Bilderberg takes its name from the hotel in Holland, where the first meeting took place in May 1954. That pioneering meeting grew out of the concern expressed by leading citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that Western Europe and North America were not working together as closely as they should on common problems of critical importance. It was felt that regular, off-the-record discussions would help create a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations in the difficult post-war period.
The Cold War has now ended. But in practically all respects there are more, not fewer, common problems - from trade to jobs, from monetary policy to investment, from ecological challenges to the task of promoting international security. It is hard to think of any major issue in either Europe or North America whose unilateral solution would not have repercussions for the other.
Thus the concept of a European-American forum has not been overtaken by time. The dialogue between these two regions is still - even increasingly - critical.
Character of meetings
What is unique about Bilderberg as a forum is
- the broad cross-section of leading citizens that are assembled for nearly three days of informal and off-the-record discussion about topics of current concern especially in the fields of foreign affairs and the international economy;
- the strong feeling among participants that in view of the differing attitudes and experiences of the Western nations, there remains a clear need to further develop an understanding in which these concerns can be accommodated;
- the privacy of the meetings, which has no purpose other than to allow participants to speak their minds openly and freely.
Invitations to Bilderberg conferences are extended by the Chairman following consultation with the Steering Committee members. Participants are chosen for their experience, their knowledge, their standing and their contribution to the selected agenda.
There usually are about 120 participants of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America. About one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labour, education and communications. Participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity.
Governance and Funding
Bilderberg is governed by a Steering Committee which designates a Chairman; members are elected for a term of four years and can be re-elected. There are no other members of the Bilderberg conference. The Chair's main responsibilities are to chair the Steering Committee and to prepare with the Steering Committee the conference program, the selection of participants. He also makes suggestions to the Steering Committee regarding its composition. The Executive Secretary reports to the Chairman.
The expenses of maintaining the small Secretariat of the Bilderberg meetings are covered wholly by private subscription. The hospitality costs of the annual meeting are the responsibility of the Steering Committee member(s) of the host country.