The Netherlands

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                           Coat of arms

                Motto: "Je maintiendrai" (French)
                  "Ik zal handhaven" (Dutch)
                        "I shall stand fast"

The Netherlands is the European part of the Kingdom of the
Netherlands, which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands
Antilles and Aruba in the Caribbean. The Netherlands is a
parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy, located in
Western Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and
west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east.

The Netherlands is often called Holland. This is formally incorrect
as North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only
two of the country's twelve provinces. As a matter of fact, many
Dutch people colloquially use Holland as a synecdoche, being well
aware of the widespread use of this name. For more on this and
other naming issues see terminology of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying and densely
populated country. It is popularly known for its traditional
windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), delftware and
gouda pottery, for its bicycles, its dikes and surge barriers, and,
on the other hand, traditional values and civil virtues such as its
classic social tolerance. But primarily, the Netherlands is a
modern, advanced and open society. An old parliamentary
democracy, the country is more recently known for its rather
liberal policies toward recreational drugs, prostitution,
homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia.

The Netherlands has an international outlook; among other
affiliations the country is a founding member of the European
Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, and has signed the Kyoto protocol.
Along with Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands is one of
three member nations of the Benelux economic union. The
country is host to five international(ised) courts: the Permanent
Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the
International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for
Lebanon. All of these courts (except the Special Tribunal for
Lebanon), as well as the EU's criminal intelligence agency
(Europol), are situated in The Hague, which has led to the city
being referred to as "the world's legal capital."

A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is its flatness. Hilly
landscapes can be found only in the south-eastern tip of the
country on the foothills of the Ardennes, the central part and
where the glaciers pushed up several hilly ridges such as the
Hondsrug in Drenthe, the stuwwallen (push moraines) near
Arnhem and Nijmegen, Salland, Twente and the Utrechtse
Introduction Netherlands

Background: The Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed
            in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and
            formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands
            remained neutral in World War I, but
            suffered invasion and occupation by
            Germany in World War II. A modern,
            industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also
            a large exporter of agricultural products. The
            country was a founding member of NATO
            and the EEC (now the EU), and participated
            in the introduction of the euro in 1999.

Geography Netherlands

   Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea,
             between Belgium and Germany
 Geographic 52 30 N, 5 45 E
         Map Europe
       Area: total: 41,526 sq km
             land: 33,883 sq km
             water: 7,643 sq km
     Area - slightly less than twice the size of New
comparative: Jersey
      Land total: 1,027 km
 boundaries: border countries: Belgium 450 km, Germany
             577 km
   Coastline: 451 km
    Maritime territorial sea: 12 nm
     claims: exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
    Climate: temperate; marine; cool summers and mild
     Terrain: mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land
              (polders); some hills in southeast
   Elevation lowest point: Zuidplaspolder -7 m
   extremes: highest point: Vaalserberg 322 m
     Natural natural gas, petroleum, peat, limestone, salt,
  resources: sand and gravel, arable land
   Land use: arable land: 26.71%
             permanent crops: 0.97%
             other: 72.32% (2001)
    Irrigated 5,650 sq km (1998 est.)
     Natural flooding
Environment water pollution in the form of heavy metals,
   - current organic compounds, and nutrients such as
      issues: nitrates and phosphates; air pollution from
              vehicles and refining activities; acid rain
Environment     party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen
            -   Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic
international   Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air
 agreements:    Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile
                Organic Compounds, Antarctic-
                Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine
                Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty,
                Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate
                Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification,
                Endangered Species, Environmental
                Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto
                Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping,
                Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer
                Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber
                83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
Geography - located at mouths of three major European
      note: rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)

People        Netherlands

Population: 16,407,491 (July 2005 est.)
Nationality: noun: Dutchman(men), Dutchwoman(women)
             adjective: Dutch
     Ethnic Dutch 83%, other 17% (of which 9% are non-
    groups: Western origin mainly Turks, Moroccans,
            Antilleans, Surinamese, and Indonesians)
            (1999 est.)
 Religions: Roman Catholic 31%, Dutch Reformed 13%,
            Calvinist 7%, Muslim 5.5%, other 2.5%, none
            41% (2002)
Languages: Dutch (official), Frisian (official)

Government Netherlands

      Country conventional long form: Kingdom of the
       name: Netherlands
              conventional short form: Netherlands
              local long form: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden
              local short form: Nederland
  Government constitutional monarchy
         Capital: Amsterdam; The Hague is the seat of
Administrative 12 provinces (provincies, singular -
    divisions: provincie); Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland
               (Fryslan), Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg,
               Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel,
               Utrecht, Zeeland, Zuid-Holland
       Dependent Aruba, Netherlands Antilles

