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Seidenfaden gives Bilderberg insight

Politiken's late editor-in-chief unveils some of the goings on of the world’s unique secret lodge.

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Many have written about it, but few insiders have ever commented on what actually happens when the world’s powerful elite meet in the unique confines of the legendary Bilderberg Club.

Surrounded by mystery, Bilderberg, as it is often known, collects some 100 of the world’s most influential people, who ensconce themselves each year for three days of relaxed tête à têtes, with an undertaking not to leave the location, and not to disclose the content of meetings.

In a new book about Politiken’s late editor-in-chief Tøger Seidenfaden, however, author Stig Andersen reveals some of the atmosphere and content of the open-collar, T-shirt meetings following lengthy conversations with Seidenfaden on Bilderberg meetings that he once called ‘a highly qualified chat club’ for the world elite.

“During the conference they discuss all the classical themes. Earlier on in was a lot about security policy, but also contemporary issues such as the finance crisis, the European economic model versus the American model, environmental problems or whatever is hot stuff in the leading media,” Seidenfaden says in the book.

“There’s discussion and arguments, and you really feel where the soft spots are at any given time. Apart from leading politicians, there is a group of leading civil servants, a larger group of leading businesspeople, a few media people and a group of academics. Mainly people who have quite a lot of power and competence. For someone like me it is a goldmine of information worth more than tons of further education. At the same time you feel that your input can affect the debate,” Seidenfaden says.

Kissinger
He speaks of an episode in which former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1999 complained bitterly about the global community’s war in Kosovo, which had ousted Slobodan Milosevic.

According to Kissinger, the war was an immoral one, precisely because it was a moral one. Waging war for moral, humanitarian reasons was not something that Kissinger could envisage, Seidenfaden says.

The former secretary of state claimed the Left had taken over power and had begun to wage war – and that was something they knew little about. Wars were waged for reasons of the balance of power and for realistic principles he said, adding that the Balkans ‘is by the way a deeply irrelevant region’.

Provoked, Seidenfaden asked for the floor and explained to Kissinger that Kosovo was precisely an example of being in control and that here was both a human and diplomatic triumph.

“There were many in the hall who agreed and clapped. But Kissinger came to me afterwards and said: “You moral Danes, you don’t understand anything”.

The Kissinger story is just one of the many anecdotes Seidenfaden provides in the book. Another is how the debates gave him a very early insight into the United States preparing to go to war in Iraq.

Prior to the invasion in 2003, it was clear from people such as Richard Pearle, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz that something was going to happen.

“From 2001 to 2003, the meetings gave me a unique insight into the approaching Iraq War. I got insider knowledge of what the Bush administration was thinking. A thinking process that was very different from that of Europe,” Seidenfaden says, adding he used the information to keep his readers informed.

“Of course I didn’t write that my evaluation was because Dick Cheney, Richard Holbrooke and Henry Kissinger said so and so when I was in New York. That I was not allowed to write, and didn’t. But that was only a benefit for me as it became my intelligence,” Seidenfaden says.

Ensconced
The Bilderberg group has received much criticism through the years for its secrecy and for being a self-appointed and exclusive private association of powerful people who attempt to set the global agenda for the future at secret meetings and in which democratically elected governments have no place.

But that is something Seidenfaden feels is irrelevant.

“You have to understand that this is just a chat club. It is a candid and exciting chat club. There may be some who agree on things in the corridors. But they can do that anywhere,” Seidenfaden says, adding that secretaries are banned and participants cannot leave the location for the three full days of the meeting.

All meals were buffets where people collected their food and sat where they liked.

“Even little Tøger, who basically has no international network, sits alongside the Austrian chancellor on one side and NATO’s secretary-general on the other and opposite the international president for Goldman Sachs. It is certainly entertaining,” Seidenfaden says.

Leaving the group
After 10 years as a member of the Bilderberg Group Steering Committee, Seidenfaden left the community. He had been there for more than the maximum of eight years, and was firm in his wish to leave the group – something that surprised, for example, Kissinger.

“Why are you leaving us,” asked Kissinger, who at the time had been a member for 30 years.

To take his place on the Steering Committee, Seidenfaden appointed Anders Eldrup, the CEO of DONG.

And instead of Bilderberg, Seidenfaden became a member of The Trilateral Commission – a community closely related to Bilderberg, and but which also includes Japanese members and is a more activist organisation founded by David Rockefeller. The Commission attempts to foster closer cooperation between the United States, Europe and Japan.

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