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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 41,526 sq km (Total: 41,526 sq km)
Land: 33,883 sq km; Water: 7,643 sq km)
Population: 16.7 Million (2011)
Capital City: Amsterdam (population: 764,000) The Hague is seat of the Court, Government, and Parliament.
People (2010):
0-20 years: 23.7% (3,928,334)
20-65 years: 61% (10,101,327)
65 years: 15.3% (2,538,328)
Language: Dutch
Religions: Roman Catholic 28%, Protestant 19%, Muslim 5.8%, other 4.2%, Unaffiliated 43%. (latest figures 2009)
Currency: Euro
Major political parties: VVD (conservative Liberal Party), PvdA (Labour Party), PVV (Party for Freedom), CDA (Christian Democrats), SP (Socialist Party), D66 (Liberal Democrat Party), Groen Links ( left-wing Ecologist Party), CU (Christian Union),
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Head of State: Queen Beatrix, since 1980
Prime Minister: Mark Rutte
Foreign Minister: Uri Rosenthal
Membership of international groups/organisations: Benelux, World Customs Organisation (WCO), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), United Nations (UN), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR).


DID YOU KNOW?

-- The 'Orange' of the House of Orange originates from the small town in the South of France. William The Silent, son of the Prince of Nassau (in Germany), inherited the title to the House of Orange through family connections. The Royal Household is still today the House of Orange-Nassau.

-- Orange is the Dutch national colour. But the Dutch flag is red, white and blue.

-- The Dutch bulb trade, established in the 17th century, was probably the world's first forward commodities market. In 1636, a single tulip bulb was sold for 5,400 guilders, more than a substantial Amsterdam house cost at the time. Tulip bulbs were originally brought to the Netherlands from Turkey.

-- The export of fresh flowers is still a major Dutch industry. As of 1 January 2002, the Dutch cooperative combining two flower auction houses, FloraHolland, has become one of the world's largest auction organisations. Its annual sales in 2006 were EUR 3,9 billion. 85% of these sales were exported, mainly to other EU member states.

-- 25% of the country lies below sea-level. But without the existing dykes and dunes, 65% of the country would be flooded daily.

-- In 1664, the Dutch swapped New York for Suriname, which was valued for its spice production.

-- The ‘Elfstedentocht’, or Eleven Cities Race, is a 200 km endurance ice-skating event in Friesland, held only in years when the weather is cold enough to freeze all the canals and dykes. It was last held in 1997. The more than 16,000 participants skate through the night, many taking more than 12 hours to complete the event. The Dutch have a special verb, ‘klunen’, meaning ‘walking over ground wearing skates’ in order to circumvent weak patches in the ice or low bridges
.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP per head: €40,704 (2010)
Annual Growth: 1.8% (2010), 2.0% (forecast 2011), 1.75% (forecast 2012)
Inflation: 2.25% (2011)
Unemployment: 4.25% (2011)
Major Industries: Agro-industries, electrical machinery and equipment, metal and engineering products, chemicals, petroleum, construction, microelectronics, fishing
Major trading partners: EU countries (75%), especially Germany, Belgium, France and the UK

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: The Netherlands (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/netherlands)

The Netherlands has a solid and open economy that depends heavily on foreign trade. However, the Dutch economy was not immune from the global economic crisis, contracting by 3.5% in 2009. Last year the economy grew by 1.8%. Growth of 2.0% and 1.75% is forecast for 2011 and 2012. The government is committed to cutting the budget deficit (5.4% of GDP in 2010) towards zero by 2015 through a programme of budgetary cuts and economic reform. Despite the current difficulties, the Netherlands enjoys relatively stable industrial relations, low inflation and a current account surplus. It has a significant role as a European transportation hub centred around Rotterdam Port and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Industrial activity is mainly in food processing, chemicals, the refining of petroleum, and electrical machinery. The services sector represents 70% of the economy. The agricultural sector is highly mechanised and employs no more than 4% of the labour force but it provides large surpluses for exports and the food processing industry. When it comes to the value of agricultural exports, the Dutch rank third worldwide. The Netherlands was among the first 11 EU countries to adopt the Euro currency on 1 January 1999.

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HISTORY

Recent History

During the First World War (1914-18), the Netherlands remained neutral. It continued to pursue a policy of strict neutrality until the Second World War, but was invaded by Germany in May 1940 and occupied for five years. Queen Wilhelmina spent the war years in England, playing a vital role as the symbol of resistance against the occupying forces. She abdicated in 1948, after a reign of 50 years, in favour of her daughter Juliana. Queen Juliana abdicated in turn on 30 April 1980 to be succeeded by her eldest daughter, the present Queen Beatrix.

The Netherlands was a major colonial power until the Second World War, but after 1945 its two largest colonies, Indonesia and Suriname, gained independence. Today, the Kingdom of the Netherlands includes six islands in the Caribbean, formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles.

