THE NETHERLANDS

Date of establishment: January 30, 1648

Brief history:

7th century: Settlement by Germanic tribes in the area of present-day Netherlands, including the Frisians in the Kingdom of Frisia.

9th century: The Netherlands becomes part of the Frankish Empire under Charlemagne.

15th – 16th century: The Netherlands flourishes in trade, industry, and maritime navigation, becoming a powerful commercial and colonial empire. Key cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp play crucial roles in this period, known as the Dutch Golden Age.

1568 – 1648: The Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and the Spanish Empire results in the establishment of an independent Dutch state. The Treaty of Münster in 1648 marks the end of the war and recognizes the independence of the Dutch Republic.

1713: The Treaty of Utrecht formally ends the War of the Spanish Succession and adjusts European territorial boundaries. However, it does not specifically acknowledge the independence of the Netherlands, as their independence was already recognized in 1648.

19th – 20th century: The Netherlands undergoes various political changes and reforms, including the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1815. Despite being occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, the Netherlands maintains its sovereignty and plays a significant role in post-war European reconstruction.

Present: The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a king or queen as the head of state. It includes four constituent countries (the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten) and three special municipalities in the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba).

 

International abbreviation: NL

 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

The Netherlands adopted the euro as its official currency on January 1, 2002, replacing the Dutch guilder (NLG). As a member of the eurozone, the Netherlands uses the euro for all its economic and financial transactions.

 

Internet domain: .nl

 

Dialing code: +31

 

Time zone: +1 GMT

 

Geography:

The Netherlands is a western European country located along the North Sea coast. Most of its territory consists of flat plains, including significant areas of reclaimed land known as polders. The country is renowned for its unique geography characterized by its low elevation, with about one-third of the land lying below sea level.

A notable feature of Dutch geography is the network of deltas formed by major rivers such as the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt. These rivers flow through the Netherlands and empty into the North Sea, creating extensive deltas that significantly impact the landscape and necessitate advanced water management systems. These deltas are crucial for agriculture and maritime trade, both key components of the Dutch economy.

The northern and western coasts of the Netherlands are bordered by the North Sea. The country shares its eastern border with Germany and its southern border with Belgium. The Netherlands also includes three special municipalities in the Caribbean, known as the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba), which are geographically separate from the European part of the country.

 

Highest Peak: Vaalserberg 322 m (1 056 feet) above sea level.

Located in the province of Limburg in the southeast of the Netherlands, it is also a tripoint where the borders of three countries meet: the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

 

Climate:

The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate characterized by mild winters and cool summers. Average temperatures in winter range from 2-6°C (36-43°F), and in summer from 17-20°C (63-68°F). Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, with an annual average of about 800 mm (31.5 inches). The country experiences frequent winds, especially along the coast, which can be strong due to its flat terrain and proximity to the North Sea.

Due to its low elevation and significant portions of land lying below sea level, the Netherlands faces considerable water management challenges and requires extensive flood protection measures. The Dutch have developed a sophisticated system of dikes, canals, and pumping stations to manage water levels and prevent flooding. Climate change and rising sea levels pose ongoing challenges for the country’s water management strategies

 

Fauna and flora:

The Netherlands does not have many large wild animals due to its dense population and extensive agriculture. However, national parks and reserves are home to wildlife such as red deer, roe deer, wild boar, rabbits, foxes, and hedgehogs. Additionally, beavers have been successfully reintroduced in some areas. The coastal areas of the North Sea and freshwater waterways harbor various bird species, including gulls, terns, swans, wild ducks, herons, and geese. The Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is particularly important for migratory birds.

The flora of the Netherlands includes a variety of plant species. The country is renowned for its tulips, which create magnificent fields of flowers in spring, particularly in the regions of Lisse and Keukenhof. Besides tulips, Dutch meadows and fields are adorned with daffodils, hyacinths, and lilies. In the forests, which make up a smaller part of the territory, the dominant trees include beech, oak, birch, alder, and willow. Wetland areas and dikes are often populated with reeds and other aquatic plants.

 

Agriculture:

The Netherlands is known for its extensive polders, which are reclaimed lands surrounded by dikes that allow the successful cultivation of areas below sea level. This land reclamation strategy enables farmers to manage water levels effectively, dealing with frequent floods and keeping the soil dry and suitable for cultivation. The country has a highly productive agricultural sector, utilizing advanced technology and efficient farming practices.

The main crops grown in the Netherlands include cereals such as wheat, barley, and oats. However, the country is particularly known for its horticultural sector. Potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and various other vegetables are extensively cultivated. The Netherlands is also a leading producer of flowers and ornamental plants, with tulips being the most famous. In terms of fruit cultivation, apples, pears, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries are significant. The Dutch dairy industry is also notable, producing large quantities of milk, cheese, and other dairy products.

Greenhouse horticulture plays a crucial role in Dutch agriculture, allowing for the year-round production of vegetables and flowers. The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural products, despite its small size, thanks to its innovative and efficient farming techniques.

