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Kingdom of the Netherlands

Koninkrijk der Nederlanden

CAPITAL: Constitutional capital: Amsterdam. Seat of government: The Hague ('S Gravenhage; Den Haag)

FLAG: The national flag, standardized in 1937, is a tricolor of red, white, and blue horizontal stripes.

ANTHEM: Wilhelmus van Nassouwen (William of Nassau).

MONETARY UNIT: The guilder was replaced by the euro as official currency as of 2002. The euro is divided into 100 cents. There are coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 euro and 2 euros. There are notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. 1 = $1.25475 (or $1 = 0.79697) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Queen's Day, 30 April; National Liberation Day, 5 May; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Monday, Ascension, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Situated in northwestern Europe, the Netherlands has a total area of 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi), of which inland water accounts for more than 7,643 sq km (2,951 sq mi). The land area is 33,883 sq km (13,082 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by the Netherlands is slightly less than twice the size of the state of New Jersey. The Netherlands extends 312 km (194 mi) ns and 264 km (164 mi) ew. The land area increases slightly each year as a result of continuous land reclamation and drainage. The Netherlands is bounded on the e by Germany on the s by Belgium, and on the w and n by the North Sea, with a total boundary length of 1,478 km (918 mi), of which 451 km (280 mi) is coastline.

The capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, is in the western part of the country.


The country falls into three natural topographical divisions: the dunes, the lowlands or "polders" (low-lying land reclaimed from the sea and from lakes and protected by dikes), and the higher eastern section of the country. About 27% of the land lies below sea level. A long range of sand dunes on the western coast protects the low alluvial land to the east from the high tides of the North Sea, and farther east and southeast are found diluvial sand and gravel soil. The highest point of land, the Vaalserberg, is situated in the extreme south and is 321 m (1,053 ft) above sea level; the lowest point, 7 m (23 ft) below sea level, is Prins Alexanderpolder, an area of reclaimed land situated northeast of Rotterdam. The most extensive polder is that of East Flevoland in the province of Flevoland; it has an area of nearly 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres). Many dikes have been constructed along the lower Rhine and Meuse (Maas) rivers, as well as on a portion of the North Sea coast and along nearly the whole of the coast of the former Zuider Zee (formally called the Ijsselmeer since its enclosure by a dike in 1932). There are many canals in the country, most of which have numerous locks.


The Netherlands has a maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters. The average temperature is 2°c (36°f) in January and 19°c (66°f) in July, with an annual average of about 10°c (50°f). Clouds generally appear every day, and in the winter months fog often abounds, while rainfall occurs frequently. Average annual rainfall is about 76.5 cm (30 in). The mild, damp climate is ideal for dairying and livestock raising, but the limited sunshine restricts the growing of food crops.


Plants and animals that thrive in temperate climates are found in the Netherlands. The most common trees are oak, elm, pine, linden, and beech. The country is famous for its flowers, both cultivated varieties (best known among them the Dutch tulip) and wild flowers such as daisies, buttercups, and the purple heather that blooms on the heaths in September. Birds are those characteristic of Western and Central Europe, with large numbers of seagulls swarming over the coastal areas from time to time. Many kinds of fish abound along the North Sea coast and in the lakes and rivers. Wild or large animals are practically nonexistent. As of 2002, there were at least 55 species of mammals, 192 species of birds, and over 1,200 species of plants throughout the country.


In recent years, as a result of rapid population and economic growth, the government has placed increased emphasis on preservation of the natural environment. One key concern is the pressure put on the countryside, traditionally the domain of the smallholder, by the demands of modern mechanized agriculture and the needs of a large urban population for recreational areas and waste disposal. To help solve this environmental problem, the government has instituted comprehensive land-use planning by means of a system of zoning that indicates the priorities for land use in each zone. Air and water pollution are significant environmental problems in the Netherlands.

The nation has one of the world's highest levels of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 155 million metric tons in 1996. Efforts at controlling air pollution reduced sulphur dioxide emissions between 1980 and 1990 from 490,000 tons to 240,000 tons. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 138.9 million metric tons. Severe pollution of the country's rivers results from industrial and agricultural pollution, including heavy metals, organic compounds, nitrates, and phosphates.

The Netherlands has about 11 cu km of renewable water resources, of which 61% of the annual withdrawal is used for industrial purposes. Solid waste in the nation's cities has been reported at an average of 7.6 million tons yearly. Aggravating the situation are the prevailing southwesterly winds, which carry the pollutants from coastal industries inland, and the great rivers that carry pollution into the Netherlands from originating countries farther inland.

In 1971, the Ministry of Health and Environment was established; a countrywide system of air pollution monitoring by the National Institute of Public Health has been in place since 1975. Since the mid-1970s, discharges of heavy metals into industrial wastewater and emissions of most major air pollutants from industrial use of fossil fuels have been substantially reduced. Progress has also been recorded in reducing automotive emissions. An excise tax surcharge on gasoline and diesel fuel was imposed for pollution abatement in 1981.

As of 2003, 14.2% of the country's total land area was protected, including 49 Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 9 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 7 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, and 6 species of other invertebrates. Endangered species include Atlantic sturgeon, slender-billed curlew, Atlantic ridley, and Spengler's freshwater mussel.


The population of Netherlands in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 16,296,000, which placed it at number 59 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 14% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 19% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.4%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 16,934,000. The population density was 399 per sq km (1,033 per sq mi), with over 45% of the population concentrated in the three most densely populated provinces: Utrecht, North Holland, and South Holland.

The UN estimated that 62% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.04%. The constitutional capital, Amsterdam, had a population of 705,000 in that year. The Rotterdam metropolitan area had 1,112,000 inhabitants. Other major cities and their estimated populations include The Hague ('s Gravenhage; Den Haag), which is the seat of government, 472,087; Utrecht, 275,362; Eindhoven, 209,286; Tilburg, 200,251; Groningen, 181,020; and Haarlem, 150,213.


In the past although the government encouraged emigration to curb overpopulation, more people migrated to the Netherlands than have left the country. Rapid economic growth in the 1960s drew many unskilled laborers from Mediterranean countries, and during the 1970s many people left Suriname for the Netherlands when the former Dutch colony became independent. At first both groups settled mainly in the western region, but after 1970 the pattern of internal migration changed, as increasing numbers left the western provinces to settle in the east and south. The traditional pattern of migration from the countryside to the cities has likewise been altered, and since the 1970s the trend has been largely from the larger cities to small towns and villages. By 2003 it was becoming harder for asylum migrants to find work. In addition, in 2004, employer groups asked for the streamline of admissions for skilled foreigner workers.

In 1990, some 57,344 persons left the Netherlands, of which 36,749 were Dutch nationals. In the same year, 81,264 immigrants arrived in the Netherlands, representing an increase of 24% over 1989. In 2002 the top 10 migrant-sending countries were Turkey, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Morocco, Germany, the United Kingdom, China (excluding Taiwan), Angola, Suriname, and the United States. However, in 2003 for the first time since 1982, there were more emigrants (104,800) than immigrants (104,500). In that same year, the percent of foreign-born broke down as follows: 17.6% from Africa (mainly Morocco); 21.2% from the Americas (mainly from the Netherlands Antilles and South America); 34.3% from Asia (mainly from Indonesia); and 26.1% from Europe (with Germans the largest group). However, the large numbers of migrants from the Antilles has been decreasing, while emigration to these countries has increased. The number of Turks and Moroccans returning to their country of origin has been increasing between 2000 and 2004.

Since the election of a conservative government in 2002, the Dutch integration policy of multiculturalism (where all cultures were considered of equal value and there was no need for foreigners to integrate into Dutch society) was being eroded with new policies requiring immigrants to pass a test of Dutch language and culture. After the death of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in 2004 at the hands of a Dutch-born man of Moroccan descent, a law was passed that made being a member of a "terrorist" organization a crime. By 2005, new policies included integration exams for foreign residents under age 65 with less than eight years of schooling in the Netherlands. In 2004, about 5.7% of Dutch residents were Muslim. According to Migration News, in 2005 Moroccan and Turkish groups created a working group, "Genoeg is genoeg" (Enough is enough), to coordinate a campaign against these hard-hitting immigration and integration policies.

At the beginning of 1996, there were 72,000 recognized refugees and 23,000 applications for asylum. By 1998, as many as 45,217 asylum applications were submitted. In 1999, 4,060 people were evacuated from Macedonia to the Netherlands. Following the trend in the 25 countries of the European Union, the Netherlands in 2004 had the lowest number of asylum seekers since 1988. In 2004, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had a total of 155,257 persons of concern in the Netherlands: 126,805 refugees and 28,452 asylum seekers. The main countries of origin for refugees were Iraq (28,640), Afghanistan (26,437), Bosnia and Herzegovina (19,943), and Somalia (13,046).

In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 2.8 migrants per 1,000 population.


The Dutch are an ethnically homogeneous people descended from Frankish, Saxon, and Frisian tribes. Ethnic homogeneity slightly changed as a result of the arrival of some 300,000 repatriates and immigrants from Indonesia, mostly Eurasian, and more than 140,000 from Suriname. The influx of Turks and other workers from the Mediterranean area has further added to the ethnic mix. The most recent estimates indicate that about 80% of the total population are Dutch; the principal minority groups are Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese, and Antillean.


Dutch and Frisian are the official languages. Frisian, the native language of about 300,000 persons, is closely related to the AngloSaxon tongue but has many points in common with Dutch, which belongs to the Germanic language group. There are six Dutch dialects. Many Netherlanders speak and understand English, French, and German, which are taught in secondary schools.


Dutch society is becoming increasingly secular. According to the Social Cultural Planning Bureau, church membership has steadily declined from 76% in 1958 to 41% in 1995. Only about 26% of those claiming a religious affiliation are active in their religious community. According to a 2004 report, an estimated 31% of the population were nominally Roman Catholics, 14% were Dutch Reformed, 6% were Muslim, 6% were Calvinist Reformist, 3% were non-Christian (Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist); and about 40% were atheist or agnostic.

The Dutch Reformed Church, whose membership has declined by more than 60% since 1950, is the largest Protestant denomination. The Calvinist Reformed Church is the second-largest Protestant group. Other Protestant denominations include Baptist, Lutheran, and Remonstrant. The Jewish community has less than 25,000 members. The Muslim community is primarily of the Sunni branch. Many of them are migrant workers from Morocco and Turkey or immigrants from other countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia. There are about 95,000 Hindus, primarily from Suriname. The Hindu based movements of Ramakrishna, Hare Krishna, Sai Baba, and Osho are also represented. About 17,000 people are Buddhist.


Merchant shipping has always been of great economic importance to the seagoing Dutch. The Netherlands Maritime Institute is internationally famous, and the Dutch ship-testing station at Wageningen is known for its research in marine engineering. The Dutch merchant marine had 558 ships (of 1,000 GRT or over) totaling 4,796,460 GRT in 2005. Emphasis has been placed on the development of new vessels suitable for container transport and on improving the Dutch tanker fleet. Rotterdam is the Netherlands' chief port and the world's largest. There are also ports and harbors at Amsterdam, Delfzijl, Dordrecht, Eemshaven, Groningen, Haarlem, Ijmuiden, Maastricht, Terneuzen, and Utrecht.

In 2004, there were 5,046 km (3,136 mi) of navigable waterways of which 3,745 km (2,327 mi) are canals and are capable of handling vessels of up to 50 tons.

The railway system in 2004 consisted of 2,808 km (1,744 mi) of standard gauge rail lines, of which 2,061 km (1,280 mi) was electrified. Passenger transport on railways is subsidized as part of the national policy for promoting public transport. Public transport is provided for urban areas by municipal and regional transport companies, and minibus service in rural areas has ensured public transport for all towns with 1,000 residents or more. Also in 2001, there were 116,500 km (72,393 mi) of roadways, of which 104,850 km (65,153 mi) were paved, including 2,235 km (1,389 mi) of expressways. In 2003 there were 7,151,000 passenger cars and 1,080,000 commercial vehicles in use. The state subsidizes the construction of urban and rural cycle paths.

In 2004, there were an estimated 28 airports. In 2005 a total of 20 had paved runways, and there was also one heliport. Principal airports include Schiphol at Amsterdam, Reina Beatrix at Aruba, and Hato at Curacao. The world's first airline from the standpoint of continuous corporate existence and operation is Royal Dutch Airlines (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij-KLM), which began regularly scheduled operations in 1920. The Netherlands government owns a large part of the outstanding capital stock. KLM serves some 115 cities in 70 countries. Also in 2003, about 23.455 million passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.


When, in about 55 bc, Julius Caesar conquered a large part of the lowlands near the mouths of the Rhine and Meuse (Maas) rivers, this region was populated by Celtic and Germanic tribes. To the north of the Rhine delta, several Germanic tribes had settled, among which the Batavi and the Frisians were the most important. The Batavi served with the Roman legions until they rebelled in ad 70, but even after the revolt was quelled, Batavian soldiers fought for Rome. About 300 years later, successive waves of powerful Germanic tribes, such as the Salic or West Franks, invaded this region, called the Low Countries, and gradually pushed the Frisians back to the east coast of the North Sea, except in the extreme northern section of the mainland where Saxons had settled. By the time of Charlemagne (742814), the Saxons and Frisians had been completely conquered by the West Franks, and the Frankish language had replaced the languages of the Germanic tribes.

