A journalist of the English newspaper “Daily Mail” infiltrated in this year’s Bilderberg meeting in Italy and this is what he saw. The Greek participation in this year’s meeting was the president of the main opposition party of New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Dimitris Papalexopoulos, CEO of Titan Cement Company S.A.
On the first day of my new job as a hotel waitress — before I have a chance to polish a glass or proffer a canapé — I’m primed in detail about how to enter the building. Not via the front foyer, but circuitously through a ‘secret staff entrance’.
It is imperative I memorise the route, I’m told by the briskly efficient restaurant manager, who steers me through it, via an obscure door by a KFC outlet in a low-rent shopping mall.
We then travel up two floors in a shabby service lift, past a phalanx of security men, through an underground delivery area, past bins, a staff canteen and along a harshly lit subterranean corridor that smells of urine.
Another staff lift disgorges us into the hotel kitchen, through two swing doors and finally into the light and bustle of its restaurant and gleaming lobby.
It is vital that I take this labyrinthine route in and out of the hotel for the next five days, I’m told, as there is a ‘top secret event’ taking place. ‘The whole hotel is closed to the public,’ says my boss. ‘It’s very important you remember you cannot go in and out of the main entrance. You must use the secret one.’
Although I feign meek subservience, I know very well why levels of security have been ramped up to such histrionic levels at this unassuming four-star hotel in northern Italy, because I am here undercover. My mission is to covertly observe the most secretive gathering of the influential and powerful in the world, known as the Bilderberg Group.
This cabal of the global, largely liberal, elite — with strong ties to the EU — meets every year amid a cloak of secrecy.
At this year’s gathering? With so-called ‘populism’ high on its agenda, passionate Remainers, including former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and former Chancellor George Osborne, all took time out of their busy schedules to attend.
Over drinks receptions and lavish meals, they rubbed shoulders with former president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, three serving EU prime ministers and a current European Commissioner in charge of the bloc’s budget.
Last weekend, the Mail became the first newspaper in the 64-year history of Bilderberg to penetrate its formidable security, gaining insight into the extreme paranoia of this most elusive of clubs.
I watched as military police guarded the hotel perimeter and sniffer dogs checked for bombs outside. Last week, one freelance journalist, who posted footage online of the empty garden marquee where the Bilderberg banquet was due to be held, reported that Italian police stormed his hotel room at 4.30am breaking down his door and ‘pointing a gun’ at him.
So clandestine are the Bilderberg gatherings that no minutes are taken, no press conferences given and no reports published.
The conference operates under ‘Chatham House Rules’, which means participants can use and report information exchanged there, but not disclose the source. But with no record of what goes on — Bilderberg was held on exactly the same weekends as G7 and NATO defence meetings, allowing opportunities for conference calls — critics have said it should be much more transparent. Many argue that the event exists solely to serve as a networking and lobbying opportunity for its attendees.
The Bilderberg Group — so called because it first met in 1954 at the Hotel Bilderberg in the Netherlands — is made up of at least 120 self-proclaimed ‘leading citizens’ of Europe and the U.S., who meet annually to discuss ‘issues of common interest’.
Every summer, figureheads from politics, business, academia, finance and defence lock themselves away in a closely guarded hotel for three days to discuss topics of vital global significance about which the rest of us can only speculate.
Hypothesis and conjecture about the content of their talks inevitably abound. At one extreme there are conspiracy theorists who believe that the hounding from office of Margaret Thatcher, the downfall of U.S. President Richard Nixon and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were all secretly orchestrated by the Bilderberg Group.
Such claims are, of course, outlandish, but mystery fosters extravagant speculation.
The roll-call of attendees is invariably auspicious. Prime ministers, royalty — Prince Charles and Prince Philip have both attended — army generals, corporate CEOs and bank governors all make time in their busy schedules to be there.
THE BILDERBERG CONFERENCE 2018 AGENDA AND ATTENDEES
TOP of the Agenda at this year’s Bilderberg Meeting was ‘Populism in Europe’ – evidence of populism’s impact as it’s swept across Europe and America. It is surely no coincidence that Bilderberg took place in Turin, Italy, where the populist Five Star Movement and anti-immigrant League parties’ coalition threatens the stability and future of the European Union altogether. And as Donald Trump continues to blaze a trail through his Presidency, the Bilderberg group was also keen to discuss ‘US world leadership’ and ‘The US before midterms’.
There was a significant European Union representation in Turin last week, with Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission (and now non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs) toasting his membership in the Bilderberg club with four serving EU Prime Ministers – Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Ana Brnabic, Prime Minister of Serbia, Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium and Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia. They were joined by Spain’s deputy PM, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and Turkey’s deputy PM, Mehmet Simsek. Former Prime Minister of France, Bernard Cazeneuve, also flew out for the shindig, as did Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for budget and human resources at the European Commission.
Bilderberg says it exists as ‘a forum… to foster dialogue between Europe and North America’, and American VIPs always take time out of their busy schedules to attend Bilderberg. Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, has been attending Bilderberg on and off since 1957. Last weekend he made the trip out to Turin, in a wheelchair accompanied by minders, at the age of 95. David Petraeus, former director of the CIA, made an appearance alongside him, as did John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado. Representing the incumbent United States government were Matthew Turpin, the National Security Council’s Director for China, and James H. Baker, the director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Many of America’s most prestigious universities attended the Bilderberg meeting including the Universities of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Pennsylvania, Princeton, New York University and the American University. Think-tanks included the Hudson Institute and the Hoover Institution.
Figureheads from many industries including defence, communications, finance, business, politics, banking and academia are always represented at Bilderberg, but this year has truly been that of the technology titans. Bilderberg seems exceptionally keen to explore automation and the robotics, listing ‘The future of work’, ‘Artificial intelligence’ and ‘quantum computing’ as events on its Agenda. The 2018 cohort included the co-founder of LinkedIn, the CEO of Vodafone and the director of Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative.
Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google, has attended Bilderberg before and Google was the star of the show this year. Hartmut Neven, director of engineering of Google Inc. was in attendance alongside Demis Hassabis, the British co-founder and CEO of its AI branch DeepMind. They were joined by Jared Cohen, founder and CEO of Jigsaw at Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Cohen was formerly US on the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff as an advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Bilderberg also invited experts and consultancies in the wider fields of Artificial Intelligence, such as Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative and PA Consulting Group, which specialises in AI.
Shifting sands in the Middle East and recent furore surrounding Russia were enough to garner places on the Agenda, with ‘Saudi Arabia and Iran’ and ‘Russia’ both listed. The Bilderberg Conference took place on exactly the same weekend as the G7 summit and the NATO Defence Meeting this year. Some speculate that conference calls took place between the three, but Bilderberg never releases details, minutes or reports of what is discussed other than its vague agenda list.
This year’s cohort of Britons included Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, and Marcus Agius, who resigned from Barclays Bank following the Libor rate-fixing scandal — both former trustees of the Bilderberg Association.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary flew in alongside academics from Oxbridge, UCL and the LSE. They mingled with heads of international bodies including NATO, the World Economic Forum and UNESCO and, for the first time in its history, a Vatican representative.
Sitting cheek-by-jowl with the traditional establishment is the new power elite: the technology titans. The 2018 cohort include the co-founder of LinkedIn and the CEO of Vodafone. Google is well-represented: present this year are its director of engineering, the founder of its sister company Jigsaw and the CEO of DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence company.
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