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Weekend break for the global elite

The annual meeting of the secretive Bilderberg group is underway, much to the delight of the conspiracy theorists, writes Madeleine Bunting.

Special report: globalisation

Madeleine Bunting
Guardian Unlimited

Friday May 25, 2001

Global power-brokers have a penchant for siting their get-togethers in inaccessible places. Either the fastness of an Alpine valley (Davos) or an island - the choice this year of the secretive Bilderberg group. They have copied the tactics of the Japanese, who managed to host a G8 summit last summer without any protestors by putting it on a remote island, Okinawa, surrounded by shark infested seas.

Since Seattle 1999, Washington and Prague 2000, the calendar of global get-togethers has attracted lively anti-globalisation demonstrations. Davos this year had unusually tight security to try and keep protestors well away. leading to allegations of unnecessary heavy-handedness by the Swiss police.

This weekend, it is the turn of Bilderberg, perhaps the most secretive (or as the organisers would prefer to claim, discrete) club for the global elite. It holds its weekend on Stenungsund, an island off the Swedish west coast.

Named after the hotel which hosted the first meeting in 1954 - the group was created by Denis (now Lord) Healey, Joseph Retinger, David Rockefeller and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (a former SS officer) - the group aimed to develop understanding between Europe and the US at the height of the Cold War by bringing together financiers, industrialists, politicians and opinion formers; the press have never been allowed access and all discussions are under Chatham House rules (no quoting).

Not surprisingly, such ground rules, while attracting publicity-shy financiers, have also fuelled the fantasies of conspiracy theorists. The truth is probably more mundane: powerful people like meeting each other, but they argue that they need privacy if there is to be serious, honest discussions: the G8 summits are a graphic example of how all the meaningful exchanges are kept well away from the pre-prepared final communiques drawn up by civil servants.

That said, there's a new and extremely important question facing the organisers of this international meeting. There is a growing perception that globalisation is a process which is being managed for the benefit of a small proportion of the planet's residents and at terrible cost to many more.

Furthermore, those managing the process, in particular the huge corporations which dwarf the power of many national governments, are largely unaccountable.

There is a perception of illegitimacy about unaccountable corporate power and governments elected on low turnout: sooner or later global power-brokers will have to recognise this crisis of legitimacy, and engage with protestors rather than run away from them.

Related stories
10.03.2001: Bilderberg extract from Jon Ronson's 'Them'

Useful links
Jon Ronson homepage
Bilderberg.org
Spotlight.org
Schnews.org: Bilderberg papers
Big Issue: Bilderberg papers
Nexus magazine: The Bilderberg group
David Icke: The Bilderberg Round Table
Parascope.com: Bilderberg files
Yahoo 23.05.01: Secretive Bilderberg group to meet in Sweden

     

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