Soon after the death of Charlemagne and the disintegration of his realm, several duchies and counties were founded in the Low Countries by local leaders. With the coming of the Middle Ages, Holland (now the North and South Holland provinces) became the most important region and extended its power and territory under Count Floris V (r.125696). The ancient bishopric of Utrecht was another important principality. As the Middle Ages drew to a close, individual cities such as Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Groningen rose to eminence, together with the Duchy of Gelderland. In the 15th century, the dukes of Burgundy acquired, by various means, most of the Low Countries. Upon the extinction of the male line of the Burgundian dynasty and the marriage of Mary of Burgundy and Archduke (later Emperor) Maximilian I in 1477, however, the Austrian house of Habsburg fell heir to the lands.

The Habsburgs

Mary's son, Philip of Habsburg, married Joanna of Castile, heiress to the Spanish throne, and their son, Charles, became King Charles I of Spain in 1516 and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519. In 1547, he decreed the formal union of the Netherlands and Austria, and in 1549, the union of the Netherlands and Spain. By the end of his reign in 1555, he was master of the Low Countries. His son, Philip II, concentrated his efforts on the aggrandizement of Spain. To bring the Low Countries under his direct control, he tried to stamp out the rising force of Protestantism and suppressed the political, economic, and religious liberties long cherished by the population. As a result, both Roman Catholics and Protestants rebelled against him under the leadership of William the Silent, prince of Orange, who by marriage had acquired large properties in the Netherlands.

For 10 years, the 17 provinces comprising the Low Countries united in a common revolt. Much of the area was freed in 1577, with William as the acknowledged ruler, but not even his moderation and statesmanship sufficed to keep the northern and southern provinces united. In 1578, the southern region (now Belgium) began to turn against William. In 1579, the northern provinces concluded the Union of Utrecht, in which the province of Holland was the most prominent. The Union, or United Provinces, carried on the fight against Spain, and William was the soul of the resistance until his death by assassination in 1584. William's son Maurits, governor (stadtholder) of the republic from 1584 to 1624, carried on a successful campaign against Spain, but final recognition of Dutch independence by the Spanish government was not obtained until the end of the Eighty Years' War with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648). Meanwhile, the southern provinces remained loyal to Spain and to the Roman Catholic Church, and were thereafter known as the Spanish Netherlands.

Independence brought mixed success in the 17th century for the United Provinces. Dutch prosperity was nourished by settlements and colonies in the East Indies, India, South Africa, the West Indies, South America, and elsewhere. The government was oligarchic but based on republican and federative principles. The Dutch were noted for their religious freedom, welcoming religious refugeesSpanish and Portuguese Jews, French Huguenots, and English Pilgrims.

While they became a leading commercial and maritime power, controversy over the leadership, and external economic and military threats complicated political and economic stability. Trade and territory disagreements with England resulted in the First Anglo-Dutch War that began in 1652 but ended with the Treaty of Westminster in 1654. The English were quick to attack again, beginning the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which ended with successful Dutch attacks, but also in the loss of colonial possession in North Americaof the area that now surrounds New York Cityvia a trade-off under the 1667 Treaty of Breda.

Arts, sciences, literature, and philosophy flourished alongside trade and banking during the Dutch "golden era." In 1672, however, England declared war on the Republic, igniting the Third Anglo-Dutch War; France, Münster, and Cologne soon followed in their own attack. The new stadtholder William III rose out of what is known as the "Disastrous Year" to triumphantly end the war with England in 1674 and lead a coalition against the aggressive France of Louis XIV. William III (r.16721702), great-grandson of William the Silent and grandson of the English King Charles I and his English wife, Mary, were invited by the English Parliament to occupy the British throne in 1688, but they continued to take keen interest in Dutch affairs. The Dutch republic of which William had been governor survived for nearly a century after his death. Its position was continually threatened, however, by intense rivalries among and within the provinces. Four naval wars with Britain from the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 18th also sapped Dutch strength. In 1795, a much-weakened republic was overrun by revolutionary French armies.

After the brief Napoleonic occupation, the great powers of Europe at the Congress of Vienna (181415) set up a new kingdom of the Netherlands, composed of the former United Provinces and the former Spanish or Austrian Netherlands, and installed a prince of the house of Orange as King William I. The constitution that was founded in 1814 was last revised in 1983. In 1830, a revolt by the southern provinces resulted in the establishment of the kingdom of Belgium. Thereafter, the much-reduced kingdom was mainly concerned with domestic problems, such as the school conflict over secular versus religious instruction, social problems stemming from the industrialization of the country, and electoral reforms.

In foreign affairs, relations with Belgium were gradually improved after a decade of war and tension following Belgian independence, and Dutch claims to the principality of Luxembourg ended with the death of William III in 1890.

The World Wars to the Present

Foreign policies based on neutrality successfully met their test in World War I. Although the Netherlands mobilized their army, they remained neutral, even as the Germans invaded Belgium and all the surrounding states were at war.

The Netherlands again declared their neutrality when World War II erupted in 1939. Neutrality was preserved until the German World War II war machine overran the country in May 1940. Queen Wilhelmina (r.18901948) refused to surrender to the Germans, and instead fled to Britain with other officials of her government. Although Dutch resistance lasted only five days, destruction was widespread; nearly the whole of downtown Rotterdam was wiped out, and the cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen suffered great damage. In addition, Dutch factory equipment was carried away to Germany, bridges and railroads were blown up or removed, cattle were stolen, and part of the land was flooded. The Dutch withstood severe repression until their liberation by Allied forces in May 1945. Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 and was succeeded by her daughter, Juliana (r.194880).

The East Indies, most of which had been under Dutch rule for over 300 years, were invaded by Japanese forces in January 1942. After Japanese troops continued through the territory, the Dutch surrendered in March when Japanese arrived on Java. In 1945, a group of Indonesians proclaimed an independent republic and resisted Dutch reoccupation. After four years of hostilities and following UN intervention, the Netherlands recognized the independence of Indonesia in December 1949. Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), controlled by the Netherlands since 1815, became an independent nation on 25 November 1975. This Dutch colonial legacy was the root cause of several violent outbreaks during the late 1970s, as a group of South Moluccans, a few of the 40,000 Moluccans living in the Netherlands, used terrorism on Dutch soil to dramatize their demand for the independence of the South Molucca Islands from Indonesia. The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba continue to be dependent areas.

As for many western countries, the 1960s and 1970s brought extensive cultural and social change. Traditional class and religious lines that had supported separate education and social status were erased, leading to significant change for women's rights, sexuality, economic, and environmental issues.

Reform of the social security system was the major political issue in the 1990s, along with efforts to reduce public spending. Years of administrative tinkering with the social security system has reduced the number of claimants, increased labor force participation, and generated a central government budget surplus of 1% of GDP in 2000. The budget surplus prompted heated cabinet discussions as the Labor Party wished to use the extra money for redistribution while the neo-liberal conservatives hoped to lower tax rates. Buyant growth rates of more than 3% in the period 19962001 brought down the official unemployment level to 2.7%. However, the global economic downturn that began in 2001 was one cause of the Netherlands' shrinking economy in late 2002 and early 2003. The government also passed a number of radical social measures that received parliamentary approval in recent years including conditions for administering euthanasia, legalization of prostitution, legalization of gay marriages, and laws banning discrimination.

A founder of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Netherlands became part of the Economic and Monetary Union and strongly supports an independent European central bank, low inflation, and stable currency. It hosted two different intergovernmental conferences of the European Union and chaired the finalization of the Treaty of European Union (Maastricht Treaty) in 1991 and the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997.

In May 2002, Pim Fortuyn, an anti-immigration leader of his own political party, was assassinated by a single gunman. His party, List Pim Fortuyn, came in second in the 15 May 2002 parliamentary elections. The conservative Christian Democrats, led by Jan Peter Balkenende, came in first, and Balkenende became prime minister of a center-right coalition government. In October, Balkenende's government collapsed following disagreements within the List Pim Fortuyn Party. Elections were held on 22 January 2003, and the Christian Democrats narrowly defeated the Labor Party in the Second Chamber. After 125 days, a coalition government was formed comprising the Christian Democrats, the free-market liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, and the socially liberal Democrats.

The Netherlands gave political support to the military action taken by the United States and United Kingdom against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 2003. Although the Netherlands has a history of open immigration and integration, the increased controversies in Europe surrounding Islamic fundamentalism and immigration have plagued it as well. On 2 November 2004, filmmaker and publicist Theo van Gogh was assassinated reportedly by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamic youth group.

Queen Juliana abdicated in 1980 in favor of her daughter, Beatrix. Juliana died 20 March 2004. In 1966, Beatrix had married Claus von Amsberg, a German diplomat, and his title remained that of Prince of the Netherlands when Beatrix became Queen. Their firstborn son, and Crown Prince, Willem-Alexander was born in 1967. Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg had two other sons, Johan Friso and Constantijn, before Prince Claus's death in 2002. Prince Willem-Alexander has two daughters with his wife, Princess Máxima: Princess Catharina-Amalia was born 7 June 2003, and Princess Alexia was born 26 June 2005.


The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, under the house of Orange-Nassau. The monarch and the Council of Ministers together are called the Crown, and is the center of executive power. The prime minister is the active head of government, is a member of the Council of Ministers, the head of the cabinet, and usually the leader of the largest party within the ruling party coalition. Executive power is also shared with the cabinet, which must have the support of a majority in the parliament. Cabinet ministers may not be members of the parliament. The Council of State, instituted as an advisory body for the government in 1532, is appointed by and presided over by the monarch. It is composed of a vice president, councilors (28 maximum), and honorary members (25 maximum). The council considers all legislation proposed by the sovereign or the cabinet before it is submitted to the parliament. While functioning in an advisory capacity, the council has executive powers when it implements orders of the sovereign and it has judiciary powers when it acts in disputes and citizen appeals concerning the government.

Legislative power is exercised jointly by the crown and the States-General (Staten-Generaal), a bicameral parliament. The upper house (Eerste Kamer) consists of 75 members elected for four years by the provincial representative councils on the basis of proportional representation. The lower house (Tweede Kamer) has 150 members elected for four years directly by the people, also on the basis of proportional representation. Only the lower house has the right to introduce bills and to move amendments, but the upper house can accept or reject bills passed by the other chamber.

All Dutch citizens who have reached the age of 18 years and reside within the Netherlands have the right to vote. All citizens who have reached the age of 18 years are eligible for election to the States-General.

Every year on the third Tuesday in September, the session of the States-General is opened at the Hague by the monarch. In the speech from the throne, the government's program for the year is announced. The monarch acts as an adviser to the cabinet, may propose bills, and signs all bills approved by the legislature. Theoretically she could refuse to sign a bill, but this never occurs in practice because the cabinet is responsible for the actions of the ruler. Thus, if the queen should refuse to sign a bill, the cabinet must resign and she must then find a new cabinet acceptable to the parliament.

Immediately following elections, the monarch appoints a formateur to advise on the program and composition of the new cabinet, and form the Council of Ministers. If he fails to bring together a new ministry, a new formateur is appointed, and so on until a new cabinet has been formed.


Throughout the political history of the Netherlands, religion has played an important role. During World War II, strenuous efforts were made to reduce this role, but denominational parties continued to exercise considerable influence. However, since the mid1960s the general trend has been toward the polarization of politics into conservative and progressive parties, and denominational parties have lost voter support.

The religious political party with the largest membership throughout the postwar period was the Catholic People's Party (Katholieke VolkspartijKVP), which favored democratic government and a middle-of-the-road social policy. It began to lose votes in the 1960s and the KVP joined the Anti-Revolutionary Party (Anti-Revolutionaire PartijARP) and the right-wing Christian Historical Union (Christelijk-Historische UnieCHU) to form the Christian Democratic Appeal (Christen-Democratisch AppèlCDA) to contest the 1977 elections, and has since been a major political force. The Labor party (Partij van de ArbeidPvdA) vied for political leadership with the KVP in the first decades of the postwar period, polling about the same number of votes in national elections until 1972, when the PvdA won a plurality of nearly 25% of the total vote and emerged as the dominant member of a centrist coalition government. The Labor Party, a social democratic party that resulted from the merger of three socialist and liberal parties, has appealed mainly to national interests rather than to socialist ones, although it does favor redistribution and solidarity. Since 1986, it has pursued de-radicalization and has moved to the political center. The conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en DemocratieVVD) advocates free enterprise, separation of church and state, and individual liberties.

Since 1965, discontent with the major political parties and erosion of party discipline have led to the establishment of change-oriented parties like Democrats 66 (Democraten 66D66), which pushes for greater democratic accountability, political transparency, and involvement of the citizen in the policy process. Smaller parties include the left-wing Green Left (GroenLinksGL), which is the product of a merger of socialist and ecology parties in 1991. Three small social conservative Calvinist parties have been at the heart of much political debate and change in the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century: the Political Reformed Party (Staatkundig Gereformeerde PartijSGP) which was denied state funding in 2005 for prohibiting women from becoming full members, the Reformed Political Union (Gereformeerd Politiek VerbondGPV) and the Reformatorian Political Federation (Reformatorische Politieke FederationRPF) merged in 2001 to form the far-right Christian Union (ChristenUnie), the fifth-largest party in 2005, that combines fundamental religious values on abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia, with socially democratic views on economic, immigration, and environmental issues.

As no single party commands a majority in the States-General, the governing cabinet is a coalition of various party representatives, according to their numerical strength. In 1994, for the first time in 80 years, a coalition emerged which did not include a confessional party. The Labor party won a plurality of votes in spite of an absolute loss of votes. Its closest ally, D66, absolutely refused to join a coalition government with the Christian Democrats. In 1994, the first "purple" cabinet emerged, led by Wim Kok of the Labor party, and composed of D66 and the VVD. In 1998 the government fell after D66 failed to push through parliament a bill to make more use of referendums. A month later, in June 1998, voters brought back the purple coalition and Kok led another government of VVD, D66, and PvdA.

