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Your crash course in... The secretive meeting where the world's elite hobnob each year

The Bilderberg conference will be attended by 130 world leaders in finance, academia, industry, politics and media.

THE INFAMOUS BILDERBERG Group meeting is back on the agenda this week as the world’s elite gather for an event most famous for its secrecy.

This year the conference is being held in Dresden, Germany and will be attended by 130 of the world’s leaders in finance, academia, industry, politics and media from 20 countries.

However, little is known about what takes place behind closed doors at the annual meeting, a trait that has spawned numerous conspiracy theories about the get-together.

2814307 Police patrol the grounds of the Grove Hotel, in Watford ahead of the Bilderberg meeting in 2013 Source: Nick Ansell

What’s it all about?

Bilderberg was created in 1954 in an attempt to foster dialogue between Europe and the US as anti-American sentiment rose in parts of the continent.

The whole event runs in strict accordance with the Chatham House Rule, which in everyday English means that those in attendance are free to use the information shared by other attendees, but the identity and the affiliation of those who said it cannot be revealed.

As everyone is bound to this agreement, no minutes or notes are taken at the meeting – and the very few members of the media who are let into the inner circle can’t report on the event.

This means little is known about exactly what is said, beyond the broad discussion topics released to the public. Over the years, however, a few tidbits have trickled out.

In 2012, documents released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act shone a light on the event after details relating to Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s attendance were made public.

2814313 Source: PA WIRE

Besides insights into the strict security measures put in place to ensure the event remained private, the files revealed that some high-profile people who weren’t included in the official guest list may also have been in attendance – adding yet another veil of secrecy to the affair.

What we do know is that each year there is an agenda set for the conference, with some key areas of focus for 2016 including China, migration in Europe, the US political landscape, cyber security and technological innovation.

In 2014, RT disputed the legitimacy of the officially released Bilderberg agenda when one of the news station’s presenters claimed he had got his hands on a copy of the real topics up for discussion at the event.

It was reported that the main items up for discussion were the nuclear deal being cut with Iran, the rising tide of nationalist groups in Europe and Edward Snowden’s exposure of the US National Security Agency’s activity.

Who attends?

The whole conference is chaired by outgoing Axa chief executive and French count Henri de Castries, while the Bilderberg steering committee contains notable business figures like Peter Thiel, who recently backed Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

This year, only two Irish names feature on the list of attendees. Noonan, a frequent visitor, will return to the event, while Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, who is also a member of the conference’s steering committee, is the second inclusion.

Other big names at the event this year are former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

In previous years, a number of Irish politicians and business figures have attended, including former tánaiste Michael McDowell, former attorney general Dermot Gleeson and ex-taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

2814316 Henry Kissinger (left) and Tony Blair Source: Associated Press

Conspiracy theories

Due to all the secrecy surrounding Bilderberg, conspiracy theories abound about the inner workings of the elite club and the power it wields.

It has been suggested that the whole group is a precursor to a one-world government, but this has been strongly denied by previous chairs of the organisation – who have played down the group’s importance during rare interviews on the subject.

Nevertheless, the meeting has invited further suspicion with the attendance of several political leaders, such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, before they rose to power. Among the many far-fetched claims levelled at the group is that it was responsible for rigging the 2008 Democratic nomination for US President.

One of the more interesting conspiracy theories about Bilderberg came courtesy of David Icke, a former BBC sports presenter who in 1991 proclaimed himself to be the son of God.

He has claimed a lot of those in attendance at the event are descendants of lizards that have used their shape-shifting skills to make their way into the upper echelons of power.

Written by Killian Woods and posted on Fora.ie

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