Longer Historical Perspective

Until the early 5th century, the area south of the Rhine was part of the Roman Empire. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Netherlands consisted of many separate feudal entities, which were eventually united, under Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), with the rest of the 'Low Countries' (present-day Belgium and Luxembourg) as part of the Holy Roman Empire.

But Charles V’s son, King Philip II of Spain, caused widespread resentment by restricting religious freedom and aspiring to absolute power. So in 1568, some of the northern Dutch provinces revolted under Prince William of Orange, starting what the Dutch call the Eighty Years’ War. This ended in 1648 with the Treaty of Münster, which recognised the Republic of the United Provinces (the seven sovereign provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Friesland, Groningen, Overijssel and Gelderland) as an independent state.

During the 17th century, the Netherlands' 'Golden Age', the Republic became very prosperous thanks largely to the Dutch East Indies Company, which could be described as the world’s first multinational. This company had interests along the coasts of Africa and Asia, with bases in present-day Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Around the same time, the Dutch West Indies Company (WIC) was trading with West Africa and the Americas, and from 1625 to 1664 it administered New Amsterdam, which later became New York.

Conflicting trading interests led to several wars with England, but the ties with that country were close. The Stadtholders, William II and his son William III both married English princesses, and in 1689, William III was asked by the English Parliament to share the English crown with his wife, Mary II.

The French Revolution signalled the end of the Republic of the United Provinces, which was invaded and occupied by French revolutionary forces in 1795. In 1813, the French Empire collapsed and the Low Countries regained their independence. In the northern Netherlands, there was a power struggle between republicans and monarchists, which was won by the latter. Willem Frederik, Prince of Orange-Nassau, returned from exile in England. The Government moved to The Hague, although Amsterdam remained the official capital. In 1815, the northern and southern Netherlands - today’s Netherlands and Belgium - were combined to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with Willem Frederik as King William I. This marked the introduction of the Dutch hereditary monarchy.

The constitution was radically revised in 1848, making ministers accountable to an elected Parliament rather than the monarch. The new constitution was the basis for a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. In 1830, the southern Netherlands seceded from the Kingdom to form the independent state of Belgium.
BBC Timeline of the Netherlands (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_1043000/1043528.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The Netherlands' Relations with Neighbours

The Netherlands places great importance on maintaining good relations with its neighbouring countries: its Benelux partners (Belgium and Luxembourg), Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries. The Netherlands is closely engaged in developments within the European Union. Over the coming year, the focus of the Dutch Government will be particularly on promoting international security and stability, human rights and also the economic prosperity of The Netherlands.

The Netherlands' Relations with the International Community

The Netherlands largely pursues its foreign policy within the framework of multilateral organisations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The Netherlands was a founding member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the UN, the Western European Union (WEU), NATO and the European Communities (now the EU). The Netherlands sees its participation in such organisations as increasingly important given the need to tackle more and more problems, e.g. energy and climate change issues, on a worldwide scale. The Dutch concern for democracy and human rights has also led the Netherlands to promote the development of international law. The International Court of Justice of the UN has its seat in The Hague, as do the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Netherlands is a regular contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. The Netherlands aid budget is in transition it is currently 0.8% of GDP but next year it goes to 0.75% and then finally to 0.7% in 2013 which is in line with Paris Declaration commitments.

The Netherlands' relations with the UK

The Netherlands and the UK are old and close friends and neighbours. There are regular exchanges between Ministers and other political and official levels across a broad range of policy areas. The two countries work particularly closely on a range of issues including EU, foreign affairs, social and employment policies. The last bilateral meeting between the Foreign Secretary and the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs took place in December 2010. In November 2010, the UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited the Netherlands, during which he launched with the Dutch Deputy Prime Minister the UK-Netherlands Strategic Business Dialogue. (http://ukinnl.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=115474682) In January 2011 Dutch Prime Minister Rutte visited London for a meeting with Prime Minister Cameron. The meetings highlighted the value and importance of the UK-NL relationship and the strong ties between the Governments of the two countries.

As of 1999 a Prime Ministerial agreement firmly established the foundations for the main bilateral Conference with the objective of bringing together a balanced and informed group of opinion makers from the UK and the Netherlands to reflect on issues of political and economic importance and shared concern. The first Conference took place in the city of Apeldoorn, where King William III of Orange and his wife Mary Stuart had their country retreat, and this was why the Conference is referred to as the ‘Apeldoorn: British-Dutch Dialogue’ Conference Series.

Since its inception the Apeldoorn: British Dutch Dialogue has steadily grown in its reach and prominence. The most recent Conference was hosted in the city of Rotterdam in March 2011 and focussed on the theme Making Successful Cities (please seeApeldoorn Conference (http://www.apeldoornconference.org) for more information). Next year the Conference will take place in the UK and delegates will be invited to discuss pressing issues related to the future of Higher Education.

