Inside Story - How powerful is the Bilderberg group?

it's one of the most secretive and

powerful organizations you've probably

never heard of he Bilderberg Group is

hosting some of the world's top business

and political leaders in Dresden for how

influential is it and what does it say

about the relationship between big

business and politicians listed inside


hello and welcome to the program I'm

fully battable it's a forum held every

year where the rich and the powerful can

meet and exchange ideas in complete

secrecy almost 130 politicians bankers

and industrialists are attending this

year's Bilderberg Group conference in

the German city of Dresden this year's

attendees include the former head of the

CIA and the IMF chief but just like

every year no reporters are allowed in

there are no minutes of meetings no

votes and no policy statements and

participants are bound by what's known

as a Chatham House rule which allows

people to make use of the information

they've received but not reveal the

identity or affiliation of the person

who gave it to them now for years the

agenda and lists of attendees of

Bilderberg was kept a secret a list of

discussion topics is now released but

it's extremely vague we do however have

the full list of people attending two

prime ministers will be there

mark Reuter from the Netherlands and

Belgium Charles Michel and as we

mentioned earlier Christine Lagarde is

attending she's the head of the

International Monetary Fund two former

intelligence chief John Sawers of mi6

and David Petraeus who used to lead the

CIA will also be there and the rest of

the list is littered with influential

businessmen and bankers including the

heads of Shell HSBC and alphabet Inc

which is the holding company for Google

they're also around 10 journalists from

major media organisations attending the

meeting but they can't report on it well

let's bring in our guest now joining us

from Dresden on skype is writer and

journalist Charlie Skelton who's

covering the Bilderberg conference for

the Guardian newspaper in London we have

the head of global affairs at Oxfam

Katie Wright and from Middleburg in

Holland also on skype is John Scott

Smith who's a professor of diplomatic

history at the University of Leiden

welcome to you all thank you for being

on Inside Story Charlie Anderson if I

can start with you there are many people

of course who don't know what Bilderberg

is so what actually happens when the

world's most influential people get

together I wish I knew well it's hard to

say but

what happens is that it's a an intensive

three-day summit at which the

participants will sit down and be part

of an extremely rigorously structured

conference and and the some of these

participants will be from the world of

politics so this year there are two

prime ministers for finance ministers

any number of other ministers from

around Europe there's Christine Lagarde

from the art head of the IMF the list

goes on of extremely influential

policymakers and what they're doing is

they're attending a conference which is

funded by and run by gigantic business

interests so this year for example is

Airbus the seventh largest armed company

in the world and deutsche bank they're

the kind of host companies back when it

was in the UK Barclays was hosting it

and so it's um

it's a it's a corporate lobbying event

but it's a lobbying event that's so

powerful that the the rather than

meeting and in the lobby of Parliament

say the parliamentarians come to

Bilderberg okay well let me bring in

John Scott Smith in Middleburg now so a

very vague agenda John's at this meeting

no resolutions are proposed no votes are

taken no final communique issued what's

the point of all this why is this

meeting still so important today

political and financial elites always

gain a lot from informally being able to

discuss matters of current day interest

this is something that this occurred

throughout history so in that sense

there's nothing particularly new about

it I think there are obvious obviously

unique elements of Bilderberg which

perhaps we can discuss in the coming few

minutes but I don't think there's

anything particularly unusual I think

the the secrecy surrounding it though it

makes it more notorious there's no doubt

about that yeah well as you know the

conspiracy theories are bound around

Bilderberg I mean everyone believes

they're actually plotting world

domination there that this is a shadow

government and as you say the secrecy

doesn't exactly help

how do these conspiracy theories start

actually what led to people believing

that there was other things that there

were other things going on here

besides just informal discussions I

think this it's quite straightforward

really if you get such a tremendous

group of powerful political and economic

elites and you've got them in one hotel

in also often a location that has been

deliberately out of the way of the

public eye in the past they used to

often choose hotels in yeah rather

remote locations

buxton in Derbyshire comes to mind which

is an unusual one but if you do that

plus as you've already mentioned the

agenda is somewhat vague plus there's no

media allowed in to actually report and

even the the journalists who are invited

as individuals are not allowed to write

they are not paid on what they owe them

what they saw so that obviously combined

is going to produce some pretty far-out

stories about what they're doing what

they're achieving okay let me bring in

Katie now in London Katie John says that

you know business leaders and

politicians can gain a lot from a

meeting in an informal informal setting

do you agree with this do you think this

is a good idea to get business leaders

and politicians to talk about info major

issues without any oversight any any

journalistic oversight for instance

listen I'm sure they do gain a lot and

there's nothing actually intrinsically