   Military    Netherlands

      Military Royal Netherlands Army, Royal Netherlands
    branches: Navy (includes Naval Air Service and Marine
               Corps), Royal Netherlands Air Force
               (Koninklijke Luchtmacht, KLu), Royal
               Constabulary, Defense Interservice Command
               (DICO) (2004)
      Military 20 years of age for an all-volunteer force (2004)
   service age


                       History of the Netherlands

Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Spain, the
region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands,
which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg,
and some land of France and Germany. 1568 saw the start of the
Eighty Years' War between the provinces and Spain. In 1579, the
northern half of the Seventeen Provinces formed the Union of
Utrecht, a treaty in which they promised to support each other in
their defense against the Spanish army. The Union of Utrecht is
seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. In 1581 the
northern provinces adopted the Oath of Abjuration, the
declaration of independence in which the provinces officially
deposed Philip II. Philip II the son of Charles V, was not prepared
to let them go easily and war continued until 1648 when Spain
under King Philip IV finally recognised Dutch independence in the
Treaty of Münster.
                  Dutch Republic 1581-1795
                          Dutch Republic

 William the Silent, leader of the Netherlands during the Dutch

Since their independence from Phillip II in 1581 the provinces
formed the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The
republic was a confederation of the provinces Holland, Zeeland,
Groningen, Friesland, Utrecht, Overijssel and Gelre. All these
provinces were autonomous and had their own government, the
"States of the Province". The States-General, the confederal
government, were seated in The Hague and consisted of
representatives from each of the seven provinces. The very thinly
populated region of Drenthe, mainly consisting of poor peatland,
was part of the Republic too, although Drenthe was not
considered one of the provinces. Drenthe had its own States but
the landdrost of Drenthe was appointed by the States-General.

The Republic occupied a number of so-called Generality Lands
(Generaliteitslanden in Dutch). These territories were governed
directly by the States-General, so they did not have a government
of their own and they did not have representatives in the States-
General. Most of these territories were occupied during the Eighty
Years' War. They were mainly Roman Catholic and they were used
as a buffer zone between the Republic and the Southern

The Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and
economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the
Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the so-called Dutch
Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over
the globe. (See Dutch colonial empire)

Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first
thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern
Europe it featured the wealthiest trading city (Amsterdam) and
the first full-time stock exchange. The inventiveness of the traders
led to insurance and retirement funds as well as such less benign
phenomena as the boom-bust cycle, the world's first asset-
inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 1636–1637, and according to
Murray Sayle, the world's first bear raider - Isaac le Maire, who
forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at
a discount.[2] The republic went into a state of general decline in
the later 18th century, with economic competition from England
and long standing rivalries between the two main factions in
Dutch society, the Staatsgezinden (Republicans) and the
Prinsgezinden (Royalists or Orangists) as main factors.

              Under French influence 1795-1815

                           Batavian Republic

On 19 January 1795, a day after stadtholder William V of Orange
fled to England, the Batavian Republic (Bataafse Republiek in
Dutch) was proclaimed. The proclamation of the Batavian
Republic introduced the concept of the unitary state in the
Netherlands. From 1795 to 1806, the Batavian Republic
designated the Netherlands as a republic modelled after the
French Republic.

The Kingdom of Holland 1806 – 1810 (Dutch: Koninkrijk Holland,
French: Royaume de Hollande) was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte
as a puppet kingdom for his third brother, Louis Napoleon
Bonaparte, in order to control the Netherlands more effectively.
The name of the leading province, Holland, was now taken for the
whole country. The kingdom of Holland covered the area of
present day Netherlands, with the exception of Limburg, and
parts of Zeeland, which were French territory. In 1807 Prussian
East Frisia and Jever were added to the kingdom. In 1809
however, after an English invasion, Holland had to give over all
territories south of the river Rhine to France.

King Louis Napoleon did not meet Napoleon's expectations — he
tried to serve Dutch interests instead of his brother's — and the
King had to abdicate on 1 July 1810. He was succeeded by his
five year old son Napoleon Louis Bonaparte. Napoleon Louis
reigned as Louis II for just ten days as Emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte ignored his young nephew’s accession to the throne.
The Emperor sent in an army to invade the country and dissolved
the Kingdom of Holland. The Netherlands then became part of the
French Empire.

From 1810 to 1813, when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in
the battle of Leipzig, the Netherlands were part of the French

                  Kingdom of the Netherlands

In 1795 the last stadtholder William V of Orange fled to England.
His son returned to the Netherlands in 1813 to become William I
of the Netherlands, Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands. On 16
March 1815 the Sovereign Prince became King of the

Map of the Netherlands in 1843 after independence of Belgium.
    See also: Kingdom of the Netherlands
In 1815 the Congress of Vienna formed the United Kingdom of the
Netherlands, by expanding the Netherlands with Belgium in order
to create a strong country on the northern border of France. In
addition, William became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The Congress of Vienna gave Luxembourg to William personally in
exchange for his German possessions, Nassau-Dillenburg, Siegen,
Hadamar and Diez.

Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the
personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was
severed in 1890, when King William III of the Netherlands died
with no surviving male heirs. Ascendancy laws prevented his
daughter Queen Wilhelmina from becoming the next Grand
Duchess. Therefore the throne of Luxembourg passed over from
the House of Orange-Nassau to the House of Nassau-Weilburg,
another branch of the House of Nassau.


The largest Dutch settlement abroad was the Cape Colony. It was
established by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East
India Company at Capetown (Dutch: Kaapstad) in 1652. The
Prince of Orange acquiesced to British occupation and control of
the Cape Colony in 1788. The Netherlands also possessed several
other colonies, but Dutch settlement in these lands was limited.
Most notable were the vast Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia)
and Suriname (the latter was traded with the British for New
Amsterdam, now known as New York). These 'colonies' were first
administered by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch
West India Company, both collective private enterprises. Three
centuries later these companies got into financial trouble and the
territories in which they operated were taken over by the Dutch
government (in 1815 and 1791 respectively). Only then did they
become official colonies.


During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to
industrialize compared to neighbouring countries, mainly due to
the great complexity involved in the modernizing of the
infrastructure consisting largely of waterways and the great
reliance its industry had on windpower.
                          World War I

Many historians do not recognise the Dutch involvement during
World War I. However, recently historians started to change their
opinion on the role of the Dutch. Although the Netherlands
remained neutral during the war, it was heavily involved in the
war. Von Schlieffen had originally planned to invade the
Netherlands while advancing into France in the original Schlieffen
Plan. This was changed by Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in
order to maintain Dutch neutrality. Later during the war Dutch
neutrality would prove essential to German survival up till the
blockade integrated by the USA and Great Britain in 1916 when
the import of goods through the Netherlands was no longer
possible. However, the Dutch were able to remain neutral during
the war using their diplomacy and their ability to trade.

                           World War II
                History of the Netherlands (1939-1945)

The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and intended to
do so in World War II. However, Nazi Germany invaded the
Netherlands in 1940 in the Western European campaign of the
Second World War. The country was quickly overrun and the
army main force surrendered on May 14 after the bombing of
Rotterdam, although a Dutch and French allied force held the
province of Zeeland for a short time after the Dutch surrender.
The Kingdom as such continued the war from the colonial empire;
the government in exile resided in London.

During the occupation over 100,000 Dutch Jews were rounded
up to be transported to Nazi concentration camps in Germany,
Poland and Czechoslovakia. By the time these camps were
liberated, only 876 Dutch Jews survived. Dutch workers were
conscripted for forced labour in German factories, civilians were
killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the
countryside was plundered for food for German soldiers in the
Netherlands and for shipment to Germany. Although there are
many stories of Dutch people risking their lives by hiding Jews
from the Germans, like in the diary of Anne Frank, there were
also Dutch people who collaborated with Nazi occupiers in
hunting down and arresting hiding Jews, and some joined the
Waffen-SS to form the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade
Netherlands, fighting on the Eastern Front.
The government-in-exile lost control of its major colonial
stronghold, the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), to Japanese
forces in March 1942. "American-British-Dutch-Australian"
(ABDA) forces fought hard in some instances, but were
overwhelmed. During the occupation, the Japanese interned
Dutch civilians and used both them and Indonesian civilians as
forced labour, both in the Netherlands East Indies and in
neighbouring countries. This included forcing women to work as
"comfort women" (sex slaves) for Japanese personnel. Some
military personnel escaped to Australia and other Allied countries
from where they carried on the fight against Japan.

After a first liberation attempt by the Allied 21st Army Group
stalled, much of the northern Netherlands was subject to the
Dutch famine of 1944, caused by the disrupted transportation
system, caused by German destruction of dikes to slow allied
advances, and German confiscation of much food and livestock
and above that all a very severe winter made the "Hunger Winter"
of 1944-1945 one in which malnutrition and starvation were rife
among the Dutch population. German forces held out until the
surrender of May 5, 1945, in Wageningen at Hotel De Wereld.

                          After the war

After the war, the Dutch economy prospered by leaving behind an
era of neutrality and gaining closer ties with neighbouring states.
The Netherlands became a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the
Netherlands and Luxembourg) grouping. Furthermore, the
Netherlands was among the twelve founding members of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and among the six
founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community,
which would later evolve, via the EEC (Common Market), into the
European Union.