Willem Kok initially let it be known in various interviews that he would stand again in the 2002 election, greatly increasing the likelihood of another four years of Labor Party leadership. However, in April 2002, Kok's government resigned following an official report criticizing its role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in the former Yugoslavia, when some 100 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop Bosnian Serb forces from murdering around 7,000 Muslims.

Elections were held on 15 May 2002, and resulted in a victory for the Christian Democrats. A surprise showing was made by the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF); a political party formed just a month earlier by the anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn. Fortuyn was assassinated just prior to the election, but his party came in second. Labor, the VVD, and D66 all suffered losses. Christian Democratic leader Jan Peter Balkenende became prime minister; however, his government collapsed in October 2002, and new elections were held on 22 January 2003.

Following the January 2003 elections, the 150 seats in the Second Chamber of the Legislature were distributed as follows: CDA, 28.6% (44 seats); PvdA, 27.3% (42 seats); VVD, 17.9% (28 seats); SP, 6.3% (9 seats); LPF, 5.7% (8 seats); GL, 5.1% (8 seats); D66, 4.1% (6 seats); the Christian Union (CU), 2.1% (3 seats); and the conservative Calvinist party Political Reformed Party (SGP), 1.6% (2 seats). The PvdA scored an increase of 19 seats over the May 2002 elections, and the LPF suffered a loss of 18 seats. After prohibitive disagreement in the formation of a CDA-PvdA cabinet, the center-right CDA, the conservative VVD, and the center-left D66 formed a coalition with Balkenende again as prime minister.

The next general elections were scheduled for May 2007.


Through 2005, the country was divided into 12 provinces, each governed by a locally direct-elected representative provincial council (provinciale staten). The size of the council depends on the number of inhabitants in the province. Members are elected for four-year terms. From among their members, the councils elect provincial executives (gedeputeerde staten) with six to eight members. Each province has a commissioner appointed by and representing the Crown.

The smaller municipalities (496 in 2003) are administered by municipal councils, which are elected directly for four-year terms by the local inhabitants and make local bylaws. The executive powers of the municipality are entrusted to a corporate board consisting of a burgomaster and two to six aldermen; the latter are elected from and by the council, while the burgomaster (mayor) is appointed by the Crown. The important function of flood control and water management is exercised by autonomous public authorities, some of which date as far back as the 13th century.


The judiciary is independent and the judges irremovable except for malfeasance or incapacity. Roman law still is basic, but the judicial system is largely patterned on that of France. There is no jury system, and the state rather than the individual acts as initiator of legal proceedings. Administrative justice is separate from civil and criminal justice and not uniform in dispensation.

The supreme judiciary body is the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Court of Cassation). As of 2005 it was staffed by 24 justices. Its principal task is to supervise administration of justice and to review the judgments of lower courts. There are five courts of appeal (gerechtshoven), which act as courts of first instance only in fiscal matters. They are divided into chambers of three justices each. The 19 district courts (arrondissementsrechtsbanken) deal as courts of first instance with criminal cases and civil cases not handled by the 62 subdistrict courts. Most of these courts are manned by single magistrates. In 2002, the subdistrict courts were incorporated administratively into the district courts; a subdistrict court section is now formed at these courts. There also are juvenile courts and special arbitration courts (for such institutions as the Stock Exchange Association and professional organizations).

Normally appointed for life, judges are usually retired at age 70.


In 2005 there were 53,130 active personnel in the Netherlands' armed forces, with reserves numbering 54,400. The army numbered 23,150. Equipment included 283 main battle tanks, 569 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 94 armored personnel carriers, and 407 artillery pieces. The navy had 17,130 personnel including 3,100 marines. Its fleet included four tactical submarines and 14 surface combatants (six destroyers and eight frigates). The naval aviation unit of 950 was equipped with 10 maritime patrol aircraft and 21 antisubmarine/search and rescue helicopters. The air force has 11,050 active personnel plus 5,000 reservists subject to immediate recall. The air force had 108 combat capable aircraft and 30 attack helicopters. A paramilitary force known as the Royal Military Constabulary numbered 6,800 persons. The United States stationed about 303 personnel in the Netherlands. The Netherlands maintained forces abroad in Germany, Iceland, Italy and the Netherlands Antilles. The nation also participated in UN and peacekeeping missions in five other countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget in 2005 totaled $9.7 billion.


The Netherlands is a founding member of the United Nations, having joined on 10 December 1945. It participates in ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP, and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, IAEA, ILO, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, and the WHO. In addition, the Netherlands is a member of the WTO, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Council of Europe, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, G-10 (Paris Club), the Western European Union, the European Union, NATO, OSCE, and OECD. The Netherlands is a permanent observer at OAS. The Netherlands is the home site of the International Court of Justice, Eurojust, Europol, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the International Criminal Court.

On 1 January 1948, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg established a joint customs union, Benelux; since that time, the three countries have freed nearly all of their mutual imports from quantitative restrictions. On 3 February 1958, the Benelux Economic Union was established to make it possible for each participating country to apply itself more intensively to the production for which it is best suited as well as to extend the total market for the member countries.

The Netherlands is a part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Nuclear Energy Agency. In environmental cooperation, the Netherlands is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


The Netherlands has an advanced economy, which combines high per capita income with a fairly even income distribution. An industrial nation with limited natural resources, the Netherlands bases its economy on the importation of raw materials for processing into finished products for export. Food processing, metallurgy, chemicals, manufacturing, and oil refining are the principal industries. Agriculture is particularly important to the economy, as about 60% of total agricultural production is exported.

Because of its geographic position on the sea, outstanding harbor facilities, and numerous internal waterways, the Netherlands became a trading, transporting, and brokerage nation. A major role in the economy has always been played by the service industries, such as banks, trading companies, shipping enterprises, and brokerage and supply firms. The economy, being involved in international trade, is sharply affected by economic developments abroadincluding fluctuations in prices of primary goodsover which the Netherlands has little or no control.

Growth in GDP averaged just under 3% per year during 198895 with exceptionally strong growth occurring in 1989 (4.8%) and particularly slow growth in 1993 (1.8%). Inflation was low, averaging about 2% a year between 1986 and 1998. The unemployment rate fell from 10.5% in 1985 to 8.4% in 1995, and has continued to fall steadily, reaching an estimated 6% in 2004. For the four years 1997 to 2000, real GDP growth averaged 4%, well ahead of most of Europe. Growth slowed due to the global economic slowdown of 2001 to 2.8% and was brought close to a standstill in 2002, with estimated growth of 0.3%. Real GDP growth averaged 1.2% over the 200004 period. GDP growth was estimated at 0.5% in 2005, but was forecast to pick up to 2% in 2006 and to 2.7% in 2007. Inflation jumped from 2.2% in 1999 and 2.6% in 2000 to a yearly average of 4.5% in 2001 due mainly to a hike in the VAT rate, and increases in gasoline and food prices. The inflation rate averaged 2.7% over the 200004 period. The inflation rate in 2005 was estimated at 1.6%; it was forecast to remain at that rate in 2006.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 the Netherlands's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $500.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $30,500. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 0.6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2.1% of GDP, industry 24.4%, and services 73.5%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $767 million or about $47 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.1% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Netherlands totaled $208.63 billion or about $12,878 per capita based on a GDP of $511.5 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 17% of household consumption was spent on food, 7% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 13% on education.


As of 2005, the Netherlands' labor force numbered an estimated 7.53 million. In 2002 (the latest year for which data was available), 74.1% were employed in services, 20.3% in manufacturing, 4% in agriculture, and the remainder in undefined occupations. The unemployed represented about 6.7% of the workforce in 2005, compared with 1.2% in 1970, and 13% in 1985.

As of 2005, workers in the Netherlands were allowed to organize and join unions, engage in collective bargaining and to exercise the right to strike. However, strikes are rare. Labor unions in 2005 accounted for about 25% of the country's workforce. However, collective bargaining agreements cover about 86% of the labor force. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited.

The law stipulates a 40-hour workweek, but in 2005 the average workweek was 30.6 hours (20 hours for part-time employees and 38.7 hours for full-time employees). The five-day workweek has been generally adopted. Workers receive workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, sick pay, payment for legal holidays, and paid vacations. The employment of women and adolescents for night work is forbidden. The minimum wage for adults in 2005 was $1,517 per month, and was capable of providing a worker and family with a decent living standard. However, most workers earn more. There is a reduced minimum wage for workers under 23, which uses a sliding scale ranging from 35% of the adult minimum wage for a 16-year-old to 85% for those 22 years of age. The minimum age for employment is 16 years. These laws are effectively enforced.


More than 27% of the total land area of the Netherlands is under seasonal or permanent crop production. Grasslands account for about 54% of all agricultural lands. Most farms are effectively managed and worked intensively with mechanical equipment. The many cooperatives have added to the efficiency of production and distribution.

Although agricultural production has decreased in recent years, labor productivity in Dutch agricultural and horticultural industries has risen sharply. The number of holdings declined by over 17% from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s; in 2002 there were 89,580 agricultural holdings, of which 45% were smaller than 10 hectares (25 acres). In 2003 there were 108,230 full-time and 153,250 part-time workers in the agricultural labor force. The crop output in 2003 was valued at almost 10.6 billion, fifth highest in the EU after France, Italy, Spain, and Germany.

Much of the soil in the east and southeast is poor. Moreover, large regions are so moist because of their low altitude that only grass can be grown profitably, a condition that has led to the enormous development of the dairy industry. The best land is found in reclaimed polders. Principal crops and output in 2004 (in thousands of tons) were sugar beets, 6,292; potatoes, 7,488; wheat, 1,224; barley, 288; rye, 17; and triticale, 19.

The Netherlands is famous for its bulbs grown for export, principally tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, narcissus, and crocus. Flower growing is centered at Aalsmeer (near Amsterdam), and nurseries are situated mainly at Boskoop. Bulb growing, done principally at Lisse and Hillegom, between Haarlem and Leiden, has been extended in recent years to areas of North Holland. In 2002, there were 11,793 horticultural holdings and land area for growing bulbs totaled 17,139 hectares (42,350 acres).

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the government has been helping the agrarian sector through extension services, the promotion of scientific research, and the creation of specific types of agricultural education. In the 1930s, an extensive system of governmental controls of agricultural production was introduced, and after World War II (193945), an even more active policy was initiated, which evolved into integrated planning covering practically every aspect of rural life. In recent years, the government has actively encouraged the consolidation of small landholdings into larger, more efficient units.


World-renowned Dutch dairy products outrank all other agricultural produce, and livestock provides two-thirds of total agricultural value. In 2005 there were 3.86 million head of cattle, 11.1 million pigs, 1.2 million sheep, and 86 million chickens. Milk production in 2005 totaled 10.5 million tons. Meat production in 2005 was 2.35 million tons (including pork, 1,299,000; beef and veal, 388,000; and poultry, 646,000). Butter production was 102,000 tons; cheese, 671,000 tons.

Friesland is the most important region for the production of milk and butter. Excellent grazing lands and a long growing season have greatly helped the Frisian dairy industry, whose main support is the famed Frisian strain of cows. The making of cheese is connected with such famous brands as those named for Edam and Gouda, towns in the province of South Holland, and Alkmaar in North Holland.

In 2003, the value of animal products was 7.61 billion. The output of animal products has gradually been falling since 1996, when production was valued at 9.37 billion. The Netherlands regularly imports calves from the United Kingdom. In 1995, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, in response to the possible connection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, responded with a program to destroy all imported UK veal calves. The total slaughter amounted to 64,000 calves and led to losses of approximately $32 million to the livestock industry.


Although no longer as important as it was in the 16th and 17th centuries, fishing still contributes substantially to the food supply. Annual fish consumption in the Netherlands is 21.9 kg (32.2 lb) per person. In 2003 the Dutch fishing fleet had 393 cutters, 17 trawlers, and 69 mussel dredgers; the total capacity of the fishing fleet that year was 195,307 gross tons. About half of the fish catch is landed at the ports of Scheveningen and Ijmuiden. The Dutch fishing industry faces declining fish stocks and quota cuts from the EU that make profitability difficult because of excess capacity. In 2003, Dutch imports of fish products totaled $1.7 billion and exports exceeded $2.18 billion.

The total catch in 2003 was 593,305 tons, consisting primarily of mackerel, mussels, sardines, herring, plaice, and whiting. Shrimp, oysters, sole, and other saltwater fish were also caught.


One of the least forested countries in Europe, the Netherlands produces only about 8% of its wood requirements. Woodland, chiefly pine, covers about 375,000 hectares (927,000 acres), or only 11.1% of the total land area, of which state forest areas comprise some 37%; private owners, 31%; provincial and local governments, 14%; and nature conservation organizations, 18%. Productive woodlands total about 230,000 hectares (580,000 acres); output of timber was approximately 1,026,000 cu m (36.2 million cu ft) in 2004. The Netherlands imports about 95% of its softwood lumber needs, mostly from Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Domestic sources of temperate hardwood lumber usually meet 2030% of annual demand; production totaled 80,000 cu m (2.8 million cu ft) in 2004.

The Dutch wood industry is focused on the furniture, construction, packing, and pulp and paper sectors. The total turnover of the Dutch furniture sector in 2004 was almost 2 billion; the turnover in the Dutch pulp and paper industry was also around 2 billion. The Netherlands is the ninth biggest European producer of pulp and paper, annually producing 3.3 million tons of paper and paperboard at 27 sites, with over 70% exported to neighboring countries.

