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.
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.