In years past, the Dutch coastline has changed considerably as a
result of human intervention and natural disasters. Most notable
in terms of land loss is the 1134 storm, which created the
archipelago of Zeeland in the south west. The St. Elizabeth flood
of 1421 and the mismanagement in its aftermath destroyed a
newly reclaimed polder, replacing it with the 72 square kilometres
(28 sq mi) Biesbosch tidal floodplains in the south-centre. The
most recent parts of Zeeland were flooded during the North Sea
Flood of 1953 when 1,836 people were killed, after which the
Delta Plan was executed.

                     Map of the Netherlands.

        Satellite image of the Netherlands (ca. May 2000).

The disasters were partially increased in severity through human
influence. People had drained relatively high lying swampland to
use it as farmland. This drainage caused the fertile peat to
compress and the ground level to drop, locking the land users in
a vicious circle whereby they would lower the water level to
compensate for the drop in ground level, causing the underlying
peat to compress even more. The problem remains unsolvable to
this day. Also, up until the 19th century peat was mined, dried,
and used for fuel, further adding to the problem.

To guard against floods, a series of defences against the water
were contrived. In the first millennium AD, villages and
farmhouses were built on man-made hills called terps. Later,
these terps were connected by dykes. In the 12th century, local
government agencies called "waterschappen" (English "water
bodies") or "hoogheemraadschappen" ("high home councils")
started to appear, whose job it was to maintain the water level
and to protect a region from floods. (These agencies exist to this
day, performing the same function.) As the ground level dropped,
the dykes by necessity grew and merged into an integrated
system. By the 13th century, windmills had come into use in
order to pump water out of areas below sea level. The windmills
were later used to drain lakes, creating the famous polders. In
1932, the Afsluitdijk (English "Closure Dyke") was completed,
blocking the former Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) from the North Sea
and thus creating the IJsselmeer (IJssel Lake). It became part of
the larger Zuiderzee Works in which four polders totalling 2,500
km2 (965 mi2) were reclaimed from the sea.

                            Delta works

After the 1953 disaster, the Delta project, a vast construction
effort designed to end the threat from the sea once and for all,
was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002. The official
goal of the Delta project was to reduce the risk of flooding in the
province of Zeeland to once per 10,000 years. (For the rest of the
country, the protection-level is once per 4,000 years.) This was
achieved by raising 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) of outer sea-
dykes and 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) of inner, canal, and
river dikes to "delta" height, and by closing off the sea estuaries of
the Zeeland province. New risk assessments occasionally show
problems requiring additional Delta project dyke reinforcements.
The Delta project is one of the largest construction efforts in
human history and is considered by the American Society of Civil
Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Additionally, the Netherlands is one of the countries that may
suffer most from climatic change. Not only is the rising sea a
problem, but also erratic weather patterns may cause the rivers
to overflow.


The country is divided into two main parts by three large rivers,
the Rhine (Rijn) and its main distributary Waal, as well as the
Meuse (Maas). These rivers function as a natural barrier between
earlier fiefdoms, and hence created traditionally a cultural divide,
as is evident in some phonetic traits that are recognisable north
and south of these "Large Rivers" (de Grote Rivieren). In addition
to this, there was, until quite recently, a clear religious
dominance of Catholics in the south and of Protestants in the

The south-western part of the Netherlands is actually a massive
river delta of these rivers and two tributaries of the Scheldt
(Westerschelde and Oosterschelde). Only one significant branch of
the Rhine flows northeastwards, the IJssel river, discharging into
the IJsselmeer, the former Zuiderzee ('southern sea'). This river
also happens to form a linguistic divide. People to the east of this
river speak Low Saxon dialects (except for the province of
Friesland that has its own language).


The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is south-west,
which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers
and mild winters.

Mean measurements by the KNMI weather station in De Bilt
between 1971 and 2000:

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
        5.2 6.1 9.6 12.9 17.6 19.8 22.1 22.3 18.7 14.2 9.1 6.4 13.7
lowest      -
        0.0     2.0 3.5 7.5 10.2 12.5 12.0 9.6 6.5 3.2 1.3 5.7
temp.       0.1
temp. 2.8 3.0 5.8 8.3 12.7 15.2 17.4 17.2 14.2 10.3 6.2 4.0 9.8
           Panoramic view of windmills at Kinderdijk.

   Month      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
precipitation 67 48 65 45 62 72 70 58 72 77 81 77 793
Avg. hours
              52 79 114 158 204 187 196 192 133 106 60 44 1524

    See also: List of national parks of the Netherlands and List of
    extinct animals of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has 20 national parks and hundreds of other
nature reserves. Most are owned by Staatsbosbeheer and
Natuurmonumenten and include lakes, heathland, woods, dunes
and other habitats.