wrong with people meeting and talking

and discussing problems but you know

what we've got to ask about a meeting

like Bilderberg is who's not there and

that's most people affected by the

issues that they're talking about and

and this isn't about conspiracy theories

this isn't about this isn't about secret

plots for world domination you know

there's a pretty clear dominant elite

out there

Oxfam put out a report earlier this year

for Davos another a meeting that tends

to be talked about in a similar vein

where we brought to light evidence

that's available for everyone to find

which is that just 62 people

the world have the same wealth as the

poorest half of the population 3.5

billion people and when you introduce

this segment you talked about the

wealthy and the powerful meeting

together and increasingly it's that that

wealth and power come together they are

in fact in many cases just the same

thing and they're discussing problems

issues global trends that have an effect

on billions of other people who never

get to look into those decisions and

that's actually why we see this kind of

inequality that the Oxfam cares about

and ultimately the poverty continue okay

well I do want to talk about the the

selection process about who is there and

who's not there and journalists Jon

Ronson spoke to one Bilderberg founder

the former British Chancellor Denis

Healey who said we make a point of

getting along young politicians younger

politicians who are obviously rising to

bring them together with finance seers

and industrialists who offer them wise

words he says it increases the chance of

having a sensible global policy so

Charlie about the people who are there

they've been of course theories that you

know Bilderberg builds future leaders

that for instance Margaret Thatcher's

Korea launched after she attended the

Bilderberg meeting and and so was Bill

Clinton he became president after

attending the Bilderberg meeting as a

governor of AK Arkansas are these

theories you know is this true that they

they build future leaders or is this

just you know coincidence you think well

there certainly is a pattern and you

know some people would say they're good

at talent spotting others would say that

the that if I when a young or

up-and-coming politician is brought into

the fold of Bilderberg then they're kind

of joining the general consensus of

power and it doesn't exactly do their

career any harm there's a perhaps the

most interesting thing example of this

though is I mean you mentioned that the

full list is published well I mean it's

definitely not published and I know this

from long experience of finding out

names that haven't been published on the

list and seeing in fact photographing

people that I can see going in and who

aren't on the list but probably the most

extraordinary version is in 2008 where

senator Obama and

Hilary Clinton both attended secretly

and this was confirmed actually by later

on the French interview with the French

prime minister he confirmed that they

were there now this hasn't been

publicized at all what you can watch on

on YouTube is the entire press corps who

was following with Barack Obama around

suddenly realizing their candidate their

presidential candidate had disappeared

and it's an extrordinary piece of

footage and I recommend you watching it

but what I what I would say is that

absolutely there's there's a pattern but

you don't again with a lot of these

things you don't have to immediately

reach for the words conspiracy theory to

describe them so when you're describing

say the global ambitions of the of the

people that build a big you don't you

don't have to immediately shout a

conspiracy theory you can just simply

describe them as extremely powerful fans

of globalization they have absolutely

got a global ambition of course people

companies like HSBC and Royal Dutch

Shell and BP these are global companies

who are big fans or for example TTIP

these are globalists so yes they

absolutely do have a global ambition and

they have global reach and global power

I'm saying all of those things isn't to

describe isn't to say it's a conspiracy

theory it's simply to describe a

powerful set of business interests ok

child's in Middleburg

you mentioned that they were important

gains that could be made out of these

informal meetings I just you know for

our viewers who are not familiar with

the Bilderberg Group just how

influential is this club you know they

can create examples of you know of how

they've changes a change or rather or

shifted our global policy various ways

of assessing influence of course one way

to look at Bilderberg is a wonderful

opportunity for informal channels of

contact an interesting one from from

history is when General de Gaulle was in

charge in France in the 1960s and was

directly challenging US leadership in

the transatlantic region there was a

Bilderberg meeting planned I think

believe it was in kanne in 1964 and one

would expect de Gaulle

to have canceled it and dismissed it as

yet another example of American power

but instead he let it go ahead not only

that he also allowed some of his key

advisors to attend because he understood

that it gave him a wonderful kind of

opportunity to test the waters of top

American British and other European

officials on on major transatlantic

issues in other words he understood this

value and it's in its influence there

are other interesting examples I think

over time Bilderberg has shifted from a

more kind of politically orientated body

starting out in the 50s which of course

is a very intense era of building

transatlantic institutions NATO etc the

early days of European integration and I

believe since the end of the Cold War I

do agree that it's become much more

corporate orientated I think it's

entered a kind of era of globalization

where economic and financial deals are

now merging with or even overseeing the

