Article 2 of the Constitution of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation reads as follows: “Within the context of the cultural traditions of Europe in general and the ideas of Erasmus in particular, the aim of the Foundation is to enhance the position of the humanities, social sciences and the arts. The emphasis is on tolerance, cultural pluralism and non-dogmatic, critical thinking. The Foundation endeavours to achieve this aim through the award of prizes and by other means. A money prize is awarded under the name of Erasmus Prize.”

In accordance with this article, the Board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has decided to award the Erasmus Prize for the year 2008 to Ian Buruma.
The Prize is awarded to him on the following grounds:

– Through his essays in leading journals, he gives a sharp and illuminating reflection on developments in politics, arts and society.

– The way he conveys his knowledge of the Far East and his views on Japanese and Chinese societies both in essays and in book form stimulates the interest and opens the eyes of a broad readership to a world that is larger than Europe or America.

– In his style, Buruma seemingly without effort combines sharp analysis, subtle irony, both identification and distance, and great erudition.

– Central in Buruma’s views are the high appreciation of the public debate, the emphasis on the importance of democratic institutions, the rejection of ideologies and the underscoring of individual responsibility.

– The oeuvre of Buruma is nourished by a fascination for the world on yonder side of bourgeois narrow-mindedness.