During the world’s most secretive gathering the Bilderberg Group is set to discuss topics including cyber warfare, US foreign policy, “developments in the Middle East” and “Africa’s challenges” despite the glaring absence of regional representatives.
The Bilderberg Group, long criticized for a lack of transparency, has revealed details of its upcoming meeting. This year 138 politicians, bank bosses, billionaires, chief executives and European royalty have confirmed their attendance to the invitation-only event, set to take place in Watford, England. The list notably includes only 14 women.
The group is comprised largely of individuals from financial and business backgrounds – there will be nearly three dozen CEOs and more than two dozen Chairmen of banks and petroleum giants. Twenty-three financial institutions will be represented at the five-star Grove Hotel near Watford, Hertfordshire, including Goldman Sachs.
As the list was released, critics could not help but point fingers at problems some of the attendees are currently facing in their respective fields.
Special attention has been placed on Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Google’s Eric Schmidt, as the two are currently facing unprecedented political pressure over their tax avoidance strategies. Google, for its part, has faced scrutiny amid reports that it paid just £10 million in corporation tax in Britain between 2006 and 2011, despite revenues of £11.9 billion.
Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour shadow Ed Balls, who have been making headlines with their spending and tax offers for the UK, will also rub shoulders with other participants of the Bilderberg Conference.
One of the guests is group chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, which faced a stringent investigation in 2012 for allegedly assisting in the laundering of money from Mexico, Iran and Syria for terrorist networks and drugs cartels.
Among guests there are also the 75th and 70th US Treasury Secretaries, Tim Geithner and Robert Rubin, respectively.
There will be other leading figures such as Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, former US secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Henry Kissinger, and David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA.
The list of prestigious names also includes the former Prime Ministers of France and Italy, François Fillon and Mario Monti.
There will also be scholars from some of the world’s most prestigious universities – one from Harvard University, two from Stanford, and one from both Oxford and Princeton.
Starting June 6 for three days, the delegates will be discussing of the record a list of topics of universal importance, determining how the world should proceed.
“The conference has always been a forum for informal, off-the-record discussions about megatrends and the major issues facing the world,” a Bilderberg spokesman said in a press release.
Originally founded in 1954 to foster dialogue between Europe and North America, this year’s topics include an expansive range of issues.
With Europe still trying to find solutions for financial problems and growing unemployment, the elite guests are set to discuss “jobs, entitlement and debt”, “politics of the European Union” and the broadly defined “current affairs”.
Among the 12 “key topics” for this year’s conference are “developments in the Middle East” and “Africa’s challenges.” The inclusion of “Africa’s challenges” is an interesting choice, as the guest list is notably absent of any major (or minor) political or academic figures from that vast continent.
Despite Bilderberg’s traditional exclusion of other areas of the world, six Turkish attendees are slated to be the only Middle Eastern voices at the conference. The inclusion of a large contingent from that country comes at an auspicious time, as political demonstrations continue throughout Turkey in opposition to the ruling AKP party.
The overlapping agendas of political and private sector leaders, as well as current and former political leaders is enough to make even the most conservative of observers start to wonder what may bear fruit as a result of the top-level, off-the-record conference.
As with gatherings of the G-8 and other international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, which tend to draw large, disruptive groups of demonstrators, Bilderberg has prepared a robust security apparatus to keep things running smoothly.
According to various reports by British media, UK taxpayers will have to bear the brunt of the ‘exceptional costs’ to police the meeting, which takes place in that country for the first time since 1998.