Afforestation has not kept pace with increasing consumption. The Dutch government would like to become at least 25% self-sufficient in wood fiber by 2025. In order to meet this goal, some 3.9 million cu m (137.7 million cu ft) of fiber would need to be produced annually (assuming current consumption trends). Currently, Dutch wood fiber production is only 1.2 million cu m (42 million cu ft). During 19902000, only 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of forest were planted. The government established a goal in 1994 of increasing forested land by 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) annually until 2020.


The Netherlands was an important regional producer of natural gas and petroleum and played a major role as a transshipment center for mineral materials entering and leaving EuropeRotterdam was the world's largest container port. The only other mineral of commercial importance was salt, and the only other mining operations left in the country were involved in the extraction of limestone, peat, and sand and gravel. The production of salt from the mines at Hengelo and Delfzijl was one of the oldest industries in the country; an estimated 5.0 million tons was produced in 2003 (various types), unchanged since 1999. Akzo Nobel Salt BV was the leading producer of salt. Magnesium chloride and oxide were produced in a plant at Veendam from extracted salt brines. Also produced in 2003 were hydraulic cement, nitrogen, industrial sand, sodium compounds, and sulfur. No metals were mined, but an estimated 3 million tons of iron ore was sintered from imported ore in 2003, unchanged from 2000. Coal was mined in Limburg until 1974. Among the country's leading industries in 2003 were metal products, chemicals, petroleum, and construction, and chemicals and fuels were top export commodities.


The Netherlands, which has little waterpower, depends mostly on natural gas and petroleum as energy sources.

Natural gas is The Netherlands' most abundant fossil fuel, with major fields located in the North Sea. As of August 2005, the North Sea region contained 169.8 trillion cu ft of natural gas, of which Norway and the Netherlands account for more than 75%. As of 1 January 2002, the Netherlands had proven natural gas reserves of 1.693 trillion cu m. In 2003, production of natural gas totaled 2.6 trillion cu ft. However, natural gas output has fallen as a result of government policy. The country's Natural Gas Law caps production at 2.68 trillion cu ft annually, between 2003 and 2007. From 2008 through 2013, production will be further limited to 2.47 trillion cu ft per year. This policy was instituted so that the country's natural gas reserves will be maintained for future use. In 2002, domestic consumption of natural gas totaled 1.764 trillion cu ft.

The Netherlands' second principal energy source is oil. As of 1 January 2002, the country's proven reserves of oil totaled 88.06 million barrels. In 2002, total oil production included 46,330 barrels per day of crude oil. Although oil output was up from 2000 at 89,000 barrels per day, the nation was still dependent on imported petroleum. In 2002, imports of crude and refined oil products averaged 2,266,990 barrels per day. Consumption of refined petroleum products in that year averaged 899,170 barrels per day. Exports of all petroleum products that year averaged 1,421,620 barrels per day. The Netherlands also re-exports two-thirds of all its imported petroleum in the form of refined oil products. Refinery output in 2002 averaged 1,723,250 barrels per day.

The Netherlands's demand for coal came to 14,803,000 short tons in 2002, all of it imported. Imports that year totaled 24,586,000 short tons; 10,210,000 short tons were re-exported.

Production of electric power in 2002 totaled 91.117 billion kWh, of which thermal power plants using oil and coal as fuel supplied 90% of the power generated. Nuclear power plants accounted for 4%, and other alternative sources 5.4%. Hydropower accounted for less than 1%. Nuclear generating capacity is provided chiefly by a 450 MW station in Borssele, Zeeland. As of 2002, the Netherlands was one of five European Union (EU) countries that had declared a moratorium on building new nuclear facilities. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 101.138 billion kWh. Installed capacity in 2002 was 20.378 million kW.


Because of World War II and its consequences (the high rate of population increase and the severing of economic ties with Indonesia), drastic structural changes took place in the Dutch economy, and the further development of industry became important. Industry increased to such an extent that it produced 32% of GDP in 1990. Since then, however, industrial production has declined, accounting for 24.5% of GDP in 2004.

Since World War II, the metallurgical industry in particular has made tremendous progress. Philips, the Dutch electronics giant, has become the greatest electrical products firm in Europe as well as one of the world's major exporters of electric bulbs and appliances. Unilever, the British-Dutch consumer products company, has grown to become one of the world's largest corporations. The Heineken brewing company is one of the world's largest brewing companies in terms of sales volume and profitability. More phenomenal has been the success of Royal Dutch/Shell, which began as a small concern in 1890 and grew to become one of the world's largest income producers. Rotterdam's suburb of Pernis has the largest oil refinery in Europe. Akzo Nobel produces healthcare products, coatings, and chemicals. DSM produces nutritional and pharma ingredients, performance materials, and industrial chemicals.

Pig iron is exported, produced from imported ore at the Velsen-Ijmuiden plant, situated where the canal from Amsterdam reaches the North Sea. The chemical industry has grown increasingly important, but the once prosperous textile industry in Enschede has declined because of foreign competition.

Industrial products include petroleum, metal and engineering products, and pharmaceutical products. The Netherlands produces electrical machinery and equipment (including computers and computer parts), and microelectronics. Agroindustries are important: the Netherlands is one of the world's three largest exporters of agricultural produce. Dairy farming and market gardening are the major agricultural industries. The Netherlands also produces cigarettes, beer, canned fish, cocoa and cocoa products, coffee, tea, sugar, candies, biscuits, and potato flour.


Advanced scientific research and development (R&D) has provided the technological impetus for the Netherlands' economic recovery since World War II. Dutch universities have traditionally carried out fundamental scientific research, and the government has promoted research activities through the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, established in 1988, and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, established in 1930. It also has supported scientific organizations such as the Energy Development Corp. and Energy Research Foundation, Aerospace Development Agency, National Aerospace Laboratory, and Netherlands Maritime Institute.

The highly developed electrotechnical industry produces computers, telecommunications systems, electronic measurement and control equipment, electric switching gear and transformers, and medical and scientific instruments. Dutch firms designed and constructed the Netherlands' astronomical satellites and play a major role in the European Space Agency. The important aerospace industry is led by the world-famous firm of Fokker, which produced Europe's bestselling passenger jet aircraft, the F-27 Friendship, and has been active in the consortium that developed the European Airbus. In 2002, high-tech exports were valued at $33.667 billion and accounted for 28% of manufactured exports.

Expenditures on scientific R&D in 2001 totaled $8.6 trillion, or 1.89% of GDP. Of that amount, 51.8% came from the business sector, followed by government sources at 36.2%. Foreign sources accounted for 11%, with higher education at 1.1%. In that same year, there were 2,826 scientists and engineers and 1,424 technicians per million people that were engaged in R&D.

Among the Netherlands' 39 scientific and technical learned societies, the most prominent is the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, founded in 1808. The country also has 37 scientific and technical research institutes. In Leiden are located the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of History of Science and Medicine. The Netherlands has 16 universities offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 39% of university enrollment. In 2002, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 16.4% were in the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, engineering).


A considerable but declining part of Dutch retail business is still conducted by small enterprises, which are usually owner operated. Some of the larger department stores in the cities have branches in small towns, and there are several nationwide supermarket chains. Cooperatives and associations are important in both purchasing and producing.

Amsterdam is the chief center for commerce and trade, with Rotterdam and The Hague next. Many companies use the Netherlands as a distribution center for European markets. Terms of sale usually call for payment within 90 days. A value-added tax of 19% applies to most goods.

Business offices are generally open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays and are closed Saturdays. Retail stores usually open between 8 and 9 am and close between 6 and 7 pm Tuesday through Friday. On Mondays, many shops are closed in the mornings. Most cities have late-night shopping (until 9 pm) on Thursdays or Fridays. In the main cities, many shops are open on Sunday from 12 to 5 pm.

The country's most important trade fair is held at Utrecht, twice each year, in the spring and fall.


The Dutch have traditionally been a powerful force in international trade. The Netherlands is the world's eighth-largest exporting nation. As exports and imports of goods and services both account

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 227,344.0 208,995.3 18,348.7
Germany 51,891.7 38,186.2 13,705.5
Belgium 24,153.4 21,667.0 2,486.4
United Kingdom 23,243.6 14,453.5 8,790.1
France-Monaco 22,220.0 10,993.0 11,227.0
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 13,256.7 4,977.9 8,278.8
United States 12,082.0 17,743.6 -5,661.6
Spain 8,591.8 4,180.4 4,411.4
Sweden 4,356.7 4,105.3 251.4
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 3,912.3 2,823.7 1,088.6
Austria 3,410.5 3,410.5
() data not available or not significant.

for well over 60% of GDP, the backbone of Dutch prosperity is foreign trade. Rotterdam is Europe's largest port (and third in the world in 2005, after Shanghai and Singapore), handling twice as much cargo as its nearest European rival, Antwerp. The Netherlands' geographical position as a key hub of Europe's transportation system and the small size of its domestic market have made the Dutch economy one of the most open and outward-looking in the world.

Principal Dutch exports in the early 2000s were manufactured goods, machines, electronics, chemicals, petroleum products, natural gas, and foods. Chief imports are manufactured products, machines, crude petroleum, chemicals, and clothing. From 1981 through 2005, the Netherlands experienced trade surpluses each year.


Dutch merchandise and services exports have grown to represent more than 60% of GDP, making the Dutch economy one of the most internationally oriented in the world. Economic expansion of the Netherlands in the period immediately after World War II paralleled a generally favorable balance of payments. After occasional and minor deficits on current accounts during the mid-1960s, a major deficit occurred in 1970. Since then, the current-accounts balance has generally registered a surplus, despite increased costs of oil imports during the 1970s and beginning in 2005. The Netherlands' reliance upon exports that are resistant to recessions (such as some food and agricultural products, and semifinished products such as chemicals) has protected the Dutch economy from weaker demand from Germany and other EU countries during recessions. In 2004, exports totaled $311.2 billion and imports $280.5 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $30.7 billion. The current account surplus was $13.5 billion.


The Netherlands Bank, nationalized in 1948, is the central bank. It issues the currency and supervises the privately owned banks. Since the 1950s, the Netherlands Bank had used reserve regulations and the central bank discount rate as instruments of monetary policy, but with the introduction of the European Central Bank, those responsibilities are now more centralized for all of the EU. The Dutch financial services industry has a long and distinguished history and has introduced many banking innovations to the world. Since the late 1980s, the sector has undergone a revolution. A common strategic desire to expand and to gain more financial strength, combined with deregulation of the financial market, prompted several bank mergers and the formation of financial conglomerates of banks and insurance groups. As a result, the number of dominant participants in the market has diminished to a handful, each providing the full range of financial services. The Netherlands Middenstands-bank (NMB) and the state-owned Postbank merged to form the NMB Postbank in 1989, which in turn merged again with the Nationale Nederlanden insurance group to form the International Nederlanden Groep (ING) in 1991. The large ABN and Amro commercial banking groups joined up to form ABN-Amro in 1990. VSB-bank, a conglomerate of savings banks, teamed up with the Ameu insurance group and Belgium's AG insurance group in 1990 to form the DutchBelgian Fortis group. Rabobank, a large cooperative group which

Current Account 16,405.0
    Balance on goods 26,648.0
      Imports -225,733.0
      Exports 252,380.0
    Balance on services -1,186.0
    Balance on income -1,244.0
    Current transfers -7,813.0
Capital Account -2,028.0
Financial Account -23,088.0
    Direct investment abroad -35,204.0
    Direct investment in Netherlands 15,695.0
    Portfolio investment assets -57,001.0
    Portfolio investment liabilities 82,000.0
    Financial derivatives -468.0
    Other investment assets -63,605.0
    Other investment liabilities 35,494.0
Net Errors and Omissions 7,791.0
Reserves and Related Items 920.0
() data not available or not significant.

specializes in the provision of agricultural credits and mortgage facilities but has been rapidly expanding its product portfolio in recent years, took a 50% share in the Robeco investment group in 1996. The robust nature of the Dutch banking industry came to the fore once again in December 1999. Although it ultimately failed, ING made headlines through its attempted takeover of the French Crédit Commercial de France (CCF). Had ING's bid succeeded, it would have been the first successful merger of a French bank with another European financial institution.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $145.3 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $409.3 billion.

The Netherlands has the oldest stock exchange in the world, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (ASE); founded in the early 17th century, it is now one of the largest stock exchanges in operation. The issuance of new securities on the exchange is supervised by the Netherlands Bank, acting in cooperation with the commercial banks and stockbrokers.

The comparatively large share of foreign security listings and capital supply gives the ASE an international importance disproportionate to its size. Its strong international orientation is also reflected in the fact that its share of Europe's total market capitalization far outweighs the relative importance of the Dutch economy. The multinational nature of the major Dutch companies, which has led to their shares being quoted on a number of international stock markets, means that stock price levels on the ASE are heavily influenced by developments elsewhere. The three largest companies, Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, and ING, account for around 50% of total stock market capitalization.

In order to enhance the international competitiveness of the ASE, many reform measures have been taken in the past few years, with varying degrees of success. These include the introduction of a new electronic trading system open to foreign-based brokers, a division of the market into a wholesale and a retail segment, and a revamp of the exchange's organizational structure. Moreover, in early 1996, under pressure from the government, the stock exchange introduced an arrangement that aims to reduce the influence of the wide range of anti-takeover devices quoted corporations are permitted, which has long been considered as one of the exchange's most important shortcomings. Under the new arrangement, a prospective buyer who has gained 70% of a company's shares can turn to the Amsterdam Court of Justice after a period of 12 months.

