Facts

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Population: 16,980,390

Official Languages: The official national language of the Netherlands is Dutch, spoken by almost all people in the Netherlands.

Provinces:  North Holland, South Holland, Zeeland, North Brabant, Gelderland, Friesland, Limburg, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Utrechtm, Groningen.

Area: 41,543 km²

Netherlands

Is the main constituent country (Dutch: land) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a small, densely populated country located in Western Europe with three island territories in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country’s capital, while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament. The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe – as large as the next three largest combined – and was the world’s largest port between 1962 and 2004. The name Holland is also frequently used to refer informally to the whole of the country of the Netherlands. “Netherlands” literally means “lower countries”, influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country’s current land mass. With a population density of 408 people per km2 – 500 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is a very densely populated country. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and a higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, after the United States. This is partly due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate. The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have an elected parliament, and since 1848 it has been governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalized abortion, prostitution and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drugs policy. In 2001, it became the world’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G-10, NATO, OECD and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union. The country is host to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international 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. The first four are situated in The Hague, as is the EU’s criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being dubbed “the world’s legal capital”. The Netherlands is also a part of the Schengen Area. The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the thirteenth-highest per capital income in the world in 2013 according to the International Monetary Fund. In 2013, the United Nations World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the seventh-happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life.

 

Economy

The Netherlands has a developed economy and has been playing a special role in the European economy for many centuries. Since the 16th century, shipping, fishing, agriculture, trade, and banking have been leading sectors of the Dutch economy. The Netherlands has a high level of economic freedom. The Netherlands is one of the top countries in the Global Enabling Trade Report (3rd in 2014). As of 2013, the key trading partners of the Netherlands were Germany, Belgium, UK, United States, France, Italy, China and Russia. The Netherlands is one of the world’s 10 leading exporting countries. Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector. Other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical goods, and tourism (in 2012 the Netherlands welcomed 11.7 million international tourists). Examples of international companies operating in Netherlands include Randstad, Unilever, Heineken, KLM, financial services (ING, ABN AMRO, Rabobank), chemicals (DSM, AKZO), petroleum refining (Shell), electronical machinery (Philips, ASML), and car navigation (TomTom). The Netherlands has the 17th-largest economy in the world, and ranks 10th in GDP (nominal) per capita. Between 1997 and 2000 annual economic growth (GDP) averaged nearly 4%, well above the European average. Growth slowed considerably from 2001 to 2005 with the global economic slowdown, but accelerated to 4.1% in the third quarter of 2007. In May 2013, inflation was at 2.8% per year. In April 2013, unemployment was at 8.2% (or 6.7% following the ILO definition) of the labour force.In April 2016 this was reduced to 6.3%  In Q3 and Q4 2011, the Dutch economy contracted by 0.4% and 0.7%, respectively, because of European Debt Crisis, while in Q4 the Eurozone economy shrunk by 0.3%. The Netherlands also has a relatively low GINI coefficient of 0.326. Despite ranking 7th in GDP per capita, UNICEF ranked the Netherlands 1st in child well-being. On the Index of Economic Freedom Netherlands is the 13th most free market capitalist economy out of 157 surveyed countries. Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX), part of Euronext, is the world’s oldest stock exchange and is one of Europe’s largest bourses. It is situated near Dam Square in the city’s centre. As a founding member of the euro, the Netherlands replaced (for accounting purposes) its former currency, the “gulden” (guilder), on 1 January 1999, along with 15 other adopters of the euro. Actual euro coins and banknotes followed on 1 January 2002. One euro was equivalent to 2.20371 Dutch guilders. In the Caribbean Netherlands, the United States dollar is used instead of the euro. The Netherlands is part of a monetary union, the eurozone (dark blue), and of the EU single market. The Dutch 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 co-operative private enterprises such as theVOC), banking and transport. The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners. Amsterdam is the 5th-busiest tourist destination in Europe with more than 4.2 million international visitors. Since the enlargement of the EU large numbers of migrant workers have arrived in the Netherlands from central and eastern Europe. Of economic importance is BrabantStad, a partnership between the municipalities of Breda, Eindhoven, Helmond, ‘s-Hertogenbosch andTilburg and the province of North Brabant. BrabantStad is the fastest growing economic region in the Netherlands, with Brainport as one of the three national top regions and as a top region in the world. The region lies within the Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (ELAT). The partnership aims to form an urban network and to make North Brabant explicitly known as a leading knowledge region within Europe. With a total of 1.5 million people and 20% of the industrial production in the Netherlands is BrabantStad one of the major economical important, metropolitan regions of the Netherlands. Of all the money that goes to research and development in the Netherlands, one third is spent in Eindhoven. A quarter of the jobs in the region are in technology and ICT. Of all European patent applications in the field of physics and electronics about eight per cent is from North Brabant. In the extended region, BrabantStad is part of the Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (ELAT). This economic cooperation agreement between three cities in three countries has created one of the most innovative regions in the European Union (measured in terms of money invested intechnology and knowledge economy). The economic success of this region is important for the international competitiveness of the Netherlands; Together Amsterdam(airport), Rotterdam (seaport), and Eindhoven (Brainport) form the foundation of the Dutch economy. The Netherlands continues to be one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment and is one of the five largest investors in the United States. The economy experienced a slowdown in 2005, but in 2006 recovered to the fastest pace in six years on the back of increased exports and strong investment. The pace of job growth reached 10-year highs in 2007. The Netherlands is the fifth-most competitive economy in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Apart from coal and gas, the country has no mining resources. The last coal mine was closed in 1974. The Groningen gas field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, is situated near Slochteren. Exploitation of this field has resulted in €159 billion in revenue since the mid-1970s. The field is operated by government-owned Gasunie and output is jointly exploited by the government, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil through NAM (Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij). “Gas extraction has resulted in increasingly strong earth tremors, some measuring as much as 3.6 on the Richter scale. The cost of damage repairs, structural improvements to buildings, and compensation for home value decreases has been estimated at 6.5 billion euros. Around 35,000 homes are said to be affected.

