The Bilderberg Club turned 70 years old – The conspiracy theories & the Greeks who have been present

The Bilderberg Club, the exclusive club of the powerful that has been associated with the most extreme conspiracy theories, turned 70 this year. With its meetings, each time in a different country, it manages to attract the spotlight, but it stops at the gates of the hotel complex that hosts it. This inviolable principle of prohibiting any photographic or media coverage of its work is the decisive element that adds mystery, fueling various theories about what really goes on behind closed doors.

After all, both the agenda in which the major global problems are included and the list of participants, the only information made public, could to some extent justify claims of a “global directorate”.

So are they the ones who decide the fate of the world every year? Or is it a high-level forum for the exchange of opinions between a few powerful economic and political players with the participation of so-called opinion leaders?

It is a fact that numerous books have been written about the always intriguing idea of conspiracy, which captivates readers’ imaginations. However, despite these extensive analyses, no evidence has directly linked secret discussions to specific decisions regarding future geopolitical, economic, and social developments.

On the other hand, it is certain that these powerful economic and political figures do not gather annually merely to pass the time or because they have nothing better to do. A more balanced approach, considering the agenda and participants, suggests that the analyses and exchange of opinions on major issues lead to some form of conclusions.

The question remains, though, how many of these conclusions translate into specific actions and decisions. It is certain that some of those who indeed hold immense economic and political power form opinions that may potentially guide developments in the months or years to follow. Another foggy aspect is the private meetings that likely take place each year on the sidelines of the summit, which undoubtedly are of the greatest interest.

Forum for Dialogue and Quotas

The Club itself refutes all these theories, stating in its official “biography” that “since its inaugural meeting in 1954, the annual Bilderberg meeting has been a forum for informal discussions to promote dialogue between Europe and North America.” It clarifies that “each year, approximately 130 political leaders and experts from industry, economics, academia, and media are invited to participate in the meeting.”

The quotas are also of interest. About two-thirds of the participants come from Europe, with the remaining third from North America. Additionally, one-third of the participants come from politics and governments, while the rest come from other sectors.

The meetings are conducted according to the Chatham House Rule, which stipulates that participants are free to use the information they receive, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) or any other participant may be revealed. “Thanks to the private nature of the meeting, participants take part as individuals rather than in any official capacity and, therefore, are not bound by their conventions or pre-agreed positions. Thus, they can take time to listen, reflect, and gather ideas.” Additionally, “there is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”

The Beginning

The Bilderberg Group first convened on May 29, 1954, at the “Hotel De Bilderberg” in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, where it got its name. The meeting lasted until May 31. The founding group, led by exiled Polish diplomat and businessman Józef Retinger and Belgian Prince Bernhard, aimed to create a permanent forum for fostering closer relations between the US and Europe to counter anti-Americanism and the influence of the Soviet Union in Europe.

In 1948, Retinger had founded the American Committee for a United Europe. Along with Walter Bedell Smith, then head of the CIA, the brother of Spanish dictator Franco, David Rockefeller of the well-known banking family, and Unilever president Paul Rijkens, he was one of the founding members of the Bilderberg Group. The primary motivation at that time was the concern among top figures on both sides of the Atlantic that Western Europe and North America were not cooperating as closely as they should on matters of common interest. Consequently, representatives from the economic, social, political, and cultural sectors were invited to help strengthen relationships during the challenging post-war period.

Over the years, the Bilderberg Group, which always meets behind closed doors, has evolved into a gathering point for the most powerful business leaders, opinion leaders, and politicians from the West. The meetings have transformed into a forum for discussing a wide range of issues—from the global economy, trade, monetary policy, and investments to geopolitical challenges and new technologies, as well as the promotion of international security.

Despite these developments, the core philosophy remains the same. As highlighted, “in the context of globalization, it is difficult to think of any issue, either in Europe or North America, that could be addressed unilaterally.” Although centrifugal tendencies have sometimes emerged, particularly concerning Europe’s autonomous steps, the Bilderberg Group appears to play a “cohesive” role, recognizing the various threats to the unified West from different enemies.