political dimensions right you wonder

also if it's as influential as it was in

1954 when there's clearly a big pushback

today against big business I mean Bernie

Sanders in the US has based his entire

campaign against his you know big

business and politicians getting

together is is the influence as big

today as it was back in the 1950s I

suppose the easy answer would be to say

no but that that would probably be too

simple because if you do follow that

transition from kind of political

institution building to to corporate

deal-making I think the the corporate

angle is is extremely important up there

with Davos and other similar forums and

just to give one brief example it's I

think it's on record that's Bilderberg

in the late 90s was a key forum for what

for the formation of what became Airbus

and the the original deals were were

made to merge the key Italian German and

French military military industrial

concerns so I think that's that's quite

a recent example which shows what can be

done okay Katie

so how worried then should we be that

you know our elected officials are

having a summer camp a get-together in

Germany with people who

clearly have big in big business

interests in their minds who are

motivated by financial profits how

concerned should citizens European

citizens in of other countries be about

this that for instance you know the

finance ministers or the chief of the

IMF is sitting down with oil executives

and so on yeah I think that I think they

should be concerned I think it should be

concern for a and a couple of reasons I

mean it's not that we're saying that the

idea of diplomacy in the fireside chat

isn't useful between essentially as as

has just been explained you know

democratically elected leaders who we

would presume to act in the public

interest but this is now very much about

private interests and those private

interests are narrowing all the time

actually as the nature of corporate

corporations narrows all the time to be

completely focused on profit and

shareholder interest so so so the

reasons we should be worried a twofold

firstly a lot of these companies will be

lobbying for impacts that have great

profitability for themselves but very

negative in tax for ordinary people I'm

thinking about big pharma industries who

want obviously more and more profit for

their drugs pricing more and more people

out of life-saving medicines I'm

thinking about another huge contribution

to lobbying and to these kind of

meetings the finance industry who've

created as we've seen you know a

financial sector that creates huge

profits for those at the top and Reks

financial havoc for the rest of the

world okay and then the second sugar

just a second the second reason why I

think it's sort of structurally

something to be concerned about is I'll

take you back to this this picture of

inequality that Oxfam's facing you know

where the 1% owned more than absolutely

everyone else put together and and I

think what that what that illustrates is

just that people's conceptions about

what the problems are in the world and

what the solutions might be are of

course going to be vastly different and

what meetings like Bilderberg and Davos

and others do is they reinforce the idea

that these the experts these are the

people that know what's going on they

know the truth and they might know how

to solve it well that might be true for

their truth and their problems

but they know absolutely nothing about

the lives of ordinary people whether

they be in African villages or you know

Dean just realizing towns in the UK and

and those voices are just not getting

heard in policymaking right let's hear

from Charlie in Dresden now Charlie the

theme of the meeting this year is

European unity and I imagine that the

upcoming UK referendum on the EU

membership is going to be a very hot

topic there

the Bilderberg chairman Henry de

Castries told the Financial Times in

January and ICO that a brexit would be a

disaster for the EU so just how anxious

are they about a possible brexit in

Dresden today I think they genuinely

extremely anxious because there's a lot

at stake for these companies

particularly never mind the kind of yura

file MP politicians were there the

business interests for whom a brexit

would be as Omri de Castries who's on

the board of HSBC and this a head of

accent it would be a disaster absolutely

because prop for anything else it would

scupper the TTIP deal just like that and

whether or not you're a fan of brexit

yourself what you can identify is that

is that a lot of the big banking and big

business interests at Bilderberg have

been very vocal about breaks it and

about remaining in Europe and have put

their money where their mouth is and

Goldman Sachs JP Morgan they both

funneled money into the remain campaign

Charlie just for our viewers how

precisely do they persuade governments

to meet their interests how do they do


well at you know one would say it's an

event like this because if you eat

another way if there's lots of different

ways of reading the the participant list

and one way would be to identify the the

people in it who are part of extremely

high-powered and influential lobbying

groups industrial or financial lobbying

groups so for example up at this year's

conference there's the head of the BDI

which is the the largest industrial

German industrial dhabi group and there

are I think six members maybe of the

European Roundtable

industrialist which is a hugely

influential lobbying group so when we

talk about lobbying generally we are

imagining it takes place kind of between

executives of the company focusing on

parts of the of the cut policy public

policy they want affected whereas here

the lobbying is taking place in an

extremely high level almost so high you

can't you can't see it because these are

the very Chairman and CEOs of companies

who are on on the boards of the lobbying