On 1 January 1997, the Amsterdam Exchanges (AEX) was formed by the merger of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (ASE) and the city's European Options Exchange (EDE). From approximately 680 at the end of January, the AEX index of 25 leading shares rose to 700 on 11 February 1997 and sped on to almost 775 by mid-March before suffering a correction prompted by the release of disappointing financial results by a brewing company, Grolsch, and fears of interest rate increases in the United States. In 1998 the world capitalization rankings placed the equity market eighth in the world, while the volume of options contracts at the options market ranked fourth. By early 2003, however, the AEX index had dropped to 303.21, down 39% from the previous year. As of 2004, a total of 177 companies were listed on the EURONEXT Amsterdam exchange, which had a market capitalization of $622.284 billion. In 2004, the AEX rose 3.1% from the previous year to 348.1.


There are two sectors of the insurance industry in the Netherlands: the companies operating under control laws set down by the EC and supervised by the government, and the companies (mutuals, reinsurance, marine and aviation) not under official supervision. Compulsory third-party motor insurance has been in effect since 1935. In addition, insurance for workers, hunters, nuclear facilities, and pensions are compulsory. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $50.266 billion, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $25.371 billion. In 2002, the top nonlife insurer was Achmea Zorg, which had gross written nonlife premiums of $1,196.1 million, while the leading life insurer that same year was Nationale Nederlanden Leven, with gross written life insurance premiums of $4,236.9 million.


The government has gradually cut the deficit from 10% of GDP in 1983 to 2.75% in 1996, slightly below the 3% Maastricht criteria for European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999. The deficit is largely financed by government bonds. Financing is also covered by issuing Dutch Treasury Certificates, which replaced a standing credit facility for short-term deficit financing with the Netherlands Central Bank. Under the Maastricht Treaty, the Netherlands Central Bank was abolished in 1994. Although the private sector is the cornerstone of the economy, the government plays a vital role in the Netherlands' economy. It decides microeconomic policy and tax laws, as well as working toward structural and regulatory

Revenue and Grants 184,341 100.0%
    Tax revenue 103,128 55.9%
    Social contributions 67,918 36.8%
    Grants 412 0.2%
    Other revenue 12,883 7.0%
Expenditures 197,864 100.0%
    General public services 43,780 22.1%
    Defense 7,182 3.6%
    Public order and safety 7,334 3.7%
    Economic affairs 11,810 6.0%
    Environmental protection 739 0.4%
    Housing and community amenities 1,082 0.5%
    Health 20,562 10.4%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 1,745 0.9%
    Education 21,443 10.8%
    Social protection 82,187 41.5%
() data not available or not significant.

reforms. Public spending, however, had dropped to 46% of GDP as of 2000 as privatization and deregulation continued.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 the Netherlands's central government took in revenues of approximately $291.8 billion and had expenditures of $303.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$11.9 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 56.2% of GDP. Total external debt was $1.645 trillion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were 184,341 million and expenditures were 197,864 million. The value of revenues was us$208,060 million and expenditures us$222,489 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = .8860 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 22.1%; defense, 3.6%; public order and safety, 3.7%; economic affairs, 6.0%; environmental protection, 0.4%; housing and community amenities, 0.5%; health, 10.4%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.9%; education, 10.8%; and social protection, 41.5%.


Principal taxes raised by the central government are income and profits taxes levied on individuals and companies, a value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services, and a tax on enterprises of public bodies (except agricultural enterprises). There is a wealth tax of 0.7% also levied on nonexempt taxable capital of individuals. Provinces and municipalities are not authorized to impose income taxes, and may impose other taxes only to a limited extent. The most important tax levied by municipalities is a real estate tax paid partly by owners and partly by occupants. Residents are taxed on both their local and foreign incomes, but nonresidents pay taxes only on income earned in the Netherlands.

The tax on the net profits of corporations in 2005 was 27% for annual profits up to 22,689 and 31.5% on the increment of profits above that. Depreciation and other business deductions are permitted. Capital gains were taxed at the same rates, although some capital gains were tax-exempt. Withholding taxes up to a maximum of 25% were applied to dividends, although there is no withholding if the dividends are being paid by a subsidiary to a nonresident parent company, owning more than 25% of the payer. Companies can qualify for tax exemptions and tax reductions under investment incentive regimes. Branches of foreign companies are treated the same as Dutch companies in accordance with the fiscal regime under which they qualify.

Incomes are taxed on a graduated scale, with a top rate of 52%. There are also liberal deductions for dependents. Taxes are withheld by the state on the incomes of wage earners. In the tax reforms of 2001 marginal income tax rates were set in a course of increases in the lower rates, and decreases in the higher ones. The progressive schedule consists of four brackets, not counting a tax-exempt base for each individual taxpayer. Gift and inheritance taxes range from 568% depending on the family relationship of the donor or deceased.

The Netherlands' main indirect tax is its VAT introduced 1 January 1969 with a standard rate of 12% and a reduced rate of 4% on basics. Effective 1 January 2001, the standard rate was increased from 17.5% to 19% with a reduced rate of 6%, the latter applied to basic foodstuffs, books, newspapers and periodicals, public ground and sea transport, water supplies, sports centers, and pharmaceuticals. Exempted from VAT are exported goods, medical, cultural, and educational services, and credit and insurance transactions. Other taxes include excise taxes, energy taxes and taxes on legal transactions and on motor vehicles.


The Dutch government has a traditionally liberal policy on tariffs and its membership in the Benelux Economic Union, the European Union, and other international trade organizations has resulted in comparatively low import duties. Tariffs on imports from the dollar area have also been liberalized and about 90% of imports from the United States are unrestricted quantitatively. Manufactured goods from the United States are generally subject to a duty ranging from 58% based on the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value of the goods. Raw materials are usually not subject to import duties.

Imports are subject to EU customs regulations and tariff rates, plus VAT and other charges levied at entry through customs.


The Netherlands has favorable tax structures for investors, which has made the country one of the top recipients of foreign direct investment in the European Union. The Netherlands has consistently been ranked as one of the most attractive destinations for FDI in the world, ranking sixth among the ten largest foreign investors in the world, as well as the sixth-largest global recipient of FDI (2004). The government has encouraged foreign corporations to set up branch plants in the Netherlands and to establish joint ventures with Dutch companies in order to benefit from the introduction of new production techniques and improved methods of management that outside firms often bring. The government does not discriminate between foreign and domestic companies; foreign entrepreneurs have the same business privileges and obligations as Dutch businessmen and women. As a result, foreign companies operate in virtually all industries, including high-technology electronics, chemicals, metals, electrical equipment, textiles, and food processing. The labor force is largely well-educated and multilingual.

The corporation tax is 34.5%, but the corporate taxation regime is expected to be reformed in 200607. The Corporation Tax Act provides for a participation exemption, applicable to both foreign and domestic shareholdings, thus preventing double taxation when the profits of a subsidiary are distributed to its parent company. Although income taxes were lowered in 2001, the basic rate of the value-added tax was raised from 17.5% to 19%.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows were $11 billion in 1997, down from $16.6 billion in 1996, but then soared to $37.6 billion in 1998. The peak was reached in 2000 and 2001, when total inflows reached $52 billion and $50 billion, respectively. However, in 2002, FDI inflow fell to an estimated $30 billion, and to $19.3 billion in 2003. By 2004, the total stock of FDI had reached $387 billion, about 75% of GDP.

Overall, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, and France are the primary sources of and destinations for FDI with the Netherlands.

Foreign companies established in the Netherlands account for roughly one-third of industrial production and employment in industry. At the end of 2004, an estimated 31.5% of foreign establishments in the Netherlands came from the United States, 19.5% from Germany, 14% from the United Kingdom, 7% from Scandinavia, 17% from the rest of Europe, 9% from Asia, and the remaining 2% from other non-OECD and non-EU countries.


For nearly four decades after World War II Dutch governments aimed at increased industrialization. During the 1990s, however, industrial growth slowed, while the service sector continued to expand. In this regard, the Netherlands has made the transition to a more liberalized high technology economy quite successfully.

In an effort to encourage industrialization after the Second World War, the maintenance of internal monetary equilibrium was vitally important, and the government has largely succeeded in this task. Successive governments pursued a policy of easy credits and a "soft" currency, but after the Netherlands had fully recovered from the war by the mid-1950s, a harder currency and credit policy came into effect. In the social sphere, stable relationships were maintained by a deliberate governmental social policy seeking to bridge major differences between management and labor. The organized collaboration of workers and employers in the Labor Foundation has contributed in no small measure to the success of this policy, and as a result, strikes are rare.

Successive wage increases helped bring the overall wage level in the Netherlands up to that of other EC countries by 1968. The Dutch government's policy, meanwhile, was directed toward controlling inflation while seeking to maintain high employment. In 1966, the government raised indirect taxes to help finance rising expenditures, particularly in the fields of education, public transportation, and public health. Further attempts to cope with inflation and other economic problems involved increased government control over the economy. Wage and price controls were imposed in 197071, and the States-General approved a measure granting the government power to control wages, rents, dividends, health and insurance costs, and job layoffs during 1974.

During the mid-1980s, the nation experienced modest recovery from recession; the government's goal was to expand recovery and reduce high unemployment, while cutting down the size of the annual budget deficit. The government generally sought to foster a climate favorable to private industrial investment through such measures as preparing industrial sites, subsidizing or permitting allowances for industrial construction and equipment, assisting in the creation of new markets, granting subsidies for establishing industries in distressed areas, and establishing schools for adult training. In 1978, the government began, by means of a selective investment levy, to discourage investment in the western region (Randstad), while encouraging industrial development in the southern province of Limburg and the northern provinces of Drenthe, Friesland, and Groningen.

The Netherlands' largest economic development projects have involved the reclamation of land from the sea by construction of dikes and dams and by the drainage of lakes to create polders for additional agricultural land. The Zuider Zee project closed off the sea and created the freshwater Ijsselmeer by means of a 30 km (19 mi) barrier dam in 1932, and subsequently drained four polders enclosing about 165,000 hectares (408,000 acres). After a storm washed away dikes on islands in Zeeland and South Holland in 1953, killing some 1,800 people, the Delta project was begun. Th is project, designed to close estuaries between the islands with massive dams, was officially inaugurated in 1986; the cost was $2.4 billion. The Delta works include a storm-surge barrier with 62 steel gates, each weighing 500 tons that are usually left open to allow normal tidal flow in order to protect the natural environment. Another major engineering project was construction of a bridge and tunnel across the Western Schelde estuary in the south to connect Zeeland Flanders more directly with the rest of the country.

Beginning in the 1980s, Dutch governments began stressing fiscal discipline by reversing the growth of the welfare state and ending a policy of inflation-based wage indexing. The latter policy represented a spirit of consensus among labor and management. At a time when other labor unions fought losing battles with management, Dutch unions agreed to a compromise on this cherished issue in return for a business promise to emphasize job creation. By the late 1990s, these reforms had paid off as Dutch unemployment plummeted to below 5%. As of the early 2000s, the Netherlands had among the lowest unemployment rates in the industrialized world. As of 2005, the Dutch economy was being heralded around the world for its combination of strong employment growth, low inflation, falling public budget deficits, low inequality, and strong social welfare policies.

In January 2004, the government launched its Innovation Partnerships Grant Program, to promote cooperation in research and development. The program encourages businesses and public-sector knowledge institutes to study and launch national and international partnerships. Some 5,000 Dutch companies are conducting research to develop new products and to boost quality and efficiency. The country's five largest multinationalsPhilips, Shell, Akzo Nobel, DSM, and Unileverare at the forefront of industrial research and development.

The Netherlands' commitment to the project of further European integration, however, was stalled in 2005, when on 1 June Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution by a wide margin (62% to 38%). This vote followed directly upon the heels of the French rejection of the constitution. Many Dutch "no" voters, however, said they were pro-European, but feared that small countries were losing influence in an EU dominated by larger ones. The Dutch treasure their sound money and liberal social policies, and do not want to see these eroded.


A widespread system of social insurance and assistance is in effect. The first laws were implemented in 1901. All residents are provided with old-age and survivorship benefits. Disability pensions are available to all employees, self-employed workers, students, and those disabled since childhood. Unemployment, accidents, illness, and disability are covered by insurance, which is compulsory for most employees and voluntary for self-employed persons. Maternity grants and full insurance for the worker's family are also provided, as are family allowances for children. The government covers the total cost for family allowances. Women receive one month of maternity leave with full pay. Exceptional medical expenses are covered for all residents.

Legislation mandates equal pay for equal work and prohibits dismissal due to marriage, pregnancy, or motherhood. However, cultural factors and lack of day care discourages women from employment. Many women work in part-time positions and are underemployed, and on average women earn less than men. Sexual harassment in the workplace is an issue, and in 2004, the government funded an awareness campaign to combat the problem. Domestic violence is an issue, especially among ethnic minorities. The government provides programs to reduce and prevent violence against women.

Human rights are fully respected in the Netherlands. There were incidents of discrimination against religious minorities and some immigrant groups.


The Netherlands has a social insurance system similar to Germany's. About two-thirds of workers are covered by the social insurance program; the remainder are covered by private insurance. Under the Health Insurance Act, everyone with earned income of less than 50,900 guilders per year pays a monthly contribution in return for which they receive medical, pharmaceutical, and dental treatment and hospitalization. People who earn more than this have to take out private medical insurance. The state also pays for preventive medicine including vaccinations for children, school dental services, medical research, and the training of health workers. Preventive care emphasizes education, a clean environment, and regular exams and screenings. As of 2004, there were an estimated 329 physicians, 1,334 nurses, 47 dentists and 20 pharmacists per 100,000 people.