In 1871 the last old original natural woods (Beekbergerwoud)
were cut down and most woods today are planted monocultures
of trees like Scots Pine and trees that are not native to the
Netherlands. These woods were planted on anthropogenic heaths
and sand-drifts (overgrazed heaths) (Veluwe).
                Government and administration

                       Politics of the Netherlands

  Thorbecke reformed the Dutch government to a parliamentary

The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815
and a parliamentary democracy since 1848; before that it had
been a republic from 1581 to 1806 and a kingdom between 1806
and 1810 (it was part of France between 1810 and 1813). The
Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics
and governance are characterised by an effort to achieve broad
consensus on important issues, within both the political
community and society as a whole. In 2007, The Economist
ranked The Netherlands as the third most democratic country in
the world.

The head of state is the monarch, at present Queen Beatrix.
Constitutionally the monarch still has considerable powers, but
in practice it has become a ceremonial function. The monarch can
exert most influence during the formation of a new cabinet, where
he/she serves as neutral arbiter between the political parties.

In practice the executive power is formed by de ministerraad
Dutch cabinet. Because of the multi-party system no party has
ever held a majority in parliament since the 19th century,
therefore coalition cabinets have to be formed. The cabinet
consists usually of around thirteen to sixteen ministers of which
between one and three ministers without portfolio, and a varying
number of state secretaries. The head of government is the Prime
Minister of the Netherlands, who is often, but not always, the
leader of the largest party in the coalition. In practice the Prime
Minister has been the leader of the largest coalition party since
1973. He is a primus inter pares, meaning he has no explicit
powers that go beyond those of the other ministers.

The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament, the
States-General which also has legislative powers. The 150
members of the Second Chamber, the Lower House, are elected in
direct elections, which are held every four years or after the fall of
the cabinet (by example: when one of the chambers carries a
motion of no-confidence, the cabinet offers her resignation to the
monarch). The provincial assemblies are directly elected every
four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect
the 75 members of the First Chamber, the upper house, which
has less legislative powers, as it can merely reject laws, not
propose or amend them.

Both trade unions and employers organisations are consulted
beforehand in policymaking in the financial, economic and social
areas. They meet regularly with government in the Social-
Economic Council. This body advises government and its advice
cannot be put aside easily.

While historically the Dutch foreign policy was characterised by
neutrality, since the Second World War the Netherlands became a
member of a large number of international organisations, most
prominently the UN, NATO and the EU. The Dutch economy is
very open and relies on international trade.

The Netherlands has a long tradition of social tolerance. In the
18th century, while the Dutch Reformed Church was the state
religion, Catholicism and Judaism were tolerated. In the late 19th
century this Dutch tradition of religious tolerance transformed
into a system of pillarisation, in which religious groups coexisted
separately and only interacted at the level of government. This
tradition of tolerance is linked to the Dutch policies on
recreational drugs, prostitution, LGBT rights, euthanasia, and
abortion which are among the most liberal in the world.
          The Binnenhof is the centre of Dutch politics.

Since suffrage became universal in 1919 the Dutch political
system has been dominated by three families of political parties:
the strongest family were the Christian democrats currently
represented by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), second
were the social democrats, of which the Labour Party (PvdA) is
currently the largest party and third were the liberals of which
the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is the main
representative. These cooperated in coalition cabinets in which
the Christian democrats had always been partner: so either a
centre left coalition of the Christian democrats and social
democrats or a centre right coalition of Christian democrats and
liberals. In the 1970s the party system became more volatile: the
Christian democratic parties lost seats, while new parties, like the
radical democrat and progressive liberal D66, became successful.

In the 1994 election the CDA lost its dominant position. A
"purple" cabinet was formed by the VVD, D66 and PvdA. In 2002
elections this cabinet lost its majority, due to the rise of LPF, a
new political party around the flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn,
who was shot to death a week before the elections took place. The
elections also saw increased support for the CDA. A short lived
cabinet was formed by CDA, VVD and LPF, led by the leader of
the Christian democrats, Jan Peter Balkenende. After the 2003
elections in which the LPF lost almost all its seats, a cabinet was
formed by the CDA, the VVD and D66. The cabinet initiated an
ambitious program of reforming the welfare state, the health care
system and immigration policies.

In June 2006 the cabinet fell, as D66 voted in favour of a motion
of no confidence against minister of immigration and integration
Rita Verdonk in the aftermath of the upheaval about the asylum
procedure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali instigated by the Dutch immigration
minister Verdonk. A care taker cabinet was formed by CDA and
VVD, and the general elections were held on 22 November 2006.
In these elections the Christian Democratic Appeal remained the
largest party and the Socialist Party made the largest gains. The
formation of a new cabinet started two days after the elections.
Initial investigations toward a CDA-SP-PvdA coalition failed, after
which a coalition of CDA, PvdA and ChristianUnion was formed.

