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The Elite Gather in Greece for a Not-So-Secret Meeting

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15-16 May 09 | WSJ and Guardian

The Astir Palace hotel in this Greek coastal town wasn’t open for coffee Friday. Greek media, apparently tipped off, were abuzz over the reasons behind the heightened security at the hotel: a gathering of the Bilderberg Group, a secretive annual rendezvous of top politicians and business leaders.

The luxury resort — 25 miles south of Athens on the Aegean Sea — normally welcomes guests to use its bars and restaurants, or its private beach. But when a reporter tried to go in for a coffee, a suited security guard barred the way.

“The hotel is closed for a meeting…. A very big meeting,” he said.

“At the Club of the Strong,” said a headline in Greek daily Eleftheros Typos. “Bilderberg: The first violins of capitalism,” wrote the Eleftherotypia paper.

Founded half a century ago, the group has no widely known headquarters. No accord is announced at the end of its meetings. And no one is supposed to divulge their presence.

Still, many do let it be known subtly, and past attendees are said to have included Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher.

This time, one confirmed guest is Greek Prime Minster Kostas Karamanlis. “As you know, there are a lot of dignitaries in Athens, and this is a courtesy on behalf of the prime minister,” said Chris Valtadoros, his communications adviser.

Others scheduled to attend, according to those in the know, include European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is expected to attend, as well as Domenico Siniscalco, vice chairman of Morgan Stanley Europe and a former Italian finance minister, and John Elkann, vice chairman of Italian car maker Fiat.

The managers of world capitalism aren’t always popular, which is one reason the Group of Seven leaders now meet in out-the-way resorts that are hard for protestors to reach. In Greece, a small nationalist political party, “Laos,” planned to demonstrate Saturday outside the hotel.

The public was kept away from the hotel doors. As the same security guard explained later: “The hotel is closed until Monday. … There’s a big wedding.”

Guardian’s man at Bilderberg: I’m ready to lose control, but they’re not

Charlie Skelton feels a sudden need to apologise for the trouble he’s caused, swiftly followed by a rush of revolutionary rage against the powers that be being so, well, powerful. Read all of Charlie Skelton’s Bilderberg files.

I want to talk about Bilderberg 2009. But beyond a simple “yes, it’s happening, it’s real, the leaders of the world are hanging out here for the weekend”, what can I say? It’s a private meeting.

So – to make sense of it. I’m going to begin here: with the face of the first Bilderberg delgate I saw in the flesh. I was trying, lamely, to get a snap of some delegates as they swooshed through Vougliameni in their mirrored limos with their plainclothes motorcycle outriders and police escorts. And one of them had their window open. I was so excited I forgot to bring the camera to my face and took a photo of the hubcap. What I saw I won’t forget. It was a 40-something man with his head thrown back, laughing and laughing, the perfect photograph that only my retina will ever see.

And you know what: no wonder he was happy. It must be WAY COOL to be sirened through Greek streets in the back of bulletproof limo on your way to the COOLEST party in the world. You’ve been invited by the coolest of the cool kids to hang out for the weekend. Your cool cousin’s über-cool older brother and his way cool friends have got a keg of beer and a pool in the yard, and their parents are away and you think Jessica might be going. THIS IS THE BEST PARTY EVER! Turn on the sirens! We’re coming through! Woohoo!

And your life is already pretty cool. You already own a newspaper or head a thinktank, or you’re the UK secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, or you run Fiat, or you’re chairman of the Federal Reserve or Queen of the Netherlands, or president of Shell Oil. You run stuff. You have big ideas. You’re in control, and control is fun.

Bilderberg is all about control. It’s about “what shall we do next?” We run lots of stuff already, how about we run some more? How about we make it easier to run stuff? More efficient. Efficiency is good. It would be so much easier with a single bank, a single currency, a single market, a single government. How about a single army? That would be pretty cool. We wouldn’t have any wars then. This prawn cocktail is GOOD. How about a single way of thinking? How about a controlled internet?

How about not.

I am so unbelievably backteeth sick of power being flexed by the few. I’ve had it flexed in my face for three days, and it’s up my nose like a wasp. I don’t care whether the Bilderberg Group is planning to save the world or shove it in a blender and drink the juice, I don’t think politics should be done like this. This might be a facile point, but if they were organising a charity snooker league, they could do it upstairs at Starbucks. If they were trying to cure cancer they could do it with the lights on. Innocent thoughts can be minuted.

Or maybe they’re simply swingers. Maybe that’s why the curtains are drawn. Imagine chucking your key in the tub and pulling out Ken Clarke. Sorry Timothy Geithner, that’s the cost of doing business.

I have a confession. (I’m not a swinger, that’s not it.) My confession is that being tailed today by Greek special branch, and doubling back through a cafe and catching them out, and buying them chilled water on a hot day like in Beverley Hills Cop, when Eddie Murphy has room service sent to their car – all this was pretty exciting. It’s was my own little episode of the Equaliser. (The Greequaliser? No, really no, I’m tired). Being tailed was exciting and funny and absurd and confusing and terrifying and utterly, utterly wrong. And I know this sounds pathetic but I got a bit teary in the police station when I was telling the nice desk sergeant lady that I’m not a bad person and not a threat to anyone, and it would be nice if someone could call off the goons. I don’t like to be made to feel like this. I’ve been “put” in this position, and I haven’t deserved it.

Bilderberg is about positions of control. I get within half a mile of it, and suddenly I’m one of the controlled. I’m followed, watched, logged, detained, detained again. I’d been put in that position by the “power” that was up the road.

Likewise, the Bilderberg delegates occupy a position of power over the bobbing ignorance of the people patting beach balls in the sea, and me with my crappy little camera and my curiosity and my ill-formed sense of citizenship. I may not be very good at bearing witness here, but I’m doing my best. I haven’t shinned over the fence and shoved a camera in David Rockefeller’s face but I don’t want to be shot in the forehead.

A final thought for the day. In the fable, the men may have been blind but they did at least get to grope the elephant before trying to describe it. Now shove that elephant in the back of a blacked-out Mercedes S600, whisk it off into a luxury Greek resort, circle it with heavily armed guards and helicopters, hand it a Martini, and pay the local police to harass, detain and follow anyone showing even the slightest interest of grabbing a flank. That, my friend, is the beast that is Bilderberg 2009.



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  1. […] The Elite Gather in Greece for a Not-So-Secret Meeting (15 May 09) […]

  2. […] The Elite Gather in Greece for a Not-So-Secret Meeting (16 May 09) […]

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