Culture

The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. The 17th century, in which the Dutch Republic was prosperous, was the age of the “Dutch Masters”, such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael 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. 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, argued that light travelled as waves, invented the pendulum clock and was the first physicist to use mathematical formulae. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope. Erasmus. 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 poor treatment of the natives in the Dutch colony, the current Indonesia. Important 20th century authors include Godfried Bomans, Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Hella S. Haasse, 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 languages. The traditional Dutch architecture is especially valuated in Amsterdam, Delft and Leiden, with 17 and 18th century buildings along the canals. Smaller village architecture with wooden houses is found in Zaandam and Marken. 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, Delftware pottery, and cannabis are among the items associated with the Netherlands by tourists. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and today is regarded as a liberal country, considering its drug policy and its legalisation of euthanasia. On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

 

Dutch people and ecology

The Netherlands has the reputation of the leader country in environmental and population management. In 2015, Amsterdam and Rotterdam where designed respectively at the 4th and the 5th on the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index. Sustainability is a concept important for the Dutch. The goal of the Dutch Government is to have a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy system, by 2050, in which CO2 emissions have been halved and 40 percent of electricity is derived from sustainable sources. The government is investing billions of euros in energy efficiency, sustainable energy and CO2 reduction. The Kingdom also encourage Dutch companies to build sustainable business/projects/facilities, with financial aids from the state to the companies or individuals who are active in making the country more sustainable.

