img_asem In 1996 the political leaders of the European Union and the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) together with Japan, Korea and China decided to meet every two years in what has since been called the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) summits. Through ASEM the Presidents and Prime Ministers intend to develop closer friendship and cooperation between Asia and Europe, built on shared interests and sustained through common understanding.
At present, the list of countries that participate in ASEM is as follows
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar
  • The Netherlands
  • Pakistan
  • The Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Korea
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • Vietnam

In order to support the implementation of these objectives, ASEM established the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) in February 1997.

In 2001 museums in ASEM partner countries officially launched the ASEMUS network in order to promote wider mutual understanding between the peoples of Asia and Europe by means of collaborative programmes of museum-based cultural activity and to stimulate and facilitate the sharing and use of museum collections of mutual interest and of knowledge about them. One of the first projects of ASEMUS was the Virtual Collection of Masterpieces (VCM). ASEF has generously supported the initial development of the VCM.