The Apeldoorn: British Dutch Dialogue is being organised by the UK Foreign Office, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British Council. The Conference is sponsored by a number of private partners including Shell, Unilever, AkzoNobel, Abellio, BP, Marsh, Urenco, and RBS. The Conference Steering Board is co-chaired by Alexander Rinnooy Kan, Chairman of the Dutch Social Economic Council (SER) and Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas DBE, Chair of the New West End Company.

Cultural Relations with the UK

Approximately 73,000 (2011) British people live in the Netherlands. 1.7 million Dutch people visited the UK in 2010, while 1.5 million British people stayed overnight in tourist accommodation in the Netherlands (figures based on first 9 months of 2010 – full year available in August 2011). Most British visitors stay in the province of North Holland, and in the four largest cities (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam & Utrecht).

At least forty Dutch towns and cities are twinned with British towns and cities. The BBC is the oldest foreign language TV broadcaster in the Netherlands. BBC radio and four BBC TV channels are widely available. British newspapers and magazines are also well read, as over 75% of the population speaks and reads English.

The British Council is the UK’s principal agency for cultural relations with the Netherlands and other countries. Their objective is to build mutually beneficial relationships with people in the UK and other countries. They promote the UK in its entirety, reflecting and celebrating its cultural, ethnic and political diversity. For more information, please visit the website of the British Council Netherlands.

The website of the Netherlands Embassy in London (http://www.netherlands-embassy.org.uk)includes information on Netherlands-related cultural events in the UK.

Recent Visits

Inward:

-- Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited the UK in January 2011

-- State Secretary for Security & Justice Fred Teeven visited the UK in January 2011

-- Finance Minister De Jager visited the UK for talks with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 6 July 2011.

Outward:

-- Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP, visited the Netherlands in November 2010.

-- The Minister of State for Europe, Rt Hon David Lidington MP, visited the Netherlands in March 2011.

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GEOGRAPHY

The Netherlands is in Western Europe. It is, in line with the stereotype, a very flat country. Nearly a quarter of it lies below sea level. The country’s lowest point, at 6.7 metres below sea level, is near Rotterdam. The highest point, the Vaalserberg, is 321 metres high, and lies in the southeast, where the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet. Being close to the sea, the Netherlands has a moderate climate. The mean temperature is 17 degrees Celsius in the summer and 2 degrees Celsius in winter. Its average annual rainfall is 750mm, spread fairly evenly throughout the year.

Bordering countries (and border length)

-- Belgium 450 km

-- Germany 577 km

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

The Netherlands and UK are old and close trading partners. The Dutch have a long trading history with us and are one of our major trade and investment partners globally. The Netherlands is the UK’s third largest bilateral trading partner at £38bn in 2009; our fourth largest export market globally (behind only the US, Germany and France) and our third largest within the EU. Total exports in 2009 equalled £17.4 bn. Imports from the Netherlands were £21.2bn in 2009. These are remarkable figures for a country with a population less than one third the size of the UK’s.

We are significant investors in each other’s economies. The Netherlands is the third largest foreign investor in the UK valued at over £60bn spread over 4,000 companies including major Anglo/Dutch companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, Philips and AkzoNobel.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: The Netherlands (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/netherlands)

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POLITICS

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a Parliament (the States-General) consisting of two chambers. The upper or First Chamber consists of 75 members elected by members of the Provincial States. The lower or Second Chamber consists of 150 members directly elected by proportional representation, for a four year term. Dutch Government ministers give up their seat in Parliament on taking ministerial office. The Government can also appoint as ministers individuals who have not stood for election.

Composition of Parliament

-- Second Chamber: VVD (31), PvdA (30), PVV (24) CDA (21), Socialist Party (15), Green Left (10), D66 (10), Christian Union (5), SGP (2), Party for the Animals (2).
-- First Chamber: VVD (16), PvdA (14), CDA (11PVV (10),), Socialist Party (8), Green Left (5), D66 (5), Christian Union (2), Party for the Animals (1), Others (3).

Dutch Parliament (http://www.parlement.nl)

Recent political developments

In February 2010 the previous centre-left government formed by Christian Democrats (CDA), Labour (PvdA) and the smaller Christian Union (CU) under Prime Minister Balkenende tendered its resignation after it failed to reach agreement on a future Dutch military contribution to ISAF operations in Afghanistan. This led to an early general election in June 2010, which was won by the conservative Liberals (VVD), followed by the PvdA in second, Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) in third, and the CDA in fourth place. The election was followed by a long and complex round of negotiations. In October 2010 a new minority coalition was formed by the VVD and the CDA under Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The coalition has concluded a separate agreement with Wilders’ PVV, mainly covering immigration and asylum and law and order issues, in exchange for PVV support in Parliament for the coalition’s proposals.

Elections

The last general election in the Netherlands was held on 09 June 2010. For further details of the last election result see Election Guide (http://www.electionguide.org/).

Next Parliamentary elections:
Lower House: May 2015
Upper House: May 2015

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Last Updated: July 2011

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