The general health situation has been excellent over a long period, as is shown by an estimated general mortality rate of 8.7 per 1,000 as of 2002 and an infant mortality of only 5.04 per 1,000 live births in 2005, down markedly from the 12.7 rate in 1970. The maternal mortality rate was 7 per 100,000 live births. These low rates are attributed to a rise in the standard of living; improvements in nutrition, hygiene, housing, and working conditions; and the expansion of public health measures. In 2005, average life expectancy was 78.81 years.

Most doctors and hospitals operate privately. A system of hospital budgeting, which was introduced in 1983, has helped contain costs. In 1990, a proposal to increase competition among insurers, eliminating the distinction between public and private insurers, was developed. A reference price systemto control pharmaceuticals especiallywas introduced in 1991. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 8.7% of GDP.

The Ministry of Public Health and Environment is entrusted with matters relating to health care, but health services are not centrally organized. There are numerous local and regional health centers and hospitals, many of which are maintained by religious groups.

In 2002, the estimated birth rate was 11.6 per 1,000 people; 75% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The total fertility rate was 1.7 children for each woman living throughout childbearing years. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 95%; polio, 97%; and measles, 96%.

Major causes of death were attributed to cardiovascular problems and cancer. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 19,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


During World War II, more than 25% of the nation's two million dwellings were damaged: 95,000 dwellings were completely destroyed, 55,000 were seriously damaged, and 520,000 were slightly damaged. The housing shortage remained acute until 1950, when an accelerated program of housing construction began, and in 1953 the government decided to increase the house-building program to a level of 65,000 dwellings a year. Since then, the production rate has far exceeded both the prewar rate and yearly forecasts. From 1945 to 1985, nearly four million dwellings were built. In 1985 alone, 98,131 dwellings were built, bringing the total housing stock to 5,384,100 units by the end of the year. Most of the new units were subsidized by the national government. Subsidies are granted to municipalities, building societies, and housing associations, which generally build low-income multiple dwellings. Government regulations, which are considerable, are laid down in the Housing Act of 1965 and the Rental Act of 1979.

The government determines on an annual basis the scope of the construction program. On the basis of national estimates, each municipality is allocated a permissible volume of construction. Within this allocation, the municipalities must follow certain guidelines; central government approval is required for all construction projects exceeding a specific cost. All construction must conform to technical and aesthetic requirements, as established by the government.

In 2005, the number of dwellings was at about 6,861, with an average of 2.3 residents per dwelling. The number of residents per dwelling has nearly halved since WWII. Approximately 71,609 new dwellings were constructed in 2004. About 76% of the dwellings built in 2004 were owner occupied.


The present Dutch education system has its origins in the Batavian Republic which was constituted after the French Revolution. The role of education gained importance in the Civil and Constitutional Regulations of 1789, and the first legislation on education was passed in 1801. After 1848, the municipalities, supported by state funds, were responsible for managing the schools. Private schools were not originally supported by the government. However, after 1917, private and state schools received equal state funding.

School attendance between the ages of 5 and 18 is compulsory. Apart from play groups and crèches (which do not come under the Ministry of Education), there are no schools for children below the age of four. Children may, however, attend primary school from the age of four. Primary school covers eight years of study. Secondary school is comprised of three types: (1) general secondary school, with two options, the four-year junior general secondary school (MAVO) and the five-year senior general secondary school (HAVO); (2) preuniversitythe athenaeum or the gymnasiumboth lasting for six years in preparation for university education; and (3) vocational secondary schools with four-year programs. Special education is provided to children with physical, mental, or social disabilities at special primary and secondary schools. Whenever possible, these children are later transferred into mainstream schools for continued education. The academic year runs from September to June.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 99% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 89% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 98.4% of all students complete their primary education. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 68.7% of primary school enrollment and 83.3% of secondary enrollment.

Facilities have been opened in various municipalities for adult education. Open schools and open universities have also been introduced. Vocational and university education is provided at the eight universities and five institutes (Hogescholen), which are equivalent to universities. These are funded entirely by the government. There are also seven theological colleges. In 2003, about 58% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2000 was estimated at about 99%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.1% of GDP, or 10.7% of total government expenditures.


The largest public library is the Royal Library at The Hague, which has about 2.2 million volumes; this also serves as the national library. Outstanding libraries are found in the universities: Amsterdam, with over 2.6 million volumes; Leiden, 2.7 million volumes; Utrecht, two million volumes; Groningen, 2.7 million volumes; and Erasmus of Rotterdam, 800,000 volumes. The technical universities at Delft, Wageningen, and Tilburg also have excellent collections. Libraries of importance are found in some provincial capitals, such as Hertogenbosch, Leeuwarden, Middelburg, and Maastricht. Also noteworthy are the International Institute of Social History at Amsterdam, which houses important collections of historical letters and documents, such as the Marx-Engels Archives; and the Institute of the Netherlands Economic-Historical Archive, which has its library in Amsterdam and its collection of old trade archives at the Hague. There are about 500 public libraries across the country. The Netherlands Public Library Association was founded in 1972.

Among Amsterdam's many museums, particularly outstanding are the Rijksmuseum (1800), the Stedelijk Museum (1895) with special collections of modern art, the Van Gogh Museum (1979), the Museum of the Royal Tropical Institute (1910), and the Jewish Historical Museum (1932). Among Amsterdam's newest museums are the Huis Marseille (1999), which has historic and modern photography exhibits, the hands-on New Metropolis Interactive Science and Technology Museum (1997), and the Tattso Museum (1996). The BoymansVan Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam has older paintings as well as modern works and a fine collection of minor arts. The Hague's Mauritshuis and the Frans Hals Museum at Haarlem have world-renowned collections of old masters. Other collections of national interest are in the Central Museum in Utrecht, the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, Teyler's Museum in Haarlem, and the Folklore Museum in Arnhem. In the past, the most important art museums were found mainly in the large population centers of western Holland, but there are now museums of interest in such provincial capitals as Groningen, Leeuwarden, Arnhem, and Maastricht. The government stimulates the spread of artistic culture by providing art objects on loan and by granting subsidies to a number of privately owned museums. There are dozens of museums dedicated to the work of individual Dutch artists.


The post office, telegraph, and telephone systems are operated by the government. The state's monopoly on postal services is confined to delivery of letters and postcards; about half of other deliveries are handled by private firms. Significant improvements in the phone systems began in 2001 through the introduction of the third generation of the Global System for Mobile Communications. In 2003, there were an estimated 614 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 768 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

There are several radio networks. The Netherlands Broadcasting Foundation, a joint foundation, maintains and makes available all studios, technical equipment, record and music libraries, orchestras, and other facilities. Broadcasting to other countries is carried on by the Netherlands World Broadcasting Service, which is managed by a board of governors appointed by the minister of cultural affairs. As of 2004 there were 4 AM and 246 FM stations. There were also about 21 television stations. Shortwave programs are transmitted in Dutch, Afrikaans, Arabic, English, French, Indonesian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Annual license fees are charged to radio and television set owners. Commercial advertising was introduced in 196768 and limited to fixed times before and after news broadcasts. In 2003, there were an estimated 980 radios and 648 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 401.4 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 466.6 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 522 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 3,779 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The Dutch were among the first to issue regular daily newspapers. The oldest newspaper, the Oprechte Haarlemsche Courant, was founded in 1656 and is published today as the Haarlemsche Courant. The Dutch press is largely a subscription press, depending for two-thirds of its income on advertising. Editorial boards, however, are usually completely independent of the commercial management.

In 2004, the largest national and regional newspapers, with daily circulations, were: De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), 776,000; De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), 323,000; Algemeen Dagblad (Amsterdan), 303,000; NRC Handelsblad (Rotterdam), 262,000; De Gelderlander (Gelderland), 193,000; Dagblad van het Noorden (Groningen), 173,000; Apeldoornse Courant (Apeldoorn), 159,000; Noordhollands Dagblad (Alkmaar), 155,000; Brabants Dagblad (North Brabant), 153,300; De Stem (Breda), 140,000; Dagblad Tubantia (Enschede), 136,000; Haagsche Courant (The Hague), 117,000; and Trouw (Amsterdam), 117,000.

Complete freedom of speech and press is guaranteed by the constitution, and the government is said to fully support free expression in practice.


Associations established on the basis of economic interests include the Federation of Netherlands Industries, the Netherlands Society for the Promotion of Industry and Commerce, the Federation of Christian Employers in the Netherlands, the National Bankers Association, and chambers of commerce in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and other cities.

Learned societies include the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Antiquarian Society, the Netherlands Anthropological Society, the Historical Association, the Royal Netherlands Geographical Society, and similar bodies in the fields of botany, zoology, philology, mathematics, chemistry, and other sciences. The Royal Netherlands Association for the Advancement of Medicine, the General Netherlands Society for Social Medicine and Public Health, the Royal Dutch Medical Association, and the Netherlands Association for Psychiatry and Neurology are some of the organizations active in the field of medicine. The International Statistical Institute is based in the Netherlands. The International Esperanto Institute and the International Montessori Association are also located in the country.

In the arts, there are such groupings as the Society for the Preservation of Cultural and Natural Beauty in the Netherlands, the Society of Netherlands Literature, the St. Luke Association, the Society for the Advancement of Music, the Royal Netherlands Association of Musicians, Holland Society of Arts and Sciences, and national societies of painters, sculptors, and architects. The Netherlands Center of the International Association of Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists (PEN), the Netherlands Branch of the International Law Association, and the Netherlands Foundation for International Cooperation are among the organizations active internationally in their fields.

National youth organizations include the Evangelical Students of the Netherlands, Dutch United Nations Student Association, Junior Chamber, Youth Organization for Freedom and Democracy, The Netherlands Scouting Association, and YMCA/YWCA. There are numerous sports associations for all ages. The Netherlands is home to the International Korfball Federation. Women's organizations include Netherlands Association for Women's Interests, Women's Work and Equal Citizenship and the Netherlands Council of Women.

International organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, Greenpeace International, Habitat for Humanity, and the Red Cross.


Travel in the Netherlands by public railway, bus, and inland-waterway boat service is frequent and efficient. Principal tourist attractions include the great cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague, with their famous monuments and museums, particularly the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; the flower gardens and bulb fields of the countryside; and North Sea beach resorts. Modern hotels and large conference halls in the large cities are the sites of numerous international congresses, trade shows, and other exhibitions.

Recreational opportunities include theaters, music halls, opera houses, cinemas, zoos, and amusement parks. Popular sports include football (soccer), swimming, cycling, sailing, and hockey. Foreign visitors need only a valid passport for stays of up to 90 days. Proof of sufficient funds, health insurance coverage, return/onward ticket, and lodging reservations may be required upon arrival. Within eight days of arrival, visitors staying long term must register with the local police

In 2003, approximately 6,930,500 tourists visited the Netherlands, of whom 22% were from the United Kingdom. There were 88,146 hotel rooms with 180,158 beds and an occupancy rate of 43%. Travelers stayed an average of two nights. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $11.7 billion in 2002.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Amsterdam at $328; the Hague, $258; and in Rotterdam, $339.


The Imitation of Christ, usually attributed to the German Thomas à Kempis, is sometimes credited to the Dutch Gerhard Groote (134084); written in Latin, it has gone through more than 6,000 editions in about 100 languages. Outstanding Dutch humanists were Wessel Gansfort (1420?89), precursor of the Reformation; Rodolphus Agricola (Roelof Huysman, 144385); and the greatest of Renaissance humanists, Desiderius Erasmus (Gerhard Gerhards, 1466?1536). Baruch (Benedict de) Spinoza (163277), the influential pantheistic philosopher, was born in Amsterdam.

The composers Jacob Obrecht (14531505) and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (15621621) were renowned throughout Europe; later composers of more local importance were Julius Röntgen (18551932), Alfons Diepenbrock (18621921), and Cornelis Dopper (18701939). Bernard van Dieren (18871936), a composer of highly complex music of distinct individuality, settled in London. Henk Badings (b.Bandung, Java, 190787) was a prolific composer of international repute. Outstanding conductors of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra include Willem Mengelberg (18711951), Eduard van Beinum (190159), and Bernard Haitink (b.1929), who also was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1967 to 1979, music director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, from 19872002, and principal conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle from 2002.

Hieronymus Bosch van Aken (1450?1516) was a famous painter. Dutch painting reached its greatest heights in the 17th century, when Rembrandt van Rijn (160669) and Jan Vermeer (163275) painted their masterpieces. Other great painters of the period were Frans Hals (15801666), Jan Steen (162669), Jacob van Ruisdael (162882), and Meindert Hobbema (16381709). Two more recent painters, Vincent van Gogh (185390) and Piet Mondrian (18721944), represent two widely divergent artistic styles and attitudes. Maurits C. Escher (18981972) was a skilled and imaginative graphic artist.

Hugo Grotius (Huig de Groot, 15831645), who is often regarded as the founder of international law, is famous for his great book, On the Law of War and Peace. The outstanding figure in Dutch literature was Joost van den Vondel (15871679), poet and playwright. Another noted poet and playwright was Constantijn Huygens (15961687), father of the scientist Christian. Popular for several centuries were the poems of Jacob Cats (15771660). Distinguished historians include Johan Huizinga (18721945) and Pieter Geyl (18871966). Anne Frank (b.Germany, 192945) became the most famous victim of the Holocaust with the publication of the diary and other material that she had written while hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam.