The Economic Aspect

The annual meetings are organized by the Bilderberg Meeting Foundation, managed by a rotating Steering Committee, and funded through various means. It is noted that there is no cost for attending the meetings; however, participation is by invitation only, and participants cover their travel and accommodation expenses themselves.

“The annual contributions of the members of the Steering Committee cover the annual expenses of the secretariat. The secretariat’s budget is limited to personnel expenses and administrative costs. The cost of hosting the annual meeting is the responsibility of the members of the Steering Committee of the host country,” it states.

Secrecy and Influence

In any case, the confidentiality of the conversations, the agenda, and the final composition of the invited participants always shroud the Bilderberg Group in a veil of mystery. Various theories suggest that this closed club decides the future of humanity. As the “Times” once wrote, it is “a clique of the economically and politically most powerful figures in the West who meet secretly to plan events, which they later present as supposedly happening by chance.”

Regardless of whether these characterizations are deemed exaggerations and fantasies, it is certain that the annual meeting brings all major international issues to the table, while behind the scenes, there are opportunities for business deals to be made.

The Latest Meeting

This was evident in the agenda of the 70th meeting, which took place from May 30 to June 2, 2024, in Madrid at the ultra-luxurious “Eurostars Suites Mirasierra Hotel,” with the participation of approximately 130 personalities, including businesspeople, politicians, bankers, and academics.

The main topics included Artificial Intelligence and AI security, aspects of Biology, climate change and the future of warfare, the geopolitical landscape, economic challenges for Europe and the US, the political situation in America—likely in anticipation of the November presidential elections—Ukraine, the Middle East, Russia, and China. In other words, nearly all the major issues currently concerning the global community. AI has been a dominant topic on the group’s agenda since last year. Notably, Sam Altman, head of OpenAI, which created the AI application ChatGPT, attended the 2023 meeting.

This year’s Bilderberg meeting saw the presence of prominent figures in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), emphasizing the significant interest of the world’s powerful in the emerging AI landscape. Among the attendees were Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind, leaders from Microsoft AI, Mistral AI, and Anthropic, signaling a strong focus on AI advancements and implications.

Notable U.S. Officials in Attendance

Additionally, key U.S. officials attended the meeting, including Jonathan Finer, Deputy National Security Advisor, and Jen Easterly, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Their participation underscores the critical importance of AI in national and international security discussions.

Ukraine: A Focus of AI Warfare

According to international media, such as Time and The Economist, Ukraine has been described as an “AI war laboratory” and a “testing ground for companies like Anduril and Palantir.” Both publications highlight the experimental nature of AI in the ongoing conflict. The heads of these defense technology companies were also among the invitees, further highlighting the intersection of AI, technology, and military strategy at the meeting.

A top position on the agenda was held by the topic of the evolving faces of Biology, discussed by Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, the head of the EU’s Center for Disease Prevention and Control, as well as executives who led the Human Genome Project.

All of this took place in a “war-like atmosphere” due to the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and other hotspots around the world, from Sudan to Gaza, and under the fear of so-called “hybrid attacks.” Therefore, the presence of both the then-outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and his soon-to-be successor, former Dutch Prime Minister and regular club attendee Mark Rutte, was deemed absolutely necessary. Also present was the American Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Christopher Cavoli, who recently warned that the conflict with Russia is shaping up to be a “long battle.”

Dominating the agenda, as always, was the economy, with the heads of financial giants such as Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and Société Générale, as well as powerful groups like BP, Shell, Total-Energies, Spotify, Acciona, and Turkey’s Koc Holding, and representatives of major funds like Henry Kravis of the giant KKR, in attendance.

It does not go unnoticed that year by year, the participation of executives from media outlets expands. Thus, this year’s meeting included senior and top executives from 11 media organizations, such as Bloomberg, Politico, the “Financial Times,” the “New York Times,” “De Standaard,” and also the director of “Kathimerini,” Alexis Papahelas.

