Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who turned 93 on May 27, was scheduled to attend this year's Bilderberg Meetings. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

With no media coverage allowed, many of the world’s A-list corporate leaders and government ministers will participate in the Bilderberg Group’s annual meeting in Dresden, Germany, beginning Thursday.

Unlike the celebrity-dotted annual World Economic Forum, the so-called Bilderberg Meetings provides a venue for European and North American leaders of industry and government to talk business without the burden of courting the media, whose representatives are strictly forbidden from entering Dresden’s Hotel Taschenbergpalais.

The Bilderberg Group’s secretive nature has led to an assortment of conspiracy theories. Some have complained its annual gathering amounts to a lobbying effort that should be more transparent, and others have condemned its yearly meeting as an unaccountable global governing force.

Released Tuesday, the guest list for the gathering this year includes a large number of bank executives and billionaires, as well as policymakers and senior government officials -- such as 93-year-old Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. secretary of state -- who could help grease the wheels of bureaucracy to further industry objectives that may or may not be discussed at the meeting. Who knows? The public certainly doesn’t, as pointed out by Charlie Skelton, a comedy writer and a journalist at the Guardian in Britain.

“Even a cursory comparison between the guest list and the conference agenda raises red flags. All those finance ministers sitting ’round discussing the ‘geopolitics of energy and commodity prices’ with the group chief executive of BP, the vice chairman of Portuguese petroleum giant Galp Energia, and the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell,” Skelton wrote. “And then afterwards saying nothing to their respective parliaments about what they discussed. It’s so off-the-chart inappropriate that it beggars comprehension.”

While the June 23 referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union or remain in the bloc will likely hover over the gathering (so much so that Britain’s Conservative finance minister George Osborne will be notably absent this year), meeting participants will tackle several major timely topics, although any decisions made will be under wraps. No news conferences, no statements, no hard-hitting questions to answer.

Besides Kissinger, other attendees this year include Joe Kaeser, CEO and president of Siemens; John Sawers, a former British spy chief who is chairman of Macro Advisory Partners, which advises Western intelligence agencies; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent Alphabet; four finance ministers; three German Cabinet members; and two prime ministers.

Bilderberg Group Meeting 2016
A woman holds a sign reading, “Stop Bilderberg Mafia,” in front of a police checkpoint on a road leading to the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol, the venue of the Bilderberg Meeting, near Telfs, Austria, June 12, 2015. Christian Bruna/AFP/Getty Images

Kissinger's history as a key player in U.S. covert operations during the Cold War only helps to amplify the perception that the Bilderberg Meeting is meant to discuss agendas without any kind of public review.

In fact, the only things anybody outside the loop knows about these meetings are where they’re held, who attends them, what the participants plan to discuss and the fact security is a high priority. The meetings have been taking place since 1954. The name comes from the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, where the first event took place.

The Bilderberg Meetings are so behind the curtain of power that they’ve been the target of conspiracy theories on both the left and the right sides of the political divide for decades. On the left, former Cuban President Fidel Castro condemned the group in 2010 for playing the role of a parallel global governing body bent on furthering the capitalist agenda. On the right, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly promoted the idea that the Republican Party is controlled by a cabal of intellectuals associated with the Bilderberg Group.

Conspiracy theories aside, the annual meeting has been criticized for its opacity.

“This is totally in contradiction to the government’s commitment to have greater transparency,” the late Michael Meacher, a Labour member of Parliament in Britain, said of the 2013 Bilderberg Group event, which was held in Hertfordshire, England, that year.