Dutch Tweede Kamer seats as of 2006
    PvdD (2)  D66 (3)    GL     CU (6)  CDA (41)    VVD
(7)   SP (25)  PvdA (33)    (22)   SGP (2)  PVV (9)

Summary of the 22 November 2006 Netherlands Second Chamber
election results:

                     Administrative divisions
     Main articles: Provinces of the Netherlands and Municipalities
     in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is divided into twelve administrative regions,
called provinces, each under a Governor, who is called
Commissaris van de Koningin (Commissioner of the Queen),
except for the province Limburg where the commissioner is called
Gouverneur (Governor) which underlines the more "non-Dutch"
mentality. All provinces are divided into municipalities
(gemeenten), 458 in total (1 January 2006). The country is also
subdivided in water districts, governed by a water board
(waterschap or hoogheemraadschap), each having authority in
matters concerning water management. As of 1 January 2005
there are 27. The creation of water boards actually pre-dates that
of the nation itself, the first appearing in 1196. In fact, the Dutch
water boards are one of the oldest democratic entities in the world
still in existence.
Map of the Netherlands, linking to the province pages; the red
dots mark the capitals of the provinces and the black dots other
notable cities or towns.

                                  Largest      Area
Flag   Province      Capital                          Population[13]
                                  city       (km²)
       Drenthe      Assen       Assen           2,641        486,197
       Flevoland    Lelystad    Almere          1,417        374,424
                    Leeuwarden Leeuwarden      3,341          642,209
       Gelderland   Arnhem     Nijmegen        4,971        1,979,059
       Groningen    Groningen Groningen        2,333          573,614
       Limburg      Maastricht Maastricht      2,150        1,127,805
       (Noord)      Den Bosch Eindhoven        4,916        2,419,042
       (Noord)      Haarlem     Amsterdam      2,671        2,613,070
       Overijssel   Zwolle      Enschede       3,325        1,116,374
       Utrecht      Utrecht     Utrecht        1,385        1,190,604
                    Middelburg Middelburg      1,787          380,497
                    The Hague
       (Zuid)                  Rotterdam       2,814        3,455,097
                    (Den Haag)
                  Demographics and urbanisation

                    Demographics of the Netherlands

      Population density in the Netherlands, 2006
      The Netherlands is the 25th most densely populated country
      in the world, with 395 inhabitants per square kilometre
      (1,023 sq mi)—or 484 people per square kilometre
      (1,254/sq mi) if only the land area is counted, since 18.4%
      is water.

Fertility rate

The fertility rate in the Netherlands is 1.72 children per woman,
well below the 2.1 rate required for population replacement.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy is high in the Netherlands: 82 years for newborn
girls and 77 for boys (2007).

Body length The people of the Netherlands are amongst the tallest
in the world, with an average height of about 1.85 m (6 ft 0.8 in)
for adult males and 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) for adult females. People in
the south are on average about 2 cm shorter than those in the

Ethnic origins
The ethnic origins of the citizens of the Netherlands are diverse. A
majority of the population, however, still remains indigenous
Dutch, although from a historic point of view, the latter notion is
also to be relativised strongly. They were:

  1.   80.9% Dutch
  2.   2.4% Indonesian (Indo-Dutch, South Moluccan)
  3.   2.4% German
  4.   2.2% Turkish
  5.   2.0% Surinamese
  6.   1.9% Moroccan
  7.   0.8% Antillean and Aruban
  8.   6.0% other

However, this does not include the whole Kingdom of the
Netherlands (such as the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, which
have a non-Dutch majority community), and only includes the
population in the Netherlands itself.

                     Geography of the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a very densely populated country, although
the cities are modest in size compared to international standards.
It is not the size of the biggest cities, but the very high number of
middle sized cities and towns, that accounts for the high degree of
urbanisation. The capital and largest city is Amsterdam, although
the government is located in The Hague. While the word capital is
usually defined as the city of the government seat, no Dutchman
would ever call The Hague the capital of The Netherlands.

                 Schematic map of the Randstad.
                          The Randstad


The Randstad (Edge City) is a conurbation in the western part of
the Netherlands. It consists of the four largest Dutch cities
(Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), plus their
surrounding areas. With its 7.5 million inhabitants (almost half of
the population of the Netherlands; when other conurbations
connected to this area are also taken into consideration, it would
have a population a little over 10 million, almost two-thirds of the
entire Dutch population) it is one of the largest conurbations in
Europe. There is discussion to what extent the Randstad may
form a single more integrated metropolis in the future. At this
moment, urban structures between these cities are not yet
developed to such a level that the Randstad could be considered a
kind of distributed super-agglomeration.

