sachs and BP have in recent years been donors to the British committee organising this week's gathering.
Then there are the defence officials: Olivier de Bavinchove, the commander of Eurocorps, the EU’s standing army; Sherard Cowper-Cowles, the former British diplomat who now works for BAE Systems; Robert Kaplan, the chief analyst at intelligence firm Stratfor; Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state; and David Petraeus, the former US commander in Afghanistan who briefly ran the CIA. Those are the publicly issued names. A source involved in this year’s planning admits sometimes others may turn up, “just for the day”.