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Secretive Bilderberg group to meet in Sweden

By Peter Starck

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - EU enlargement and the bloc's military role, NATO's future and developments in Russia and China will top the agenda when senior Western business leaders, politicians and a sprinkle of royalty meet in Sweden this week.

The Bilderberg group, a semi-secret discussion forum for the Western world's power elite, will hold its annual meeting in the town of Stenungsund on the Swedish west coast on May 24-28, Swedish newspapers reported on Wednesday.

A 900-metre long metal fence has been erected around Hotel Stenungsbaden, the meeting venue, to keep intruders away, regional daily Goteborgs-Posten said, publishing a picture of the fenced-in hotel.

Anti-globalisation demonstrators are expected to protest outside and local police see the event as a useful training exercise ahead of the mid-June European Union summit in the city of Gothenburg 50 km (30 miles) to the south.

The Bilderberg group, named after the hotel where it first met in 1954, was formed early in the Cold War era in reaction to a growing Communist threat. Today, many critics see it as a conspiracy and an agent of a new capitalist world order.

Bilderberg member Jacob Wallenberg, chairman of the board of commercial bank SEB and head of Sweden's influential Wallenberg family whose empire has a finger in most big Swedish industries, played down the group's importance.

"This is one of many meetings all over the world where decision-makers get together," he told the daily Dagens Nyheter, which earlier published the main agenda topics.

Invited as speakers, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were groomed at Bilderberg meetings before rising to fame as U.S. President and British Prime Minister respectively.

EU Commission President Romano Prodi, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and European Central Bank Governor Wim Duisenberg all have a past as Bilderbergers.

SHAPING CAPITALISM

"Even though no formal decisions are made...this group, together with many others, has contributed to shaping the kind of capitalism we have today and cemented the world's leading business elites together," Goran Greider, editor-in-chief of Dala-Demokraten, a regional Swedish daily, said in a live studio debate on Sweden's TV4 television.

Bilderberg participants abide by the so-called Chatham House rule, which forbids everyone present from disclosing what anybody else has said.

"The secrecy is regarded as very provocative. Men in power talk towards consensus behind closed doors on timely issues on the political agenda," Ulf Bjereld, a political science professor at Gothenburg University, said.

Bilderberg members include former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, U.S. Senators Christopher Dodd, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, World Bank chief James Wolfensohn, France's central bank governor Jean-Claude Trichet and former IMF heads Michel Camdessus and Stanley Fischer.

Also listed are the chairmen of car makers Fiat, Giovanni Agnelli, and DaimlerChrysler, Juergen Schrempp, former British finance minister Kenneth Clarke, Dutch Queen Beatrix and Xerox Corp CEO Paul Allaire.


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