Conurbation is not restricted to the Randstad alone, although the
centre of gravity lies there. Quite typically, in the Netherlands
there are many medium sized cities, but no truly large ones. Its
largest city, Amsterdam with about 750,000 inhabitants in its
own municipality, belongs to one of the smaller European

                      The 10 largest cities

                 Urbanisation in the Netherlands.

List of the largest cities, by population, within the borders of one
municipality with their provinces in 2006: Sources are CBS based

  1. Amsterdam (North Holland) 744,740
  2. Rotterdam (South Holland) 581,615
  3. The Hague ('s-Gravenhage / Den Haag) (South Holland)
  4. Utrecht (Utrecht) 294,742
  5. Eindhoven (North Brabant) 209,601
  6. Tilburg (North Brabant) 200,975
  7. Almere (Flevoland) 183,738
  8. Groningen (Groningen) 180,824
  9. Breda (North Brabant) 170,451
  10.     Nijmegen (Gelderland) 160,732

However, this picture has to be completed. Municipality sizes
alone do not reflect the degree of urbanisation in the Netherlands
comprehensively. Many of the larger Dutch cities are the cores of
a significantly larger urban agglomeration. The largest ones are
listed below:

                  The 15 largest agglomerations

      Agglomerations consisting of only one municipality are not

     Rotterdam (Rotterdam, Barendrecht, Ridderkerk, Capelle
      aan den IJssel, Krimpen aan den IJssel, Spijkenisse,
      Schiedam, Vlaardingen, Maasland, Maassluis, Rozenburg)
     Amsterdam (Amsterdam, Amstelveen, Uithoorn, Diemen,
      Landsmeer, Oostzaan, Wormerland, Zaanstad)

  The Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, which is the largest city and
                   capital of the Netherlands.

     The Hague ('s-Gravenhage, Rijswijk, Wateringen, Voorburg,
      Leidschendam, Wassenaar, Westland, Zoetermeer, Delft)
     Utrecht (Utrecht, Nieuwegein, IJsselstein, Maarssen)
     Eindhoven (Eindhoven, Veldhoven, Geldrop, Son en Breugel,
     Tilburg (Tilburg, Goirle)
     Groningen (Groningen, Haren)
     Haarlem (Haarlem, Heemstede, Bloemendaal)
     Arnhem (Arnhem, Rozendaal)
     Leiden (Leiden, Katwijk, Voorschoten, Leiderdorp,
      Oegstgeest, Rijnsburg, Valkenburg, Warmond)
     Dordrecht (Dordrecht, 's-Gravendeel, Hardinxveld-
      Giessendam, Papendrecht, Sliedrecht, Zwijndrecht)
     Heerlen (Heerlen, Kerkrade, Landgraaf, Brunssum)
     's-Hertogenbosch ('s-Hertogenbosch, Vught)
     Sittard-Geleen (Sittard-Geleen, Beek, Stein)
     Amersfoort (Amersfoort, Leusden, Hoogland,

                 Language, religion, and culture

          Dutch Language and Languages of the Netherlands

The official language is Dutch, which is spoken by a majority of
the inhabitants, the exception being some groups of immigrants.

Another official language is West Frisian, which is spoken in the
northern province of Friesland, called Fryslân in that language.[18]
West Frisian is co-official only in the province of Friesland,
although with a few restrictions. Several dialects of Low Saxon
(Nedersaksisch in Dutch) are spoken in much of the north and
east, like the Twentse language in the Twente region, and are
recognised by the Netherlands as regional languages according to
the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, as well
as the Meuse-Rhenish Franconian varieties in the southeastern
province of Limburg, here called Limburgish language.

There is a tradition of learning foreign languages in the
Netherlands: about 70% of the total population have good
knowledge of English, 55– 59% of German and 19% of French.
Some Dutch secondary schools also teach Latin and Ancient
                       Religion in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the more secular countries in the
Western Europe, with only 39% being religiously affiliated (31%
for those aged under 35), although 62% are believers (but 40% of
those not in the traditional sense). Fewer than 20% visit church
regularly .

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005,[22] 34% of
Dutch citizens responded that "they believe there is a god",
whereas 37% answered that "they believe there is some sort of
spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any
sort of spirit, god, or life force".

In 1950, before the secularisation of Europe, and the large
settlement of non-Europeans in the Netherlands, most Dutch
citizens identified themselves as Christians. In 1950, out of a
total population of almost 13 million, a total of 7,261,000
belonged to Protestant denominations, 3,703,000 belonged to the
Roman Catholic Church, and 1,641,000 had no acknowledged

However, Christian schools are still funded by the government,
but the same applies for schools founded on other religions,
nowadays Islam in particular. While all schools must meet strict
quality criteria, from 1917 the freedom of schools is a basic
principle in the Netherlands.