 

Foreign relations

The history of Dutch foreign policy has been characterized by its neutrality. Since World War II, the Netherlands has become 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 strongly on international trade. The foreign policy of the Netherlands is based on four basic commitments: to Atlantic co-operation, to European integration, tointernational development and to international law. One of the more controversial international issues surrounding the Netherlands is its liberal policy towards soft drugs. During and after the Dutch Golden Age, the Dutch people built up a commercial and colonial empire. The most important colonies were present-day Suriname and Indonesia. Indonesia became independent after the Indonesian National Revolution in the 1940s following a war of independence, international pressure and several UN Security Council Resolutions. Surinam became independent in 1975. The historical ties inherited from its colonial past still influence the foreign relations of the Netherlands. In addition, many people from these countries are living permanently in the Netherlands.

 

Healthcare 

In 2015 the Netherlands has maintained its number one position at the top of the annual Euro health consumer index (EHCI), which compares healthcare systems in Europe, scoring 916 of a maximum 1,000 points. The Netherlands has been in the top three countries in each report published since 2005. On 48 indicators such as patient rights and information, accessibility, prevention and outcomes, the Netherlands secured its top position among 37 European countries for the sixth year in a row.The Netherlands was ranked first in a study in 2009 comparing the health care systems of the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany and New Zealand. Ever since a major reform of the health care system in 2006, the Dutch system received more points in the Index each year. According to the HCP (Health Consumer Powerhouse), the Netherlands has ‘a chaos system’, meaning patients have a great degree of freedom from where to buy their health insurance, to where they get their healthcare service. But the difference between the Netherlands and other countries is that the chaos is managed. Healthcare decisions are being made in a dialogue between the patients and healthcare professionals. Healthcare in the Netherlands can be divided in several ways: three echelons, in somatic and mental health care and in ‘cure’ (short term) and ‘care’ (long term). Home doctors (huisartsen, comparable to General Practitioners) form the largest part of the first echelon. Being referenced by a member of the first echelon is mandatory for access to the second and third echelon.The health care system is in comparison to other Western countries quite effective but not the most cost-effective. Healthcare in the Netherlands is financed by a dual system that came into effect in January 2006. Long-term treatments, especially those that involve semi-permanent hospitalization, and also disability costs such as wheelchairs, are covered by a state-controlled mandatory insurance. This is laid down in the Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten (“General Law on Exceptional Healthcare Costs”) which first came into effect in 1968. In 2009 this insurance covered 27% of all health care expenses. For all regular (short-term) medical treatment, there is a system of obligatory health insurance, with private health insurance companies. These insurance companies are obliged to provide a package with a defined set of insured treatments. This insurance covers 41% of all health care expenses. Other sources of health care payment are taxes (14%), out of pocket payments (9%), additional optional health insurance packages (4%) and a range of other sources (4%).Affordability is guaranteed through a system of income-related allowances and individual and employer-paid income-related premiums. A key feature of the Dutch system is that premiums may not be related to health status or age. Risk variances between private health insurance companies due to the different risks presented by individual policy holders are compensated through risk equalization and a common risk pool. Funding for all short-term health care is 50% from employers, 45% from the insured person and 5% by the government. Children under 18 are covered for free. Those on low incomes receive compensation to help them pay their insurance. Premiums paid by the insured are about 100 € per month (about US$127 in Aug. 2010 and in 2012 €150 or US$196,) with variation of about 5% between the various competing insurers, and deductible a year €220 US$288.

 

Music

The Netherlands has multiple music traditions. Traditional Dutch music is a genre known as “Levenslied”, meaning Song of life, to an extent comparable to a French Chanson or a German Schlager. These songs typically have a simple melody and rhythm, and a straightforward structure of couplets and refrains. Themes can be light, but are often sentimental and include love, death and loneliness. Traditional musical instruments such as the accordion and the barrel organ are a staple of levenslied music, though in recent years many artists also use synthesizers and guitars. Artists in this genre include Jan Smit, Frans Bauer and André Hazes. Contemporary Dutch rock and pop music (Nederpop) originated in the 1960’s, heavily influenced by popular music from the United States and Britain. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the lyrics were mostly in English, and some tracks were instrumental. Bands such as Shocking Blue, Golden Earring, Tee Set, George Baker Selection and Focus enjoyed international success. As of the 1980s, more and more pop musicians started working in the Dutch language, partly inspired by the huge success of the band Doe Maar. Today Dutch rock and pop music thrives in both languages, with some artists recording in either. Current symphonic metal bands Epica, Delain and Within Temptation as well as jazz / pop singer Caro Emerald are having some international success. Contemporary local heroes include pop singer Anouk, country pop singer Ilse DeLange, in South Guelderish dialect singing folk band Rowwen Hèze, rock band BLØF [nb 4] and Dutch language duo Nick & Simon. Early 1990s Dutch and Belgian house music came together in Eurodance project 2 Unlimited. Selling 18 million records, the two singers in the band are the most successful Dutch music artists to this day. Tracks like “Get Ready for This” are still popular themes of U.S. sports events, like the NHL. In the mid 1990’s Dutch language rap and hip hop (Nederhop) also came to fruition and has become popular in the Netherlands and Belgium. Artists with North African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern origins have strongly influenced this genre. Since the 1990s Dutch electronic dance music (EDM) conquered the world in many forms, from trance, techno and gabber to hardstyle. Some of the world’s best dance music DJs hail from the Netherlands, including Armin van Buuren, Tiësto, Hardwell, Oliver Heldens, Nicky Romero, Martin Garrix, Sander van Doorn and Afrojack; the first three of which have been ranked as best in the world by DJ Mag Top 100 DJs. The Amsterdam dance event (ADE) is the world’s leading electronic music conference and the biggest club festival for the many electronic subgenres on the planet. These DJs also contribute to the world’s mainstream pop music, as they frequently collaborate and produce for high profile international artists. In classical music, Jan Sweelinck ranks as the Dutch most famous composer, with Louis Andriessen amongst the best known living Dutch classical composers. Ton Koopman is a Dutch conductor, organist and harpsichordist. He is also professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Notable violinists are Janine Jansen and André Rieu. The latter, together with his Johann Strauss Orchestra, has taken classical and waltz music on worldwide concert tours, the size and revenue of which are otherwise only seen from the world’s biggest rock and pop music acts. Acclaimed harpist Lavinia Meijer in 2012 released an album with works from Philip Glass that she transcribed for harp, with approval of Glass himself. The Concertgebouw (completed in 1888) in Amsterdam is home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, considered one of the world’s finest orchestras.

 

Politics

The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815 and a parliamentary democracy since 1848. The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterized by an effort to achieve broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole. In 2010, The Economist ranked the Netherlands as the 10th most democratic country in the world. The monarch is the head of state, at present King Willem-Alexander. Constitutionally, the position is equipped with limited powers. By law, the king (the title queen has no constitutional significance) has the right to be periodically briefed and consulted on government affairs. Depending on the personalities and relationships of the king and the ministers, the king might have influence beyond the power granted by the constitution. The executive power is formed by the council of Ministers, the deliberative council of the Dutch cabinet. The cabinet usually consists of 13 to 16 ministers and a varying number of state secretaries. One to three ministers are ministers without portfolio. The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who often is the leader of the largest party of the coalition. The Prime Minister is a primus inter pares, with no explicit powers beyond those of the other ministers. Mark Rutte has been Prime Minister since October 2010; the Prime Minister had been the leader of the largest party continuously since 1973. The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament, the States General, which also has legislative powers. The 150 members of the House of Representatives, the Lower House, are elected in direct elections on the basis of party-list proportional representation. These are held every four years, or sooner in case the cabinet falls (for example: when one of the chambers carries a motion of no confidence, the cabinet offers its resignation to the monarch). The States-Provincial are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the Senate, the upper house, which has the power to reject laws, but not propose or amend them.