Jan Pieterszoon Coen (15871630), greatest of Dutch empire builders, founded the city of Batavia in the Malay Archipelago (now Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia). Two Dutch naval heroes, Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (15971653) and Michel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter (160776), led the Dutch nation in triumphs in sea wars with France, England, and Sweden. Peter Minuit (Minnewit, 15801638) founded the colonies of New Amsterdam (now New York City) and New Sweden (now Delaware). Peter Stuyvesant (15921672) took over New Sweden from the Swedish and lost New Netherland (now New York State) to the British.

Leading scientists include the mathematician Simon Stevinus (15481620); Christian Huygens (162995), mathematician, physicist, and astronomer; Anton van Leeuwenhoek (16321723), developer of the microscope; Jan Swammerdam (163780), authority on insects; and Hermann Boerhaave (16681738), physician, botanist, and chemist. Among more recent scientists are a group of Nobel Prize winners: Johannes Diderik van der Waals (18371923), authority on gases and fluids, who received the award for physics in 1910; Jacobus Hendricus van 't Hoff (18521911), chemistry, 1901; Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (18531928) and Pieter Zeeman (18651943), who shared the 1902 award for physics; Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (18531926), physics, 1913; Willem Einthoven (18601927), physiology, 1924; Christiaan Eijkman (18581930), physiology, 1929; Petrus Josephus Wilhelmus Debye (18841966), chemistry, 1936; Frits Zernike (18881966), physics, 1953; Jan Tinbergen (190394), economic science, 1969; Dutch-born Tjalling Koopmans (191085), who shared the 1975 prize for economic science; Simon van der Meer (b.1925), cowinner of the physics prize in 1984; Paul J. Crutzen (b.1933), who shared the 1995 chemistry prize; and Gerardus 't Hooft (b.1946) and Martinus J.G. Veltman (b.1931), who shared the 1999 physics prize. The 1911 Nobel Prize for peace was awarded to Tobias Michael Carel Asser (18381913).

The head of state since 1980 has been Queen Beatrix (b.1938).


Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; descriptions of them are given in the volume on the Americas under Netherlands American Dependencies.


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The Netherlands


Kingdom of the Netherlands

Major Cities:
The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Haarlem, Leiden, Maastricht, Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen

Other Cities:
Alkmaar, Amersfoort, Apeldoorn, Arnhem, Breda, Bussum, Delft, Dordrecht, Enschede, Gouda, s'Hertogenbosch, Kinderdijk, Schiedam, Tilburg, Zaanstad, Zwolle


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for The Netherlands. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


In 1782, while posted to the Netherlands, John Adams wrote: "I love the People where I am. They have Faults but they have deep Wisdom and great Virtues and they love America and will be her everlasting Friend." He was negotiating recognition for the U.S., financial support for the Revolution, and a bilateral Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The Netherlands was the second country after France-to recognize the U.S. as a sovereign-independent nation and is our longest continuous diplomatic partner. The two countries share a remarkable common heritage. Exploring the Dutch heritage is one of the pleasures of a posting to the Netherlands. However, the Netherlands is not a country devoted to its past at the expense of its future.

The Dutch are committed to a strong and modern Europe with continuing ties to the Atlantic Alliance. A tour in the Netherlands can mean challenging and interesting work that it puts Europe n on your doorstep. Throughout the Netherlands, more than 700 museums and numerous parks are filled with impressive works of past and contemporary artists. Theater, music, and sports fans will find ample opportunity to pursue their interests. Sightseers will find their pastime pleasant, popular, and inexpensive. Overall, the comfortable living conditions, the nearness of many interesting areas in Western Europe, and the friendliness of the Dutch make the Netherlands a desirable site. Most of the Dutch speak English. What John Adams said in 1782 about the Dutch loving America remains true.


The Hague

The Hague is the seat of the government, court, and parliament (States General), although Amsterdam is the capital. With more than a half-million inhabitants, The Hague is the country's third largest city. It is attractive, clean, and well maintained with a relaxed-small city type of atmosphere. The city derives its name from the older and longer version, Gravenhage, meaning "The Count's (craven's) Hedge." This hedge surrounded the original hunting lodge of Count Willem II of Holland. After 1248, he erected a stronghold of which the present "Hall of Knights" formed a part. It included the site of the present parliament buildings. These, together with the inner and outer courtyards and the "Hofvijver" (artificial lake), form the medieval heart of the town. A mile away is the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It was completed in 1913 from funds donated principally by the American steel millionaire, Andrew Carnegie. The Hague has no large industries, consequently industrial air pollution is slight. Many U.S. firms, including Exxon, Dow Chemical, Cargill, Sarah Lee/Douwe Egberts, and IBM are represented in The Hague-Rotterdam-Amsterdam area. As a result, the American community numbers in the hundreds. Some 75 foreign missions are also located in The Hague. Scheveningen, an adjacent beach area, attracts many tourists, particularly Germans, during the summer. The area is undergoing a revitalization centered around a renovated century old hotel, The Kurhaus. This fine old hotel has a respected restaurant, and overlooks the sea.


Virtually any food item available in the U.S. can be found in the Netherlands. Supermarkets are popular and widely available in all Dutch cities. Neighborhood stores are small and specialize in certain types of goods. Fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, poultry, and groceries are sold in separate stores. Fresh vegetables and fruits are available in many areas from wagon or truck vendors or in open markets. Local foods are of high quality, and Dutch cheese, canned hams, beer, and chocolate have international reputations. Locally grown fresh vegetables are excellent. As a result of the many greenhouses in the Netherlands, a good selection is available year round and many are also imported.

Standard varieties of fresh fruits are found year round as well, and frozen and canned vegetables and fruits are staples of Dutch life. Beef, pork, lamb, veal, and poultry are readily available. Cuts are different, but some butchers will prepare special cuts according to your specifications. Meat prices are higher than those in the U.S., but good quality eggs, fish, milk, and other dairy products are reasonably priced. Smoked and preserved fish, meats, ham, sausage, and bacon are popular. Coffee in the Netherlands is delicious, but of a different blend than American coffee. Excellent breads and rolls are delivered daily. Canned baby foods are available, though not of the same consistency or wide variety as American brands. Some American baby foods are sold in local stores, but prices are high.

Pets are popular in the Netherlands and there are a wide variety of pet foods.


The climate of the Netherlands requires a basic wardrobe of fall and winter-weight clothing for the entire family. Northern Europe has hot summer days. The winters are damp and cold. Good rain gear is essential and available at reasonable prices on the local market. Local department stores and smaller shops carry a wide and attractive variety of European and American clothing. Fabrics, especially woolens, are of excellent quality. Both clothing and fabrics, however, are expensive. Suits for both men and women can be made to order but are expensive. The military exchange at Schinnen is better priced but carries a limited variety and supply of clothing and shoes. The quality runs from average to poor. Often basic items are not in stock. The exchange does offer a tailoring concessionaire that makes good suits for both men and women at reasonable prices.

Men: The Dutch tend to dress informally for work and recreation, but the usual attire for informal dinner parties, unless otherwise stated, is a business suit.

Women: Because of the damp-chilly climate, suits are worn most of the year. Dresses or skirts, slacks, and blouses with sweaters are the normal daytime wear. Dressy suits and afternoon and cocktail dresses are worn at informal dinners, luncheons, teas, and receptions. Anything smaller than a women's dress size 10 or shoe size 6 is very difficult to find here. Northern European women are taller than their American counterparts and have wider feet. Since many European streets and sidewalks are paved with bricks or cobblestones, shoes with wider heels are more comfortable and safer.

Children: Good children's clothing is available locally though not always in American-preferred styles or colors and at slightly higher prices. Jeans and running shoes are usually available at the military exchange. Mail order catalog buying is satisfactory.

Supplies and Services

Most household supplies, toiletries, cosmetics, home medicines, liquor, and tobacco products can be found locally.

Shoe repair, drycleaning, laundry, and automobile and electronic repair vary in quality but are good. Barbers and beauty shops are comparable in price and quality to American ones. Dry-cleaning is expensive.

Domestic Help

Highly trained and specialized servants, such as cooks and butlers, are in short supply. However, with persistence, it is possible to find satisfactory domestic help. Because of high demand and limited supply, domestic help is expensive. If a servant is employed by a family for three or more days a week, the employer must buy Dutch health insurance for the employee. Extra help for entertaining is available, but not easy to find.

Religious Activities

English language services are held in many places of worship in The Hague, including the American Protestant Church, the International Roman Catholic Parish of The Hague, the Church of the Latter-day Saints, St. John and St. Philip Episcopal Church and the Liberal Jewish Congregation. Some churches outside the Hague include St. James Anglican Church in Voorschoten, Trinity International Church in Wassenaar, and Scots International Church in Rotterdam. Many of the churches have active youth and women's groups, and religious education is offered by some. The American Protestant Church offers youngsters a summer school.


The American School of The Hague (ASH) offers a complete elementary, middle, and high school program headed by American principals. The school is a large modern airy structure located in the elegant suburb of Wassenaar, one of the loveliest areas of Greater The Hague. The American School of The Hague contains fully equipped classrooms, science laboratories, gyms, a theater, and playing fields. With the exception of native foreign language instructors, the faculty is almost entirely American trained and recruited from American school systems. Students are fairly evenly divided between Americans and non-Americans with a slight tilt towards non-Americans. Average class size is 15 students.

Kindergarten or its equivalent is a prerequisite for entering first grade. The school is divided into three segments: kindergarten and grades 1 through 4 (elementary school); grades 5 through 8 (middle school); and grades 9 through 12 (high school). In the high school, a minimum schedule of six subjects is required each year. Required subjects include a full college preparatory program in English, history, and social studies, mathematics, science, foreign language, health, and physical education.

The high school curriculum includes: English 14, Basic English, English as a Foreign Language, Journalism, French 15, Spanish 14, conversational Dutch, German 13, Latin, a full sequence of mathematics including calculus; Earth science, basic and general biology, chemistry, and physics; ancient and medieval history, modern European history, U.S. history, intellectual history, humanities, government, and economics; art, mechanical drawing, drama, photography, crafts, chorus, jazz band, concert band, instrumental lessons, typing, business education, and health and physical education. More than 10 advanced placement classes are offered. Honors classes are available in most subjects.

The school is a testing center for the College Board and administers the following tests: Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), and Advanced Placement (AP) examinations for which university credit may be granted. The high school program permits its graduates to compete academically with students graduating from better schools in the U.S. The high school students consistently score higher on the SAT exams than the U.S. national average and have been accepted, upon graduation, at many universities in the U.S. including the Ivy League. Approximately 95 percent each year go on to higher education with the majority attending 4-year universities worldwide.

The American School of The Hague does provide limited services for students with learning disabilities, but students who cannot be mainstreamed in a regular classroom for at least 75% of the day will not be accepted. Wheelchairs can be accommodated in the current facilities. Parents whose children have learning or physical disabilities should provide full information to the school early so that an admission decision can be made. Computer skills are taught beginning in kindergarten. The nursery program is patterned after those found in private U.S. nursery schools. The session is a half-day and the size of the group is limited. To enroll, the child must be at least 3 years old. Only 1 year of kindergarten is reimbursable per child under U.S. Government education allowances. Bus transportation to and from school is available to all students.

Special Educational Opportunities

Some limited opportunities for university level education exist in The Hague area. In Leiden, a 10 minute train ride from The Hague, Webster University of Webster Groves, Missouri, has established one of its extended campuses. Fully accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, it offers B.A., M.A., and M.B.A. degrees. The emphasis is on business. An M.B.A. is also offered by Erasmus University in Rotterdam, an arm of the University of Rochester.

Adults wishing to attend courses at Dutch universities, or to enroll as matriculating students, will need a good command of Dutch besides the necessary educational preparation. Other types of adult education are available in The Hague. Day and evening art classes are offered at the Vrije Academic, where beginners are accepted by interview with the academy's director. Other institutions are also available for art students.

Occasionally, the American School of The Hague offers evening courses in such subjects as European culture, calligraphy, computer skills, art, and languages. Instruction in most sports as well as gymnastics and all kinds of dance is available to both adults and children. A Dutch music conservatory, which is located in The Hague, houses a youth orchestra and provides good musical instruction for both adults and children.


The Dutch are great lovers of sports, and nearly every Dutch family belongs to one sports club or another. Clubs usually focus on a single sport, but multisport clubs-where soccer, field hockey, racket sports and even golf are played-do exist. Part of each weekend is spent at the club playing, watching, or socializing. Sports are not part of the normal Dutch school curriculum so clubs are important to the Dutch youngster, and sports fields are busy every afternoon after school. These clubs are open to foreigners, and some American children play in Dutch leagues.

American youngsters participate in sports organized by the American School and the American Baseball Foundation. The school offers intramural or interscholastic soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, track and field cross-country, and volleyball to older children. The American Baseball Foundation offers opportunities for younger children and adults to participate in baseball, basketball, soccer, and flag football programs. The Foundation, a private organization with clubhouse and playing fields in the Wassenaar area, concentrates its efforts on providing practically the same extracurricular athletic environment that exists in the U.S. Its programs are well organized and an integral feature of American community life. The Foundation also offers fields for adult sports. A softball league and organized volleyball exist.

Racket sports are popular in the Netherlands. Outdoor tennis courts are inexpensive, and several reasonably priced indoor tennis facilities exist. The city has adequate facilities for badminton but limited ones for squash. Racquetball also is played in a suburban indoor tennis center.

For golfers, the closest course is The Hague Country Club in Wassenaar, where a courtesy membership is available to Ambassadors. Private courses are expensive in the Netherlands, although open to all golfers with official handicaps. At least two public courses, with reasonable green fees are within an hour's drive of The Hague. Golfers should bring equipment to the Netherlands with them, since golf equipment is expensive.

