BERLIN - Jürgen Trittin is on the defensive, even though the top Green party leader in Germany has no real reason to be. The source of his troubles is his recent trip to the United States where he spent two days attending the 60th Bilderberg Conference, held this year in in Chantilly, Virginia.
Bilderberg is an annual meeting of international politicians, business leaders and journalists that is as exclusive as it is discreet, and Trittin was one of its 145 attendees. Good for him!
Yet Trittin, head of Alliance 90/The Greens, feels he somehow needs to explain his visit to Chantilly, where his name was on the guest list along with former Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann and many American and international moguls.
Is this a fitting environment for a Green politician, long considered to be left-leaning? Trittin poses the question himself on his website, www.trittin.de: "As a Green politician, should one attend such a conference? He answers: Of course, why ever not?
"It is wrong to set limits on whom you are allowed to talk to or be in contact with. Its not about the people you meet with, but what you have to say to them, he writes, underscoring the point by adding that Green viewpoints must "be introduced in places where they are still not actively represented. That is and remains the premise on which I base my political dealings.
In the face of criticism from the far-left, however, Trittin feels the need to justify himself. He goes so far as to reveal information about the conference that the rule of silence enshrouding the proceedings usually keeps out of the public domain. According to him, the topics on the conference agenda this year were: trans-Atlantic relations, the EU debt crisis, international energy policies, and cyber-security. He himself took part in a panel discussion about the euro crisis and the European Union.
On his website, he adds that he didnt say anything at the conference that he wouldnt have said anywhere else; he advocated a departure from a one-sided austerity regime in Europe; and he spoke out for sustainable investment in education, energy, and infrastructure as well as a European debt repayment fund. He had also raised Green calls for a tax on financial transactions and a tax on assets so that the people who are responsible for the crisis and the rich pay a share of the costs of the crisis.
A private club for the world's most influential
According to Trittin, reactions to what he had to say were by no means entirely negative. On the contrary: Many of those present thought that the way the crisis in Europe is presently being managed represents a dramatic underestimation of its gravity and agreed that a course correction is urgently needed.
To make sure that all other critiques of his trip were nipped in the bud, Trittin asks and answers the question of who paid for his trip: I did. My participation did not entail any additional costs to German taxpayers. He was invited to the conference, he says, by Matthias Naß, a journalist for the German newspaper Zeit.
But just what is Bilderberg, anyway? The name comes from a hotel ("de Bilderberg") near Arnhem, in the Netherlands, where the conference took place for the first time in 1954. The name stayed on, even though the conference itself takes place each year at a different venue around the world.
"Bilderberg" is a code word for the chosen few, just the way the word "Davos" -- to those in the know -- does not just mean a mountain resort in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, but refers to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) held there.
Unlike WEF organizers, however, organizers of the Bilderberg Conference have never been, and continue not to be, interested in publicity. Bilderberg is a gathering of conservative elites, and being confidential and secretive are the two most important conditions for getting the worlds most influential players to participate. Attendees are overwhelmingly, albeit not exclusively, male.
English is the language spoken at the conference, which adheres to the Chatham House Rule stating that attendees are free to use any information gleaned at the conference but not to reveal the identity or affiliation of anyone present. The confidentiality of the proceedings encourages participants to talk freely with each other, and the end result is a market place for well-informed, relevant opinion.
Originally, the Bilderberg Conference was a talk shop for western nations including Turkey, but has since opened up to include participants from other countries including Russia and China.
Read more from Die Welt in German.
Photo - BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN