The annual Bilderberg conference is notable for the number of extremely senior elected officials that attend the private event. The group estimates that each year “one third” of the participants are “from politics and government”. The Lisbon conference in 2023 was, if anything, exceptional in the number of senior European politicians and policymakers who attended:

  • Albares, José Manuel (ESP), Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Andersson, Magdalena (SWE), Leader, Social Democratic Party
  • Attal, Gabriel (FRA), Minister for Public Accounts
  • Beaune, Clément (FRA), Minister for Transport
  • Borrell, Josep (INT), Vice President, European Commission
  • Byrne, Thomas (IRL), Minister for Sport and Physical Education
  • Cassis, Ignazio (CHE), Federal Councillor, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Frederiksen, Mette (DNK), Prime Minister
  • Freeland, Chrystia (CAN), Deputy Prime Minister
  • Gentiloni, Paolo (INT), Commissioner for Economy, European Commission
  • Gonzáles Pons, Esteban (ESP), Vice Chair, European People’s Party
  • Hofreiter, Anton (DEU), MP; Chair Committee on European Affairs
  • Kaag, Sigrid (NLD), Minister of Finance; Deputy Prime Minister
  • Kuleba, Dmytro (UKR), Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Lammy, David (GBR), Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, House of Commons
  • Marin, Sanna (FIN), Prime Minister
  • Metsola, Roberta (INT), President, European Parliament
  • Moyo, Dambisa (GBR), Global Economist; Member, House of Lords
  • Philippe, Édouard (FRA), Mayor, Le Havre
  • Reynders, Didier (INT), European Commissioner for Justice
  • Röttgen, Norbert (DEU), MP, German Bundestag
  • Rutte, Mark (NLD), Prime Minister
  • Schallenberg, Alexander (AUT), Minister for European and International Affairs
  • Schmidt, Wolfgang (DEU), Head of the Chancellery, Federal Minister for Special Tasks
  • Sikorski, Radoslaw (POL), MEP, European Parliament
  • Tugendhat, Tom (GBR), Minister of State for Security

The United States sent a clutch of very senior government officials, mostly from national security and intelligence:

  • Chhabra, Tarun (USA), Senior Director for Technology and National Security, National Security Council
  • Easterly, Jen (USA), Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
  • Economy, Elizabeth (USA), Senior Advisor for China, Department of Commerce
  • Haines, Avril D. (USA), Director of National Intelligence
  • Wright, Thomas (USA), Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council

They were joined by the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Christopher Cavoli.

Look back at any participant list and you will see similar figures, and often the same faces. Jens Stoltenberg first attended as a politician back in 2002. He has been a regular attendee since becoming the head of NATO. Mark Rutte first attended in 2012, when he was already the Dutch PM.

To pick couple of recent years: in 2017, Holland sent its Defence Minister, Canada sent its Finance Minister, and the US sent two Senators, the Governor of Virginia, the Secretary of State for Commerce and the National Security Advisor. They were joined by the Secretary General of Nato and the head of the IMF. And in 2016 the conference was heaving with politicians: everyone from the German, Irish and Swedish Finance Ministers to the Prime Minister of Belgium; from the Dutch Prime Minister to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Looking further back, to the Watford conference in 2013: Austria sent its State Secretary of Finance; Sweden sent its Foreign Minister and Finance Minister; and Holland and Great Britain sent their Prime Ministers. That year, from the UK alone, there were:

  • David Cameron, Prime Minister
  • George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Kenneth Clarke, Cabinet Minister
  • Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Sir John Kerr, Independent Member, House of Lords (UK)

Along with, from the EU:

  • José M. Durão Barroso, President, European Commission
  • Viviane Reding, Vice President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission

It’s not uncommon for the conference to be attended by senior officials from the European Commission and the EU, along with the chiefs of intelligence services and senior military officers.


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a guide to the annual transatlantic talks