During the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in Singapore it became clear that the economic ties between Asia and Europe are growing stronger day by day. As a proof of mounting European interest two top EU- commissioners, Sir Leon Brittan and Manuel Marin attended the meeting. The Asia strategy of the EU is geared towards the intensification of the ties between Europe and Asia. Therefore, next year will see the first Asia-Europe meeting between heads of state in Thailand. In preparation for this meeting an EU-Asia Cultural Forum will take place in Venice from 17-19 January 1996. The Forum can be viewed as a consultative hearing between highly qualified resource persons from Asia and Europe with a deep seated interest in Asia, involving 30 scholars, 20 persons representing public institutions, and 20 captains of industry. Five themes will be discussed: the unity and diversity of Asia; Asian and European value systems; Asian religions in relation to progress; modes of problem- solving and decision-making; exchange of science and technology. The background documents are being prepared by five research centres identified by the European Commission on the basis of expertise and networking capacity. The IIAS will provide the background study on religion. The forum is expected to generate recommendations for future EU-Asian cultural and economic relationships.
ESF Asia Committee
During the meeting of the ESF Asia Committee in Leiden (1-2 September) six new fellowships within the European scheme were awarded. Several new workshops were also selected. On the ESF Asia Committee pages you will find more information about these matters and reports of previous workshops. At the meeting the IIAS Guide to Asian Studies in the Netherlands ■95 (GASE) was presented which will act as an example for the European Guide to Asian Studies . This guide will be based on the European Database for Asian Studies in Europe (EDAS) which has been set up by the IIAS.
GASE gives a clear picture of the geographical and disciplinary background of the more than 800 Asianists in the Netherlands. Asianists are defined as people professionally engaged in Asian Studies. GASE makes clear that the region most studied in the Netherlands is Southeast Asia, an outcome which did not come as any real surprise. What was a surprise is that this region is closely followed by South Asia. In third place is East Asia and in fourth place Central Asia. As to the disciplinary background of the researchers it became clear that history, anthropology, and development studies are most popular among Asianists in the Netherlands.
The gathering of this kind of information is completely in line with one of the recommendations of the Committee on the Future of the Humanities expressed in its report Cinnamon is Weighed by the Dram (1995), relating to the setting up of information systems which will provide data of relevance to the social assessment of trends in the Humanities. 'It is desirous to have knowledge of the developments in the humanities in the years to come then relevant data, geared towards national policy, must be made available' (p. 21). Bearing in mind the Dutch over- representation (800) in our present count of European Asianists (2500) it would seem that Southeast Asia and East Asia are the areas most studied regionally spoken.
On 21 December of this year the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.A.F.M.O. van Mierlo, will deliver a speech at the IIAS Ambassadors' lunch. At the gathering of Ambassadors from Asian Countries accredited in the Netherlands, captains of industry, and editors-in-chief of prominent newspapers and periodicals will be present. Van Mierlo will discuss Dutch foreign policy towards Asia and the role researchers and research can play in it. In the report Herijking Buitenlands Beleid (1995) (Evaluation of Foreign Policy) it would seem that Dutch foreign policy in the main mirrors the newly developed EU strategy. In it scientific cooperation and international research projects can become a bridge-head for increased cultural and economic cooperation. One specific characteristic of the Netherlands, namely the so-called stepping stone function it can assume for the rest of Europe is singled out. In a similar vein the IIAS functions as a spring-board for Asian Studies in Europe which it tries to foster by the signing of MoUs with research institutes in Europe and Asia. These entail the exhange of scholars and information and the organization of joint seminars. In September an MoU was concluded between the Vietnam National University in Hanoi and the IIAS. In collaboration with the Institute of Oriental Studies in Russia a seminar on Islam will be held in October and in cooperation with the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) an international conference ■Democracy in Asia?■ at the end of October. These activities are completely in line with the policy outlined in the Hoger Onderwijs en Onderzoek Plan 1996 (1995) (Higher Education and Research Plan 1996) of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, for international reserach institutes such as the IIAS.
Below you will find a letter to the editor from the French Asianist J-P. Drège, who has recently become member of the ESF Asia Committee, in which he gives a reaction to an article by S. Withfield on Dunhuang Studies in the supplement to IIASN 4. Drège's letter makes it abundantly clear that the European research traditions need to become aware of each others' efforts. On page 44 you will find an article on the Dunhuang Studies tradition in France. This is a very pertinent example of the way in which the IIASN hopes to function as a forum for Asianists.