Secretive Bilderberg Group of world leaders meets in Denmark

Copenhagen’s Marriott Hotel, where the Bilderberg conference began yesterday

Who is attending the mysterious annual conclave of the Bilderberg Group? And what are they up to?

LAST UPDATED AT 11:48 ON Fri 30 May 2014

The Bilderberg Group conference began in Copenhagen yesterday, with leaders of industry, finance, academia and the media meeting politicians to discuss global policy matters.

The conference – closed to reporters and bound by strict secrecy rules – has long been a favourite of conspiracy theorists. So who is attending this year? We lift the lid on the secretive group that has been accused of wielding clandestine power to advance its own interests.

What is the Bilderberg Group?
Founded 60 years ago, the Bilderberg Group brings together between 120 and 150 senior politicians and businesspeople from Europe and North America. The group took its name from its first conference, which was held at the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands, in May 1954.

The official website says that the conference is "a forum for informal discussions about megatrends and major issues facing the world".

Who is attending this year?
This year's meeting includes Queen Sofia of Spain; General Philip M Breedlove, Nato supreme allied commander in Europe; Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin; three senior members of Goldman Sachs; Craig Mundie of Microsoft; and Cheng Li of the Brookings Institute; and UK chancellor George Osborne.

Also on the high-profile guest list, according to Al Jazeera, are Keith Alexander, former NSA director; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of Nato; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and John Micklethwait, editor in chief of The Economist magazine.

Why are conspiracy theorists so interested?
The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, a convention that allows speakers to advance unpopular opinions without fear of being identified.

The group is deliberately vague on what is discussed at its annual meetings, but insists that discussions are informal. "There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued," the Bilderberg website says.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Bilderberg-mania began when journalist Jon Ronson wrote "a brilliantly entertaining account" of crawling through bushes to expose the group's activities.

What do conspiracy theorists believe?
The Bilderberg group is said "to have launched the career of Margaret Thatcher; to control fleets of black helicopters; even to be secretly composed of giant shape-shifting lizards, bent on ruling the world", the Telegraph says.

In Yugoslavia, leading Serbs have blamed Bilderberg for causing the war which led to the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic, the BBC reports.

The Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the London nail-bomber David Copeland and Osama Bin Laden are all said to have believed in the covert power of the Bilderberg Group.

Could the theories be true?
Most commentators suspect not. As the Telegraph says, "today's world is so complicated and hydra-headed that no one actor, or even group of actors, can control it".

"People cling to the conspiracy theory because they want to believe that someone is capable of controlling things," the paper suggests. "But even for hyper-intelligent, shape-shifting lizards, bringing order to our chaotic world would be a bridge too far."

Nevertheless, many say that any meetings of the "global elite" should be held in the open.

After the group's last meeting, Labour MP Michael Meacher said Bilderberg should drop its veil of secrecy. "These are really big decision makers who have come to concert their plans over the future of capitalism," he said. "That is going to affect us, the 99.99 per cent, very extensively."

"In a democratic system we have a right to know what they're talking about, what conclusions they reached and to ask some questions." · 

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