SOME OF THE world’s most powerful leaders will come together at the annual Bilderberg meeting which begins today.
A secretive group of international politicians, bankers, business titans and European royalty will gather behind closed doors for the next four days to debate, among other things, the merits of Donald Trump’s fledgling US presidency.
The Bilderberg meeting takes place in Chantilly, Virginia, where 131 elites — from elder statesman Henry Kissinger to Nato secretary Jens Stoltenberg to civil rights activist Vernon Jordan will discuss transatlantic relations, the future of the European Union and “a progress report” on the Trump administration, according to a statement from the group.
In terms of Irish interest, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary and Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh will be in attendance. In previous years, ministers Michael Noonan and Simon Coveney attended the event.
This year’s meeting can be seen as a chance for Trump supporters, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor HR McMaster and billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, to face his critics like Eric Schmidt, executive director of Google’s parent company.
Schmidt warned in January that Trump’s administration would do “evil things”.
The Bilderberg group, which has met every year since 1954 and was created as a forum for fostering dialogue between Europe and North America, will gather less than 50km from the White House.
No media outlets
Several journalists are participating in this year’s forum, including London Evening Standard editor George Osborne and Cansu Camlibel, the Washington bureau chief for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper. However, as is the tradition, news outlets are not invited to cover the event.
“There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written,” the group has stated.
Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.
The meeting is expected to address Russia, China, nuclear proliferation, globalisation, and the so-called war on information.
Guests scheduled to attend the meeting include Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who works part-time as a commercial pilot; David Rubenstein, co-founder of influential global investment firm The Carlyle Group; and John Brennan, CIA chief under Barack Obama.
Ex-deputy US secretary of state William Burns and former deputy assistant defence secretary Elaine Bunn, both Obama-era officials, will also attend.
Burns, the current president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has warned that Trump “risks hollowing out the ideas, initiative and institutions on which US leadership and international order rest”.
Anti-globalisation protesters have reportedly descended on the location of the meeting.
The secretive nature of the group has given birth to conspiracy theories. Some have warned, for example, that Bilderberg is a group of rich and powerful kingmakers seeking to impose a one world government.
- © AFP 2017 with reporting by Órla Ryan