Part lobby group, part think tank, part policy-forming body, the Bilderberg Group is a driving force and guiding light in globalization, European integration, and Anglo-American relations. Every year, the group holds a conference, to which approximately 120 of the world’s most powerful and influential people are invited. The Group has been holding its conferences since 1954.

That year, the first president of the group, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, set out the purpose of the group in his inaugural speech:

“Because the free countries of Europe, the United States and Canada must act as a unit, they must try to think the same way.

It is all about building consensus. The conference helps influential people – the transatlantic elite from politics, business, policymaking, and the media – to think the same way.

The participant list of each conference is a remarkable mix of top CEOs, billionaires, bank bosses, and high-level ministers and public officials.

The Bilderberg Group itself is the organising body that puts on this event, and consists of a Steering Committee and a Secretariat (based in Leyden, Holland). The current join-chairs of the Steering Committee are Prof. Victor Halberstadt and Marie-Josée Kravis, who is a board member of LMVH and Publicis Groupe. In 2019 they replaced the former chair, Henri de La Croix de Castries, 5th Comte de Castries, who is the former Chairman and CEO of AXA, the French insurance and banking giant, and is the vice-chair of Nestlé.

According to the Bilderberg Group’s own website:

What is unique about Bilderberg as a forum is the broad cross-section of leading citizens that are assembled for nearly three days of informal and off-the-record discussion about topics of current concern especially in the fields of foreign affairs and the international economy; the strong feeling among participants that in view of the differing attitudes and experiences of the Western nations, there remains a clear need to further develop an understanding in which these concerns can be accommodated; the privacy of the meetings, which has no purpose other than to allow participants to speak their minds openly and freely.

What the Steering Committee is hoping for, beyond a frank exchange of views, is debatable, but in the words of a founding member of the Group:

“To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn’t go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing.” (Denis Healy, 2001)


a guide to the annual transatlantic talks