Three political parties in the Dutch parliament (CDA,
ChristianUnion and SGP) base their policy on the Christian belief
                     Culture of the Netherlands

                    Erasmus (1466–1536).

The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. The 17th
century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, was the age of
the "Dutch Masters", such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes
Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruysdael and many others.
Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were
Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-
known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained
in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim
as an American artist. Han van Meegeren was an infamous Dutch
art forger.

The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of
Rotterdam and Spinoza. All of Descartes' major work was done in
the Netherlands. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (1629–
1695) discovered Saturn's moon Titan and invented the
pendulum clock. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to
observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope.
In the Dutch Golden Age, literature flourished as well, with Joost
van den Vondel and P.C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In
the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the bad treatment of the
natives in Dutch colonies. Important 20th century authors
include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Cees
Nooteboom, Gerard (van het) Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans.
Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl was published after she died
in The Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major

Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found in Huis ten Bosch,
Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Holland Village is being built in
Shenyang, China.

Windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, cheese and Delftware pottery
are among the items associated with the Netherlands.


                       Military of the Netherlands

Conscription in the Netherlands was suspended in 1996. All
military specialities, except the Submarine service and Marine
Corps(Korps Mariniers), are open to women. The Dutch Ministry
of Defence employs almost over 70,000 personnel, including over
20,000 civilian and over 50,000 military personnel. The military is
composed of four branches, all of which carry the prefix
Koninklijke (Royal):

     Koninklijke Landmacht (KL), the Royal Netherlands Army
     Koninklijke Marine (KM), the Royal Netherlands Navy,
      including the Naval Air Service and Marine Corps
     Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu), the Royal Netherlands Air
     Koninklijke Marechaussee (KMar), the Royal Military Police,
      tasks include military police and border control

       Economy of the Netherlands and List of Dutch companies


Aalsmeer Flower Auction. The largest commercial building in the
       world, and a centre of international flower trade.

The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy in which
the government has reduced its role since the 1980s. Industrial
activity is predominantly in food-processing (for example Unilever
and Heineken International), chemicals (for example DSM),
petroleum refining (for example Royal Dutch Shell), and electrical
machinery (for example Philips). In the north of the Netherlands,
near Slochteren, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world
is situated. So far (2006) exploitation of this field resulted in a
total revenue of €159 billion since the mid 1970s. N.V.
Nederlandse Gasunie still is the largest public-private partnership
P3 world-wide following the global energy-transition of 1963 from
coal to gas, coupling oil and gas prices. With just over half of the
reserves used up and an expected continued rise in oil prices, the
revenues over the next few decades are expected to be at least
that much.

The Netherlands has the 16th largest economy in the world, and
ranks 10th in GDP (nominal) per capita. Between 1998 and 2000
annual economic growth (GDP) averaged nearly 4%, well above
the European average. Growth slowed considerably in 2001-05
due to the global economic slowdown, but accelerated to 4.1% in
the third quarter of 2007. Inflation is 1.3% and is expected to stay
low at around 1.5% in the coming years. Unemployment is at
4.0% of the labour force. By Eurostat standards however,
unemployment in the Netherlands is at only 2.9% - the lowest
rate of all European Union member states. The Netherlands also
has a relatively low GINI coefficient of 0.326. Despite ranking only
10th in GDP per capita, UNICEF ranked the Netherlands 1st in
child well-being.

                  Agriculture and horticulture

   Frisian Holstein cows originated in the Netherlands, where
   intensive dairy farming is an important part of agriculture.

A highly mechanised agricultural sector employs no more than
4% of the labour force but provides large surpluses for the food-
processing industry and for exports. The Dutch rank third
worldwide in value of agricultural exports, behind the United
States and France, with exports earning $55 billion annually. A
significant portion of Dutch agricultural exports are derived from
fresh-cut plants, flowers, and bulbs, with the Netherlands
exporting two-thirds of the world's total. The Netherlands also
exports a quarter of all world tomatoes, and one-third of the
world's exports of peppers and cucumbers. The Netherlands'
location gives it prime access to markets in the UK and Germany,
with the port of Rotterdam being the largest port in Europe. Other
important parts of the economy are international trade (Dutch
colonialism started with cooperative private enterprises such as
the VOC), banking and transport. The Netherlands successfully
addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth
long before its European partners.


As a founding member of the Euro, the Netherlands replaced (for
accounting purposes) its former currency, the "Gulden" (Guilder),
on January 1, 1999, along with the other adopters of the single
European currency. Actual Euro coins and banknotes followed on
January 1, 2002. One Euro is equivalent to 2.20371 Dutch

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