 

Raw materials extraction:

The Netherlands does not have vast reserves of natural resources, but it does have significant natural gas reserves, which have played a crucial role in its economy. The Groningen gas field, one of the largest in the world, has been a major source of natural gas since its discovery in 1959. However, production is being phased out due to induced seismicity (earthquakes) and environmental concerns.

Oil production in the Netherlands is relatively minor, with small oil fields primarily located in the North Sea. In addition to natural gas and oil, the country does possess some limited sources of raw materials such as sand, gravel, and clay, which are used extensively in construction and infrastructure projects.

The Netherlands also has salt extraction activities, particularly in the northern regions, where salt is mined for both industrial and culinary uses.

 

Industry:

Dutch industry is diverse and encompasses several key sectors, including petrochemicals, food processing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering, electronics, and information technology. Industry is a significant pillar of the country’s economy, contributing to its wealth and international competitiveness.

The petrochemicals industry is one of the largest sectors in the Netherlands, centered around the port of Rotterdam, which is one of the world’s largest ports. This sector benefits from the country’s strategic location and its extensive logistics and transportation infrastructure. Major companies in this sector include Royal Dutch Shell and other global players.

Food processing is another crucial industry in the Netherlands, supported by the country’s strong agricultural sector. The Netherlands is home to some of the world’s leading food companies, such as Unilever, Heineken, and FrieslandCampina. The country is also a major exporter of agricultural products and processed foods, benefiting from its advanced food technology and innovation.

The chemicals industry is also vital, with major companies like AkzoNobel and DSM leading the way in producing a wide range of chemicals and materials used in various industries. The pharmaceuticals industry is robust, with both multinational corporations and smaller biotech firms contributing to research, development, and production of medicines and health-related products.

Engineering and manufacturing are also significant sectors, with a focus on high-tech and precision engineering. This includes the production of machinery, automotive parts, and aerospace components. Notable companies in this sector include ASML, a global leader in semiconductor equipment manufacturing, and Philips, known for its innovations in electronics and healthcare technology.

The electronics and information technology sectors are also prominent, driven by the country’s strong emphasis on innovation and research. The Netherlands is home to a thriving tech ecosystem, with numerous startups and established companies specializing in software development, cybersecurity, and IT services. The country is also a key player in the development of telecommunications infrastructure and data centers, making it an important hub for digital industries in Europe.

 

Services and other areas of the economy: Services, banking, insurance, tourism, transportation, telecommunications, information technology, science, research, education, and healthcare.

 

Natural and historical attractions:

The Netherlands is renowned for its historical and picturesque cities, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Maastricht. Tourists can admire beautiful canals, historic architecture, world-class museums, and famous artworks. Notably, Amsterdam houses the famous Rijksmuseum, showcasing works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Dutch masters. The city is also home to the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House, both major tourist attractions.

Rotterdam is known for its modern architecture and vibrant cultural scene, while The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and the International Court of Justice, featuring landmarks such as the Peace Palace and the Mauritshuis museum, home to Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” Utrecht is famous for its medieval old town and the Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the country, offers a blend of Roman history, medieval architecture, and lively cultural events.

The Netherlands is also home to several world-famous landmarks. The tulip fields near Lisse, particularly in the Keukenhof Gardens, attract millions of visitors each spring with their vibrant displays of tulips, daffodils, and other flowers. Historical windmills, such as those in Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans, offer a glimpse into the country’s past and are iconic symbols of Dutch heritage.

The coastal areas along the North Sea are popular destinations for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts. Tourists can relax on sandy beaches, go surfing, sailing, kiteboarding, or engage in other water activities. Notable coastal destinations include Scheveningen, Zandvoort, and the Wadden Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for their unique tidal flats and rich biodiversity.

 

 

Form of government: Constitutional monarchy

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. This means it has a king or queen as the head of state, but the monarch’s powers are limited by the constitution, and most political decisions are made by the parliament and government. The current monarch is King Willem-Alexander.

The main state organ is the States General (Staten-Generaal), which is the parliament of the Netherlands. It consists of two chambers: the First Chamber (Eerste Kamer) and the Second Chamber (Tweede Kamer). The First Chamber has 75 members, who are indirectly elected by the members of the provincial legislatures. The Second Chamber has 150 members, who are directly elected by Dutch citizens through a system of proportional representation.

The government of the Netherlands is led by a prime minister, who is appointed by the monarch but must have the confidence of the Second Chamber. The prime minister is usually the leader of the political party that gained the most seats in the elections to the Second Chamber. The government is a collective body composed of various ministers responsible for different ministries and departments.

The king or queen has mostly symbolic powers, and their role is ceremonial. Real political power lies in the hands of the parliament and the government. The monarch is obliged to act in accordance with the constitution and does not have the power to make political decisions without the parliament’s consent.

The judicial system in the Netherlands is independent and plays a crucial role in upholding the rule of law. It is based on civil law traditions and consists of several levels of courts, including District Courts (Rechtbanken), Courts of Appeal (Gerechtshoven), and the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) which is the highest court in the Netherlands. The judiciary ensures that laws and regulations are followed and protects the rights and freedoms of individuals, acting as a check on the executive and legislative branches of government.

