What was discussed at the Bilderberg Meetings?: Analysis
The 67th meeting of the Bilderberg Group was held last week in Montreux, Switzerland. Leaders and experts in the fields of industry, finance, academia and media are invited to these meetings, which have the purpose of strengthening the dialogue between Europe and North America.
These meetings, which are closed to the press mainly to enable the participants to give a free voice to their ideas, bring different conspiracy theories with them due to the coming together of high profile participants.
With the confidence of having participated in this year’s meeting, I can clearly say that these meetings are not a platform on which “hidden secrets and plans are shared.” If this were the case, the participants would not be allowed to give information about the content of the meeting as required by the “Chatham House” rule. Nor would I be writing this article.
What still makes this meeting unique in my opinion and what “adds mystery” to it is the curiosity felt regarding what this élite group has highlighted behind closed doors and the points on which they have reached agreement and those on which they have differed in opinion.
Economic problems were not directly discussed at this year’s Bilderberg Meetings. The economist in me would no doubt prefer the economic dimensions of events to be discussed directly and in more detail. However, the tendency of the U.S. side to foreground ideological concerns instead of economic ones in relation to forming an alliance against China might perhaps have relegated such an economic dimension to the background.
The general theme at the meeting was to enable Europe and the United States to meet on a common ground and to be able to produce common solutions for increasing threats. But what are these increasing threats?
Firstly, concerns regarding the future of the European Union were discussed.
It was expressed that when problems such as trade wars, terrorism and climate change are added to the existing problem of immigration, the EU is unable to produce effective solutions for these problems.
It was noted that this concern feeds populist and nationalist movements and causes fault lines in the EU.
It was stated that in order to eliminate populist and nationalist movements, freedoms should be preserved through prosperity, a common understanding of identity and community that would prevent divisions in society should be created, and the foundations of democracy and supremacy of law be strengthened.
If Europe has a crisis?
Climate change played a critical role in the agenda of the meeting. There were many green party and green industry representatives among the participants. It was said that the duty of the governments regarding this issue is to point clearly and transparently the direction to be taken in the long run, to strengthen the belief that this route will be followed with determination and, by doing so, to ensure that the industry makes the desired investments.
But if the European economy slows down and comes to the verge of a new crisis, are there enough tools to deal with it? A pessimistic picture was drawn regarding this issue. It was noted that there has been a loss of credibility after the last financial crisis and thus it will be difficult to provide stability in an environment of distrust. It was also stated that Italy in particular is an important risk factor.
Another main theme discussed at the meeting was the nature of a basis of reconciliation for the ideological differences between the West and China in a global order in which countries are gradually tied to each other with stronger bonds in terms of trade and technology.
It was emphasized that a technological cold war with China should be avoided, which would split both communication networks and technology.
It seems that the European side is somewhat uncomfortable with the attitude of the United States to China, and with the expectation that they take sides with the United States in this environment.
We can say that there are two reasons behind this apprehension: economic concerns that will be triggered by a deterioration in the trade relations with China and the fact that the United States is not perceived as a reliable ally due to its implementation of tariffs on Europe.
This rebuke was voiced at the meeting. An emphasis was placed on the feelings of distrust and displeasure caused by the fact that the United States, while asking for support from Europe against China, implements high tariffs on Europe.
It was also noted that the United States has refused to build a common approach with Europe in relation to developing a policy towards China and that a possible division between Europe and the United States would create opportunities for China.
It was emphasized, instead, that it would be a more constructive and correct policy to compete with China in the area of technology by means of common investments and protection and that at this point a strong eurozone and a capital markets union would serve this purpose.
It was said that the intention of Europe is not to follow the United States but to work with the United States.
Concessions will not be made to Turkey regarding S-400
Turkey was not on the main agenda of the meeting. However, following a question, Turkey too was discussed, albeit briefly.
It was noted that if Turkey insists on purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, there will be U.S. sanctions, concessions will not be made to Ankara, Turkey will be removed from the F-35 consortium, and its role in the supply chain will be terminated.
In addition, it was emphasized that if Turkey signs the S-400 deal, it will have a huge adverse effect upon NATO.
It was noted that NATO is an organization whose purpose is not strategy but security and that if Russia’s control in the region increases, this will be an important threat to NATO.
At this point, the necessity of engaging the Democrats and the Republicans in the United States regarding the fact that NATO is not a strategic organization was stated.
The fractious role, which disregards NATO, played by U.S. President Donald Trump in Turkey’s closeness to Russia was, I think, implicitly condemned.
Selva Demiralp is a professor of economics at Koç University. This article was originally written in Turkish for BBC Turkish on June 4.