groups that do the lobbying so and you

know these are it's it's an event which

takes place for three days behind closed

doors with you know no press oversight

so it's a what we're describing at least

in one wave quite accurately is a vast

lobbying event oh this is this is

lobbying corporate lobbying at the very

very highest level sure as Charlie says

you know a brexit would be a disaster

for big business and banking do you see

the Bilderberg Group having any

influence whatsoever on the outcome of

the referendum in the UK very loaded

question and I will have to be careful

what I say here because I'd hate to be

misquoted obviously there are forms of

influence which investigative

journalists historical researchers do

their best to to kind of tease out to

find out exactly how influential

Bilderberg is in the public realm this

is very very difficult to pin down but I

do think because Bilderberg over the

years has always invited journalists and

public intellectuals to contribute to

the internal debates but not be open

about the impact of those debates on

their own thinking and their own kind of

public statements afterwards one has to

assume that debates in the public realm

will be in some shape or form influenced

by the discussions going on and

Bilderberg now I do want to emphasize

that that does not mean that the

Bilderberg meetings are dictating the

debates in the public realm but it is

inevitable that some of those sentiments

and interests and as mr. Skelton has

said some of the lobby interest are

inevitably going to enter the public

and their Bilderberg is is involved in

that just the same way as other meeting


I like that most Accenture are involved

at the same time what about on issues

like migration Giles are they you know

where do they stand on on the issue of

migration in Europe right now well

certainly there will be a great deal of


I mean it's that's that's an interesting

issue that will cut right across I think

political and economic lines you might

see some interest feeling that this is

an opportunity others going more down

the national security line so another

more kind of looking at the secondary

damage to say kind of European Union as

a functioning institution so I think

that's a very tough issue it wouldn't

surprise me if it's if it's definitely

on the agenda there for discussion

okay Charlie in dress and let me just

put a question to you now do you think

this group today is still relevant and

do you think they should continue with

these meeting do they bring anything do

they add anything to the discussion or

on you know world politics in terms of

its relevance it's sometimes written off

as sort of old men at the end of their

careers meeting to play golf which is

extremely dangerous misrepresentation of

of a meeting where if you look at the

the participants they're all the very

hate of industries and banks not they're

not old retired men they are the

chairmen CEOs of giant industrial media

and and financial institutions so from

from their point of view they're still

at the very top of their game they're

still managing to attract you know vice

presidents at the European Commission a

member of the Executive Board of the

European Central Bank except research or

two prime ministers as I said so they're

doing pretty well they're looking pretty

healthy and they're also what they've

done very interesting leandroop is moved

into the world of high tech so on their

board you'll find people like Eric

Schmidt who's the head of alphabet which

is the parent company of Google and

Peter Thiel who's on the board of

Facebook who set up PayPal and they're

embracing such subjects as artificial

intelligence and cybersecurity and

looking at those and bringing people

into the fold

I take new media world so they're

adapting they're changing and they're

very they're still just as relevant as

as they ever were whether or not it

benefits anyone else I mean they'd like

to think it is because you know if you

look at them in the UK the Bilderberg

functions is a charity you look at the

there they're called the Bilderberg

Association and this is a charity in

inverted commas which is funded by

Goldman Sachs and BP okay and and the

the the stated aim of it is proposed

public education

okay Roenick since the public can't know

what's going on there let's hear from

Katie now in London Katie talked about

this idea of an elite group that has

nothing to do with normal people so my

question is very simple should

government officials elected officials

who represent the people be allowed to

participate in such a conference well of

course they should be allowed to talk to

and you know a range of interest the

point is that they're doing that on a

very different playing field that this

is the sort of meeting that is you know

has huge amounts of wealth behind it and

it and it does make the difference that

these people are treated you know to an

all-expenses-paid weekend that they're

able to pay for direct and private

access I mean it's also the meeting that

Garner's a whole amount of attention you

know we're having this whole program

talking about these people reinforcing

the idea that this is where the

important decisions are made so it's not

about blocking access for anybody but

it's about money being able to buy so

much more access then other people can

get you have perfectly legitimate ideas

problems and experiences of the world

so it's so it's about enforcing you know

who matters and who doesn't and and

therefore increasing the inequality and

poverty that we care about well thank

you all for a very interesting

discussion it was good to hear your

thoughts on this Charlie Skelton Katie

right in drowse Kant Smith thank you for

watching and thank you as well for

watching you can always watch the

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from me fully bocce boy in the whole

team thanks for watching bye for now