 

Capital city: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, is located on the River Amstel and is renowned for its picturesque canals, historic architecture, world-class art museums, and vibrant culture. The city is famous for its concentric canal ring, known as the Grachtengordel, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In Amsterdam, you can find many historical landmarks, such as the Royal Palace on Dam Square, which is used for state functions and royal events but is not the official residence of the Dutch royal family. Another major attraction is the Van Gogh Museum, which hosts the largest collection of works by the famous Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh.

The Rijksmuseum is home to a vast collection of significant Dutch artworks, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, such as “The Night Watch,” and Vermeer, such as “The Milkmaid.” The city also houses the Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II.

Amsterdam boasts a rich cultural life with numerous theaters, concert halls, galleries, and a diverse culinary scene. The Concertgebouw is one of the world’s most famous concert halls.

Popular neighborhoods like De Pijp and Jordaan are beloved by both locals and tourists. De Pijp is known for its multicultural atmosphere, the bustling Albert Cuyp Market, and trendy cafes. Jordaan is famous for its narrow streets, cozy cafes, boutiques, and art galleries. The area around the 9 Streets (De Negen Straatjes) is particularly noted for its unique shops and eateries.

Amsterdam also has a reputation for its progressive social policies and vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment venues.

The city has a population of about 920 000.

 

Area: 41 850 km2 (16 160 square miles)

 

Population: 17 560 000 (2022 estimate)

The Netherlands is a densely populated country and ranks among the states with the highest population density in Europe. As of 2024, the country has a population of approximately 17.5 million people. There is a diverse population that includes people from various ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds.

The Dutch are the main ethnic group, making up the majority of the population. However, the country is also home to significant minority communities. Notable minority groups include people of Surinamese, Antillean, Moroccan, Turkish, and Indonesian descent, among others. The Surinamese and Antillean communities primarily originate from former Dutch colonies in the Caribbean, while the Moroccan and Turkish populations largely arrived as guest workers during the mid-20th century.

The Netherlands is known for its openness, tolerance, and multiculturalism. This reputation is reflected in the country’s policies and societal attitudes towards immigration, integration, and diversity.

Dutch society is characterized by its progressive values, including a strong emphasis on human rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001.

Additionally, the Netherlands places a strong emphasis on education and multilingualism. Dutch children typically learn multiple languages from a young age, with English being widely spoken throughout the country.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 12

 

  1. The Wadden Sea (2009) – Coastal sea and tidal flats located in northwestern Europe.
  2. The Van Nelle Factory (2014) – An iconic industrial building located in Rotterdam. It served as a production plant for processing coffee, tea, and tobacco.
  3. The Canal Ring Area (2010) – An historic area in the center of Amsterdam, located inside the Singelgracht, an outer ring canal surrounding the old city center.
  4. Schokland and Surroundings (1995) – A small island and former island community located inland in the Netherlands, near the town of Emmeloord in the province of Flevoland.
  5. The Rietveld Schröder House (2000) – Modernist residence designed by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld.
  6. The Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout (1997) – An impressive system of 19 windmills located in the Alblasserwaard region in the southern part of the Netherlands.
  7. Ir. D.F. Woudagemaal (1998) – An historic steam pumping station located in the town of Lemmer.
  8. Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City, and Harbor (1997) – This area is the capital of Curaçao and is known for its beautiful architecture, streets, and rich history.
  9. Lower German Limes (2021) – One of the borders of the Roman Empire in Germania, which is in the area of present-day Germany.
  10. Dutch Water Defense Line (1996) – A system of defense lines built in the Netherlands to protect the country from enemy invasions. This unique defense system utilized water bodies, marshes, and floodplains as natural barriers.
  11. Beemster Polder (1999) – Remarkable polder (reclaimed land) located in the northern part of the Netherlands, near Amsterdam.
  12. The Colony of Benevolence (2021) – An experimental settlement founded in the 19th century near the town of Fredonia in the American state of New York. This settlement was created based on the ideas and ideals of the French philosopher and utopian socialist Charles Fourier.

National parks: 22

 

1.      Lauwersmeer National Park
2.      Schiermonnikoog National Park
3.      De Alde Feanen National Park
4.      Drents-Friese Wold National Park
5.      Dwingelderveld National Park
6.      Drentsche Aa National Park
7.      Weerribben-Wieden National Park
8.      Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park
9.      Veluwezoom National Park
10.  De Hoge Veluwe National Park
11.  Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park
12.  Duinen van Texel National Park
13.  Zuid-Kennemerland National Park
14.  Oosterschelde National Park
15.  De Biesbosch National Park
16.  De Zoom–Kalmthoutse Heide Cross-Border Park
17.  De Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park
18.  De Groote Peel National Park
19.  De Maasduinen National Park
20.  De Meinweg National Park
21.  Nieuw Land National Park
22.  Van Gogh National Park