 

Transport

Mobility on Dutch roads has grown continuously since the 1950s and now exceeds 200 billion km travelled per year, three quarters of which are done by car. Around half of all trips in the Netherlands are made by car, 25% by bicycle, 20% walking, and 5% by public transport. With a total road network of 139,295 km, which includes 2,758 km of expressways, the Netherlands has one of the densest road networks in the world—much denser than Germany and France, but still not as dense as Belgium. About 13% of all distance is traveled by public transport, the majority of which by train. Like in many other European countries, the Dutch rail network of 3,013 route km is also rather dense. The network is mostly focused on passenger rail services and connects virtually all major towns and cities. Trains are frequent, with one or two trains per hour on lesser lines, two to four trains per hour on average, and up to eight trains an hour on the busiest lines. Cycling is a ubiquitous mode of transport in the Netherlands. Almost as many kilometres are covered by bicycle as by train. The Dutch are estimated to have at least 18 million bicycles, which makes more than one per capital, and twice as many as the c. 9 million motor vehicles on the road. In 2013, the European Cyclists’ Federation ranked both the Netherlands and Denmark as the most bike-friendly countries in Europe, but more of the Dutch (31%) than of the Danes (19%) list the bike as their main mode of transport for daily activities. Cycling infrastructure is comprehensive. Busy roads have received some 35,000 km of dedicated cycle tracks, physically segregated from motorized traffic. Busy junctions are often equipped with bicycle-specific traffic lights. There are large bicycle parking facilities, particularly in city centres and at train stations. Rotterdam has the largest port in Europe, with the rivers Meuse and Rhine providing excellent access to the hinterland upstream reaching to Basel, Switzerland, and into France. As of 2013, Rotterdam was the world’s eighth largest container port handling 440.5 million metric tonnes of cargo annually. The port’s main activities are petrochemical industries and general cargo handling and transshipment. The harbour functions as an important transit point for bulk materials and between the European continent and overseas. From Rotterdam goods are transported by ship, river barge, train or road. In 2007, the Betuweroute, a new fast freight railway from Rotterdam to Germany, was completed. Schiphol airport, just southwest of Amsterdam, is the main international airport in the Netherlands, and the fifth busiest airport in Europe in terms of passengers. As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, the Dutch government initiated a plan to establish over 200 recharging stations for electric vehicles across the country by 2015. The rollout will be undertaken by Switzerland-based power and automation company ABB and Dutch startup Fastned, and will aim to provide at least one station within a 50-kilometre radius (30 miles) from every home in the Netherlands

 

Weather

The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is southwest, which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters, and typically high humidity. This is especially true close to the Dutch coastline, where the difference in temperature between summer and winter, as well as between day and night is noticeably smaller than it is in the southeast of the country.  Ice days (maximum temperature below 0 °C (32 °F)) usually occur from December until February, with the occasional rare ice day prior to or after that period. Freezing days (minimum temperature below 0 °C (32 °F)) occur much more often, usually ranging from mid-November to late March, but not rarely measured as early as mid-October and as late as mid-May. If one chooses the height of measurement to be 10 cm (4 in) above ground instead of 150 cm (59 in), one may even find such temperatures in the middle of the summer. On average, snow can occur from November to April, but sometimes occurs in May or October too. Warm days (maximum temperature above 20 °C (68 °F)) in De Bilt are usually found in April to October, but in some parts of the country these warm days can also occur in March, or even sometimes in November or February (usually not in De Bilt, however). Summer days (maximum temperature above 25 °C (77 °F)) are usually measured in De Bilt from May until September, tropical days (maximum temperature above 30 °C (86 °F)) are rare and usually occur only in June to August. Precipitation throughout the year is distributed relatively equally each month. Summer and autumn months tend to gather a little more precipitation than the other months, mainly because of the intensity of the rainfall rather than the frequency of rain days (this is especially the case in summer, when lightning is also much more frequent). The number of sunshine hours is affected by the fact that because of the geographical latitude, the length of the days varies between barely eight hours in December and nearly 17 hours in June.

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