The Great Absentee

Undoubtedly, the great absentee from the 70th Bilderberg Meeting is none other than Henry Kissinger, the oldest statesman who consistently participated in its proceedings, and who passed away last November at the age of 100. It is worth remembering, among other things, that Kissinger did not attend both meetings held in Greece, citing security reasons…

Two Times in Greece

The Bilderberg Group completes its 70th continuous year of operation this year, although for different reasons, there were no sessions for three years. The first was in 1976, and the other two in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two out of the 70 meetings of the group have been hosted in Greece—specifically at the “Astir” Vouliagmeni. The first was from April 22nd to 25th, 1993, and the second from May 14th to 16th, 2009. In both cases, the “Astir” was transformed into a fortress with draconian security measures, including special security units for high-profile individuals, snipers, Coast Guard vessels, riot control units, and even a “no flight zone” over the Vouliagmeni area monitored by military aircraft.

The agenda of the 1993 meeting included topics such as the situation in former Yugoslavia, rebuilding trust in leadership and institutions, the cost of indifference towards the former Soviet Union, prospects for global trade, and the provocative “What kind of Europe should the US agree on?”

During the 2009 meeting, under the weight of the global economic crisis and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, a significant part of the agenda was devoted to topics such as “Lessons from a crisis,” “Challenge for market economies and democracies,” “A New Order: The United States and the World,” regarding protectionism, and major geopolitical issues of the time such as “New imperialisms from Russia and China,” the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, among others.

The Greeks of the Club

Several Greeks have participated in the past and present either as members of the Steering Committee or as invitees to various Bilderberg Meetings.

Among the 171 former “permanent members” and Steering Committee members of the club are 5 Greeks, three of whom have passed away. These include Karolos Arliotis, an economist, banker, and minister in the interim governments of Georgakopoulos (1958), Dova (1961), and Pipinelis (1963), Yagos Pesmazoglou, a politician, economist, and academic who served as Minister of Finance, MP, and MEP, Kostas Carras, from the well-known shipping family that created, among others, the “Porto Carras” resort complex, Georgios David of Coca-Cola 3E, and political scientist and president of ELIAMEP, Loukas Tsoukalis.

In recent years, the only Greek member of the Steering Committee has been former president of SEV and president of Titan Cement International S.A., Dimitris Papalexopoulos. He succeeded Georgios David in this position. D. Papalexopoulos has been involved with the Bilderberg Group since 2008 and a year later, in 2009, hosted the conference held at the “Astir” in Vouliagmeni. Beyond him, dozens of Greek politicians, businessmen, and scientists have participated in various sessions.

Thus, the illustrious club has hosted iconic figures in business since the 1950s, starting with Prodromos Athanasiadis-Bodosakis and later Christoforos Stratou and Stavros Niarchos. After Georgios David, Konstantinos Ioannis Carras had the most participations, who also served as a member of the Directorate. Other prominent figures who have taken the chairs at Bilderberg include shipowners George Livanos, Yiannis Lyras, Michalis Peratikos, Grigoris Hatzieleftheriadis, as well as businessmen and managers from various sectors like Theodoros Papalexopoulos, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, banker Yiannis Kostopoulos, as well as St. Argyros, Them. Vokos, Panagis Vourloumis, Eftychis Vasilakis, and more.

Numerous politicians have also participated in the sessions over the years, such as Yiannis Paleokrassas, Louka Katseli, Stefanos Manos, Yiannos Papantoniou, Andreas Andrianopoulos, Theodoros Pangalos, Timos Christodoulou, Antonis Samaras, Gerasimos Arsenis, George Papandreou, George Papakonstantinou, Yiannos Kranidiotis, Kostas Karamanlis, Dora Bakoyannis, Anna Diamantopoulou, George Alogoskoufis, Konstantinos Mitsotakis in the past, and Kyriakos Mitsotakis in 2016, Panagiotis Pikrammenos, as well as Niki Kerameos, who participated in the latest sessions, including the 70th this year in Madrid.

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