Locked away from the focus of television cameras and the glare of the public eye, leaders of Europe and North America are discussing society’s greatest issues at the annual Bilderberg Group gathering this weekend. The meeting of some of the world’s best-known -- and richest -- minds brings together politicians, academics, bankers and industrial leaders from both continents. 
This Bilderberg Group summit is the first to be conducted in Great Britain in 14 years, and about 140 people were invited to attend the elite conference, according to the Independent of London. The event is being held at the Grove Hotel, a luxury resort near Watford that has been transformed into a fortified oasis for some of the world’s most powerful people.
Armed checkpoints have been set up around the hotel and a high fence placed around the “exclusion zone” of the property, the Telegraph reported. Some have claimed the security operation could cost British taxpayers as much as £2 million ($3.05 million) or more, the Daily Mail said.
Founded in 1954, the Bilderberg Group has described its annual conference as “a forum for informal, off-the-record discussions about megatrends and the major issues facing the world.” Its initial goal was to forge ties between leaders of Western Europe and the U.S., as noted by the Telegraph. Its first meeting was held at the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands where attendees discussed the Communist threat and the possibility of European integration. 
The annual meetings are shrouded in secrecy. Little is known about what happens during them because no minutes are kept, no resolutions are considered and no votes are taken. The group has said it is looking only to serve as a conversation mill for leaders seeking solutions to the greatest problems facing the world. In terms of format, debates take place with all delegates seated together in one large room, the Telegraph said.
This year’s attendees include Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state; Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and Peter Thiel, the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal. Britsh Prime Minister David Cameron will also be at the event: His decision to attend has led to great scrutiny in the U.K., with some commentators indicating his participation in the closely guarded summit conflicts with his previous statements about leading a more open, transparent government.
Several demonstrators appeared outside the conference venue this week, pushing conspiracy theories about the meeting and the lack of information known about its true purpose. “If our politicians want to be wined and dined in luxury for three days with Goldman Sachs, that seems to me a little bit like lobbying,” Hannah Borno, a journalist and transparency campaigner, told the Telegraph. Borno has requested that minutes of the meeting be published.  
For its part, the Bilderberg Group has said it has no special agenda in mind, except for its summiteers to discuss the issues that are plaguing society while they are free to “listen, reflect and gather insights” away from the expectations and pressures associated with their roles in society and to “foster dialogue between Europe and North America.”