The annual Bilderberg meeting gets underway for the 67th time today amidst yet another bout of controversy relating to secrecy.
Taking place over four days in Montreux, Switzerland, this year’s list of attendees is set to include 130 participants from 23 countries – some of the world’s most powerful and influential people, dubbed as “political leaders and experts” from industry, finance, academia, labour and the media.
Despite the big stage, supportive information and minute details are historically rather small. The organisers are adamant that there is no detailed agenda, that the meeting does not publicise resolutions, that no votes are taken, and that policy statements would not be issued.
Last year’s event was held in Turin, Italy with information about the key topics vert scant even after the meeting.
Bilderberg agenda in 2019
From the details made available this year, the narrative up for discussion, and ultimately, what may be subject to change in the foreseeable future was announced earlier this week.
1. A stable strategic order
2. What next for Europe?
3. Climate change and sustainability
6. The future of capitalism
8. The ethics of artificial intelligence
9. The weaponisation of social media
10. The importance of space
11. Cyber threats
There are 11 key topics with participants encouraged to put forward their ideas given their experience and positions of great influence on a world stage.
Among a raft of different subjects, this year’s published agenda includes Brexit, the ethics of artificial intelligence, the importance of space, ongoing impacts of climate change and sustainability. Macro themes that continue to affect the lives of both power-monger politicians as well as billions of average people.
Very importantly, many of the topics being discussed have extensive overlaps both in terms of scope but also geography.
For example, the weaponisation of social media is occurring globally while political decisions tend to be taken on a national level. The Earth’s climate is changing, but as to who is most responsible and most affected is debatable, to say the least.
There is even a greater need for discussion: how to solve the most pressing macro problems, especially when policy-makers are under greater scrutiny and domestic accountability.
All such issues and many more will be discussed by the world’s policymakers.
Roll out the red carpet
Possibly the most newsworthy and memorable development from each year’s event is the list of attendees. Those who attend are almost always famous and/or influential in their respective field of expertise.
This year, notable attendees include the man quickly being seen as Donald Trump’s right-hand man (as well as his son-in-law), Jared Kushner.
Mr Kushner recently visited Jerusalem to promote his Middle East peace plan and to consolidate the work done by President Trump in previous months.
However, with Israel now locked in an arduous election campaign, there is a growing possibility that the next Israeli administration will not be as placid as the current one.
Hence the need for internationalist private-sector diplomacy and behind the scenes talks with power brokers from around the world.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will join the meeting although, according to several sources despite the fact that Mr Pompeo isn’t on the official guest list, first published on Tuesday this week.
Outside of the political crucible, this year’s list of attendees features French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Google’s current boss Jared Cohen, the man who heads the Jigsaw subsidiary of Alphabet, will also be in attendance, as well as Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary and anti-Brexit Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis.
Brexit and Russia are expected to be huge topics this year with geopolitical power structures set to change in the coming years, driven by politics in the Kremlin, London and Brussels.
Other big hitters will include regular attendee and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former CIA director David Petraeus and even the Dutch King, Willem-Alexander.
Secrecy out in the open
Given the high-profile nature of the Bilderberg meeting, alongside the lack of accompanying detail in terms of discussion topics, minutes, or any other form of record-keeping – critics have been quick to point out some rather peculiar behavioural habits enforced by the organisers.
The primary gripe among the hecklers stems from the fact that all Bilderberg meetings have always been held under what’s known as the ‘Chatham House Rule’ first developed in 1927 by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), a British think-tank.
The Chatham Rule states that “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed.”
This type of methodology (critics claim) allows for disingenuous and harmful ideas to be discussed and policy decisions proposed, without fear of discovery or accountability to the public.
The rules of engagement during the Bilderberg meeting mean that anything can be said without consequence under the guise of brainstorming, free-thinking and dialogue – even if some of those ideas happen to come from influential leaders of companies and political parties that direct millions of people.
With the hope that major news agencies will report both the scripted and ad-hoc commentary from the meeting, several organisations are set to be on the front line in Montreux. Journalists from The Economist, the Financial Times and Bloomberg are all on the official attendee’s list for this year.
Another year of discussion
This year’s Bilderberg meeting is unlikely to raise eyebrows or even to make an appearance on mainstream news sources aside from an honourable mention.
Any public policy decisions or operational changes that come about as a result of the meeting will not be publicised. Instead, discussions will occur in secrecy with the resulting decisions percolating into society in the years ahead.
If successful, expect the world’s most elite policymakers to form an orderly queue to take the credit. If unsuccessful, these decisions will not grace the history books, having never been publicised or recorded.
The unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of what is discussed at the Bilderberg meeting doesn’t go beyond informal chit-chat and unintelligible scribbles on paper napkins.
In parallel, market commentators make the best of the scraps made available by official sources and speculates regarding who said what to whom. The vast majority of this material tends to be left consigned to the conspiracy theory pile.
2019 Bilderberg Group attendee list
The official attendees list includes the following names.
However other names not listed such as those of politicians around the world that would otherwise draw scrutiny from the public for attending in person will be teleconferenced into the meeting as noted in previous years events.
Castries, Henri de (FRA), Chairman, Steering Committee; Chairman, Institut Montaigne
Kravis, Marie-Josée (USA), President, American Friends of Bilderberg Inc.; Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Halberstadt, Victor (NLD), Chairman Foundation Bilderberg Meetings; Professor of Economics, Leiden University
Achleitner, Paul M. (DEU), Treasurer Foundation Bilderberg Meetings; Chairman Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG
Abrams, Stacey (USA), Founder and Chair, Fair Fight
Adonis, Andrew (GBR), Member, House of Lords
Albers, Isabel (BEL), Editorial Director, De Tijd / L’Echo
Altman, Roger C. (USA), Founder and Senior Chairman, Evercore
Arbour, Louise (CAN), Senior Counsel, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Arrimadas, Inés (ESP), Party Leader, Ciudadanos
Azoulay, Audrey (INT), Director-General, UNESCO
Baker, James H. (USA), Director, Office of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Balta, Evren (TUR), Associate Professor of Political Science, Özyegin University
Barbizet, Patricia (FRA), Chairwoman and CEO, Temaris & Associés
Barbot, Estela (PRT), Member of the Board and Audit Committee, REN (Redes Energéticas Nacionais)
Barroso, José Manuel (PRT), Chairman, Goldman Sachs International; Former President, European Commission
Barton, Dominic (CAN), Senior Partner and former Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company
Beaune, Clément (FRA), Adviser Europe and G20, Office of the President of the Republic of France
Boos, Hans-Christian (DEU), CEO and Founder, Arago GmbH
Bostrom, Nick (UK), Director, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
Botín, Ana P. (ESP), Group Executive Chair, Banco Santander
Brandtzæg, Svein Richard (NOR), Chairman, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Brende, Børge (NOR), President, World Economic Forum
Buberl, Thomas (FRA), CEO, AXA
Buitenweg, Kathalijne (NLD), MP, Green Party
Caine, Patrice (FRA), Chairman and CEO, Thales Group
Carney, Mark J. (GBR), Governor, Bank of England
Casado, Pablo (ESP), President, Partido Popular
Ceviköz, Ahmet Ünal (TUR), MP, Republican People’s Party (CHP)
Cohen, Jared (USA), Founder and CEO, Jigsaw, Alphabet Inc.
Croiset van Uchelen, Arnold (NLD), Partner, Allen & Overy LLP
Daniels, Matthew (USA), New space and technology projects, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Demiralp, Selva (TUR), Professor of Economics, Koç University
Donohoe, Paschal (IRL), Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform
Döpfner, Mathias (DEU), Chairman and CEO, Axel Springer SE
Ellis, James O. (USA), Chairman, Users’ Advisory Group, National Space Council
Feltri, Stefano (ITA), Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Il Fatto Quotidiano
Ferguson, Niall (USA), Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Findsen, Lars (DNK), Director, Danish Defence Intelligence Service
Fleming, Jeremy (GBR), Director, British Government Communications Headquarters
Garton Ash, Timothy (GBR), Professor of European Studies, Oxford University
Gnodde, Richard J. (IRL), CEO, Goldman Sachs International
Godement, François (FRA), Senior Adviser for Asia, Institut Montaigne
Grant, Adam M. (USA), Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Gruber, Lilli (ITA), Editor-in-Chief and Anchor “Otto e mezzo”, La7 TV
Hanappi-Egger, Edeltraud (AUT), Rector, Vienna University of Economics and Business
Hedegaard, Connie (DNK), Chair, KR Foundation; Former European Commissioner
Henry, Mary Kay (USA), International President, Service Employees International Union
Hirayama, Martina (CHE), State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation
Hobson, Mellody (USA), President, Ariel Investments LLC
Hoffman, Reid (USA), Co-Founder, LinkedIn; Partner, Greylock Partners
Hoffmann, André (CHE), Vice-Chairman, Roche Holding Ltd.
Jordan, Jr., Vernon E. (USA), Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC
Jost, Sonja (DEU), CEO, DexLeChem
Kaag, Sigrid (NLD), Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
Karp, Alex (USA), CEO, Palantir Technologies
Kerameus, Niki K. (GRC), MP; Partner, Kerameus & Partners
Kissinger, Henry A. (USA), Chairman, Kissinger Associates Inc.
Koç, Ömer (TUR), Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
Kotkin, Stephen (USA), Professor in History and International Affairs, Princeton University
Krastev, Ivan (BUL), Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies
Kravis, Henry R. (USA), Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Kristersson, Ulf (SWE), Leader of the Moderate Party
Kudelski, André (CHE), Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group
Kushner, Jared (USA), Senior Advisor to the President, The White House
Le Maire, Bruno (FRA), Minister of Finance
Leyen, Ursula von der (DEU), Federal Minster of Defence
Leysen, Thomas (BEL), Chairman, KBC Group and Umicore
Liikanen, Erkki (FIN), Chairman, IFRS Trustees; Helsinki Graduate School of Economics
Lund, Helge (GBR), Chairman, BP plc; Chairman, Novo Nordisk AS
Maurer, Ueli (CHE), President of the Swiss Federation and Federal Councillor of Finance
Mazur, Sara (SWE), Director, Investor AB
McArdle, Megan (USA), Columnist, The Washington Post
McCaskill, Claire (USA), Former Senator; Analyst, NBC News
Medina, Fernando (PRT), Mayor of Lisbon
Micklethwait, John (USA), Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg LP
Minton Beddoes, Zanny (GBR), Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
Monzón, Javier (ESP), Chairman, PRISA
Mundie, Craig J. (USA), President, Mundie & Associates
Nadella, Satya (USA), CEO, Microsoft
Netherlands, His Majesty the King of the (NLD)
Nora, Dominique (FRA), Managing Editor, L’Obs
O’Leary, Michael (IRL), CEO, Ryanair D.A.C.
Pagoulatos, George (GRC), Vice-President of ELIAMEP, Professor; Athens University of Economics
Papalexopoulos, Dimitri (GRC), CEO, TITAN Cement Company S.A.
Petraeus, David H. (USA), Chairman, KKR Global Institute
Pienkowska, Jolanta (POL), Anchor woman, journalist
Pottinger, Matthew (USA), Senior Director, National Security Council
Pouyanné, Patrick (FRA), Chairman and CEO, Total S.A.
Ratas, Jüri (EST), Prime Minister
Renzi, Matteo (ITA), Former Prime Minister; Senator, Senate of the Italian Republic
Rockström, Johan (SWE), Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Rubin, Robert E. (USA), Co-Chairman Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Treasury Secretary
Rutte, Mark (NLD), Prime Minister
Sabia, Michael (CAN), President and CEO, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
Sanger, David E. (USA), National Security Correspondent, The New York Times
Sarts, Janis (INT), Director, NATO StratCom Centre of Excellence
Sawers, John (GBR), Executive Chairman, Newbridge Advisory
Schadlow, Nadia (USA), Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Schmidt, Eric E. (USA), Technical Advisor, Alphabet Inc.
Scholten, Rudolf (AUT), President, Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue
Seres, Silvija (NOR), Independent Investor
Shafik, Minouche (GBR), Director, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Sikorski, Radoslaw (POL), MP, European Parliament
Singer, Peter Warren (USA), Strategist, New America
Sitti, Metin (TUR), Professor, Koç University; Director, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
Snyder, Timothy (USA), Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University
Solhjell, Bård Vegar (NOR), CEO, WWF – Norway
Stoltenberg, Jens (INT), Secretary General, NATO
Suleyman, Mustafa (GBR), Co-Founder, Deepmind
Supino, Pietro (CHE), Publisher and Chairman, Tamedia Group
Teuteberg, Linda (DEU), General Secretary, Free Democratic Party
Thiam, Tidjane (CHE), CEO, Credit Suisse Group AG
Thiel, Peter (USA), President, Thiel Capital
Trzaskowski, Rafal (POL), Mayor of Warsaw
Tucker, Mark (GBR), Group Chairman, HSBC Holding plc
Tugendhat, Tom (GBR), MP, Conservative Party
Turpin, Matthew (USA), Director for China, National Security Council
Uhl, Jessica (NLD), CFO and Executive Director, Royal Dutch Shell plc
Vestergaard Knudsen, Ulrik (DNK), Deputy Secretary-General, OECD
Walker, Darren (USA), President, Ford Foundation
Wallenberg, Marcus (SWE), Chairman, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB
Wolf, Martin H. (GBR), Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times
Zeiler, Gerhard (AUT), Chief Revenue Officer, WarnerMedia
Zetsche, Dieter (DEU), Former Chairman, Daimler AG
Connecting the dots
The Bilderberg Group’s connections to governments, major corporations and global think tanks (click on image to enlarge):