BBC: Bilderberg Chairman interview


Richard Moore

This is of course a PR interview, not something to be taken at 
face value. Nonetheless, what he does admit is useful.



Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group 

How much influence do private networks of the rich and
powerful have on government policies and international
relations? One group, the Bilderberg, has often attracted
speculation that it forms a shadowy global government. As part
of the BBC's Who Runs Your World? series, Bill Hayton tries to
find out more.

The chairman of the secretive - he prefers the word private -
Bilderberg Group is 73-year-old Viscount Etienne Davignon,
corporate director and former European Commissioner.

In his office, on a private floor above the Brussels office of
the Suez conglomerate lined with political cartoons of
himself, he told me what he thought of allegations that
Bilderberg is a global conspiracy secretly ruling the world.

"It is unavoidable and it doesn't matter," he says. "There
will always be people who believe in conspiracies but things
happen in a much more incoherent fashion."

Lack of publicity

In an extremely rare interview, he played down the importance
of Bilderberg in setting the international agenda. "What can
come out of our meetings is that it is wrong not to try to
deal with a problem. But a real consensus, an action plan
containing points 1, 2 and 3? The answer is no. People are
much too sensible to believe they can do that."

There need to be places where these people can think about the
main challenges ahead, co-ordinate where policies should be
going, and find out where there could be a consensus Professor
Kees van der Pijl

Every year since 1954, a small network of rich and powerful
people have held a discussion meeting about the state of the
trans-Atlantic alliance and the problems facing Europe and the

Organised by a steering committee of two people from each of
about 18 countries, the Bilderberg Group (named after the
Dutch hotel in which it held its first meeting) brings
together about 120 leading business people and politicians.

At this year's meeting in Germany, the audience included the
heads of the World Bank and European Central Bank, Chairmen or
Chief Executives from Nokia, BP, Unilever, DaimlerChrysler and
Pepsi - among other multi-national corporations, editors from
five major newspapers, members of parliament, ministers,
European commissioners, the crown prince of Belgium and the
queen of the Netherlands.

"I don't think (we are) a global ruling class because I don't
think a global ruling class exists. I simply think it's people
who have influence interested to speak to other people who
have influence," Viscount Davignon says.

"Bilderberg does not try to reach conclusions - it does not
try to say 'what we should do'. Everyone goes away with their
own feeling and that allows the debate to be completely open,
quite frank - and to see what the differences are.

"Business influences society and politics influences society -
that's purely common sense. It's not that business contests
the right of democratically-elected leaders to lead".

For Bilderberg's critics the fact that there is almost no
publicity about the annual meetings is proof that they are up
to no good. Jim Tucker, editor of a right-wing newspaper, the
American Free Press for example, alleges they organise wars
and elect and depose political leaders. He describes the group
as simply 'evil'. So where does the truth lie?

Professor Kees van der Pijl of Sussex University in Britain
says such private networks of corporate and political leaders
play an informal but crucial role in the modern world.

"There need to be places where these people can think about
the main challenges ahead, co-ordinate where policies should
be going, and find out where there could be a consensus."

'Common sense'

Will Hutton, an economic analyst and former newspaper editor
who attended a Bilderberg meeting in 1997, says people take
part in these networks in order to influence the way the world
works, to create what he calls "the international common
sense" about policy.

Business influences society and politics influences society -
that's purely common sense "On every issue that might
influence your business you will hear at first-hand the people
who are actually making those decisions and you will play a
part in helping them to make those decisions and formulating
the common sense," he says.

And that "common sense" is one which supports the interests of
Bilderberg's main participants - in particular free trade.
Viscount Davignon says that at the annual meetings,
"automatically around the table you have internationalists" -
people who support the work of the World Trade Organisation,
trans-Atlantic co-operation and European integration.

Bilderberg meetings often feature future political leaders
shortly before they become household names. Bill Clinton went
in 1991 while still governor of Arkansas, Tony Blair was there
two years later while still an opposition MP. All the recent
presidents of the European Commission attended Bilderberg
meetings before they were appointed.

'Secret Government'

This has led to accusations that the group pushes its favoured
politicians into high office. But Viscount Davignon says his
steering committee are simply excellent talent spotters. The
steering committee "does its best assessment of who are the
bright new boys or girls in the beginning phase of their
career who would like to get known."

"It's not a total accident, but it's not a forecast and if
they go places it's not because of Bilderberg, it's because of
themselves," Viscount Davignon says.

But its critics say Bilderberg's selection process gives an
extra boost to aspiring politicians whose views are friendly
to big business. None of this, however, is easy to prove - or

Observers like Will Hutton argue that such private networks
have both good and bad sides. They are unaccountable to voters
but, at the same time, they do keep the international system
functioning. And there are limits to their power - a point
which Bilderberg chairman was keen to stress, "When people say
this is a secret government of the world I say that if we were
a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed
of ourselves."

Informal and private networks like Bilderberg have helped to
oil the wheels of global politics and globalisation for the
past half a century. In the eyes of critics they have
undermined democracy, but their supporters believe they are
crucial to modern democracy's success. And so long as business
and politics remain mutually dependent, they will continue to

Story from BBC NEWS: 

Published: 2005/09/29 07:42:52 GMT 


"Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World"