Scheveningen has an 18-lane, duck-pin bowling alley with automatic pin setters. Rental shoes are available. If you have a bowling ball, bring it, since alley balls can be worn and chipped. An active bowling league exists. Cycling is a popular sport in the Netherlands, as are wind surfing and running. The land is flat, making cycling and running pleasant, and wind is always available for the surfer. An indoor/outdoor ice skating rink is open in The Hague from October to March, and inexpensive lessons can be arranged. Canals are seldom frozen long enough for much outdoor skating. Locally made and imported ice skates are available.

Several attractive and well-maintained public beaches are within reach. They are seldom used for swimming due to cool summer temperatures and treacherous currents but are covered from Easter to Labor Day with Northern Europeans in search of the sun. For serious swimming, large public and private indoor pools that also offer swimming lessons at moderate prices are available. The public pools are affordable, have large indoor swim areas for both children and adults. Fishing is popular here and licenses are easy to obtain.

Local stores sell good sports equipment, including tennis shoes. Roller skates, scooters, and bicycles for adults and children, as well as many attractive toys for children of all ages, are available. Sporting goods are more expensive than in the U.S.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Sightseeing in the Netherlands is a pleasant, popular, and inexpensive pastime on foot, or by car, bicycle, bus, or train. Separate bicycle lanes are provided in many areas and add to the safety and enjoyment of this type of touring. Bicycle lanes often run parallel and adjacent to the sidewalk. Be wary of inadvertently walking in bicycle territory. Since this is a small country, most points of interest are easily reached.

For a major change of scenery, you must travel to the southeastern part of Holland or to a neighboring country, since the Netherlands' topography is flat or only slightly rolling. Short trips can easily be taken to nearby beaches, lakes, dunes, and woods. The many lakes, canals, and rivers provide ample opportunity for sailing and motor-boating. You can rent sailboats, rowboats, and canoes at various places on the banks of these waterways. Boating and sailing are popular sports and membership in one of the numerous yacht clubs can be arranged easily. Since the climate is healthy, little need arises to seek relief except to escape the monotony of the cloudy and rainy winter months.


The Hague is one of the quieter seats of government in Europe, but many possibilities for entertainment exist. And if The Hague seems lacking in excitement, Amsterdam is only an hour away. Many excellent theater, concert, opera, and dance companies perform regularly in The Hague. The Residentie 2 Orkest is the local symphony and offers season tickets and individual concerts in a new concert hall, the Dr. Anton Philipszaal, opened in 1988. The acoustics are excellent. A new dance theater, Lucent Danstheater, opened at the same time as the concert hall, where excellent Dutch and visiting dance troupes perform regularly.

Theaters, notably the Circus Theater, host many musical productions, often from England or the U.S. The Anglo-American Theater Group, a community theater company, is active, always welcomes new members, and produces shows of high quality. Tickets for the theater, operas, concerts, and other events are a little cheaper than in the U.S. and are available only a few days before a performance. When special attractions are offered, such as the Holland Festival with all its theater, music, and dance, or the North Sea Jazz Festival, both early summer events, advance reservations are essential. A number of movie theaters exist in The Hague, and movies are presented in the original language, with Dutch subtitles. American movies are popular and arrive in The Hague only a few months after their American openings.

Many restaurants of all kinds are found in The Hague. Especially popular are Indonesian restaurants that feature "rice tables," meals consisting of many courses of spicy meat and vegetables. Places serving national specialties, such as pea soup and pancakes, are also popular. Meals in hotels and restaurants are the same price range as in the U.S. Wines are more expensive. Good beer and locally produced spirits are available at every bar and restaurant.

Four events in The Hague are of special interest: the colorful ceremony opening parliament on the third Tuesday of September, celebration of the Queen's birthday on April 30, the ceremony opening the herring fishing season at Scheveningen in late May, and the arrival of Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas at the harbor in November. Besides movies, the boardwalk at Scheveningen with lots of activities, a video arcade, zoos nearby in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and amusement parks in Wassenaar and Rijswijk are fun diversions. Children's theater, a puppet museum, and the Omniversum, Europe's first space theater, also are of special interest to youngsters.

Social Activities

Social life in The Hague is much the same as social life in the U.S. People entertain in their homes, go out to dinner, play sports and card games, or go to the movies with friends. Friends are developed through people met in the office, at church, in the neighborhood, through your children, and through other friends. A number of clubs of various sorts offer another channel for meeting people. Women can join the American Women's Club of The Hague, whose membership is open to all American women living in the Netherlands. Meetings are held monthly and the club is active in local philanthropic work. It also offers excellent opportunities to travel within Holland and Europe.

The International Women's Contact Group, which started in 1979, is also active and is, as the name implies, international, offering American women the opportunity to meet Dutch women and women of other embassies.

For children, the activities of the American Baseball Foundation, the churches, schools, and scout troops give structure to afterschool time.

Getting to know the Dutch is one of the pleasures of a the Netherlands, but this requires positive effort. The Dutch are devoted to their families and to the friends they have known over many years, and are unlikely to search for friends among the foreign community. They are friendly, however, and speak excellent English, so getting acquainted is straightforward. Entertaining is mainly done at home, and dinner parties are always popular.

Among the Dutch, it is proper and customary to invite guests for after-dinner coffee or for coffee and dessert. The Dutch entertain and enjoy being entertained chiefly on week-nights, preferring to devote the weekend to their families.


Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is one of the most important and culturally rich cities in the world. Located at the junction of the Amstel and IJ rivers at the base of the IJsselmeer, Amsterdam is the country's leading financial and commercial center and the city closest to Schiphol, one of Europe's busiest airports.

The earliest recorded date in Amsterdam's history is 1275, the date of a document granting certain tax exemptions to the city's people. During the later Middle Ages, the city grew in importance. It reached its "Golden Age" in the 17th century as a financial and cultural center of the Western World. Although the 18th and 19th centuries were a period of economic and political retrogression, completion of the North Sea Canal in 1876 favorably reversed this process and restored the city's position as a major seaport. Although many modern buildings can be seen on the outskirts, the center of Amsterdam retains the character of its Golden Age, due to the city's policy of preserving the facades of the stately houses, warehouses, churches, and other fine buildings of that period.

Central Amsterdam's renowned necklace of canals glistens with the beauty of the past, and offers many of the city's finest restaurants and hotels. Just outside of this inner ring stand newer housing areas, including sections such as Olympia Plein, which was built for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. These areas are characterized by pleasing facades, convenient shopping, and general livability. Beyond this, and often close to the highways surrounding the city, stand high-rise structures built to ease the housing demands of the most densely populated land in the world.

Although Amsterdam has many impressive buildings such as the palace, the Stadsschouwburg, the Rijksmuseum, and the Concertgebouw, it has few of the monumental royal and official buildings that mark many other capital cities. Its charm derives from its 17th century bourgeois mercantile and residential buildings, its many canals, and its hundreds of bridges that make Amsterdam a splendid walking or biking city.


The International School of Amsterdam (ISA), founded in 1964, is a private coeducational school. It offers an educational program from toddlers (age 2) through high school. About 40 nationalities are represented among the student body. The school term extends from August to June, and the curriculum is that of U.S. public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Instruction is in English.

The school is housed in a new modern complex with classrooms, gymnasium, theater, library, auditorium, science laboratories, and areas for recreation and sports. The student population varies between 600-700. ISA is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and by the European Council of International Schools. It is located to the south of Amsterdam in Amstelveen, with excellent highway connections to all areas. The school maintains an efficient bus fleet serving many residential areas. Cost of bus service for schoolchildren is not included in the normal tuition.


Sports facilities in Amsterdam for popular U.S. sports are limited. Amsterdam has no public tennis or golf facilities; all are operated commercially or by private clubs. Individual membership in a tennis club confers the right to play daily during the April to October season. Often a long waiting list exists to become a member. For a few hundred dollars a year, you can rent indoor courts from October to April for a designated hour each week. Group instruction and special rates are available for children.

The two modern duckpin bowling alleys in Amsterdam are expensive. The city also has six large indoor swimming pools and six outdoor public pools. All offer group instruction for children.

Sailing and windsurfing are popular at numerous facilities in and around Amsterdam. Soccer is the major national spectator sport. Amsterdam boasts a well known team, Ajax, and has numerous soccer clubs with a full schedule of games from September through June. Foreign boys may be admitted to the amateur clubs. Teams play every Sunday, weather permitting. Members are also expected to attend one or more practice sessions a week, scheduled in the late afternoon or early evening.

Baseball enjoys some popularity and several Dutch amateur clubs in and around Amsterdam accept foreign boys. Games are regularly scheduled on Saturdays. As with soccer, members are expected to attend one practice or training session a week. Clubs also have softball teams for girls. Membership fees for both soccer and baseball teams are nominal, but uniforms must be purchased. Amsterdam has an American-style professional football team, the Admirals. Cycling is a popular pastime and a practical means of transportation; good cycling lanes and paths abound in the city and in nearby parks.


As the cultural and entertainment center of the Netherlands, Amsterdam offers a wide variety of entertainment. An abundance of theaters and concert halls exist in the city. The outstanding Concertgebouw is world famous and season subscriptions are available for a variety of performances, including those by the Nederland Philharmonisch Orkest, Dixieland bands, and chamber music groups.

The newly-opened Stopera is home to the excellent National Ballet and the Dutch Opera company. Art lovers will find a wealth of exhibits among the city'; 42 museums. The most famous are the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, located on the Museumpleit near the American Consulate General For those seeking lighter entertainment the downtown has a variety of nightclub; as well as theaters where American and foreign films are shown.

Social Activities

An American Women's Club is active it Amsterdam. Its main activities include monthly meetings featuring interesting speakers; trips to local towns, museums, and foreign countries; a variety of classes; and coffee get-togethers. It also distributes an informative monthly magazine.


Rotterdam the nation's second largest city, with a metropolitan population of nearly 1.1 million, is 18 miles upstream from where the combined Rhine and Maas (Meuse) Rivers empty into the North Sea. It is about 15 miles from The Hague and 45 miles from Amsterdam. The surrounding countryside is low and flat, with much of the area below sea level. The lowest point in the country, nearly 30 feet below sea level, is in the eastern part of the city.

Little is left of old Rotterdam, which prospered as a major commercial city during the Middle Ages. In May 1940, protected only by the Royal Netherlands Marines Corps, it fell to German invaders and, within hours after capitulation, the city center was demonstratively destroyed by the most intense aerial bombardment known to that time. Therefore, the downtown area is almost entirely new and modern in style. In rebuilding after the war's end, Rotterdam constructed the first pedestrian-only shopping mall in the world.

The rest of the city, built largely in the half-century before World War I, lacks the ancient structures of historical and architectural interest that typify other old Dutch cities. Two of the best examples in that respect, Delft and Gouda, are close by; several other picturesque towns also are in the vicinity.

The burgomaster and city fathers describe Rotterdam as a port with an attached city. Its character and importance derive from its position as the gateway of the water routes to the Ruhr industrial area and southern Germany, to Switzerland, and to eastern France and Belgium. The Port of Rotterdam, the largest in the world in terms of geography (nearly 27.5 miles of river and 25,000 acres of port area) and cargo tonnage (handing 30 percent of the European Union's freight shipped by sea), is sometimes referred to as "the locomotive of the Dutch economy." Indeed, it is in a class by itself, handling nearly 60 percent as much tonnage as any other port anywhere. Over 32,000 seagoing vessels bring goods to Rotterdam each year, and more than 190,000 barges carry most of it on to other destinations.

Life revolves around the port, its man-made waterway (the Nieuwe Waterweg), and industrial appendages. The city is the home port for several major shipping lines, including the Holland-Amerika Line. It is also an important center for a number of American lines such as Lykes, Sea Land, Sea Train, and United States Lines. It is frequently visited by units of the U.S. Navy.

A big share of the tonnage handled is crude oil and refined products, and the port area is the site of the world's largest refinery and petro-chemical complex. The port and its industrial properties are noteworthy not only for their extent, but for the way in which they have been integrated with the environment to preserve adjacent water and recreational areas. Total U.S. industrial investment in the area is estimated at $5.5 billion.

Vast amounts of grains, ores, coal, and most of the Japanese cars bound for dealers in Europe pass through the Port of Rotterdam. The city is continuing to expand port facilities, and new growth is now concentrated on the Maasvlakte, a delta built from reclaimed land at the mouth of the river. Among other projects is a huge new container terminal. The Rotterdam Maritime Museum recently opened on the waterfront, featuring indoor and outdoor exhibits.


The American International School of Rotterdam was founded in 1959. It provides education from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. The school, which follows the American system, emphasizes a core academic curriculum with a variety of supportive courses and an active athletic program. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the European Council of International Schools.

The enrollment has a distinctly international flavor; British, American (a minority), Scandinavian, Japanese, and many other nationalities are represented. Transportation is provided, at extra cost, if requested. Further information may be obtained from American International at Hillegondastraat 21, 3051 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Students in grades nine through 12 usually attend the American School of The Hague.

For adults, an M.B.A. is offered by Erasmus University, an arm of the University of Rochester.


Rotterdam offers more than commercial activity. There are several attractions in and around the city, among them Blijdorp Zoo, where the animals live in a natural environment, and where Rivierahal, Europe's largest covered zoo complex, is located; the gigantic Euro-mast tower; harbor boat tours; Ahoy, a large sports palace and exhibition center; the historic town of Delfshaven (now part of the Rotterdam metropolis, but once the port of Delft); and a variety of shopping promenades and malls.

Sailing, boating, and wind surfing are popular sports in Rotterdam, and bicycle paths are everywhere. The city has 19 public swimming pools, most of them indoors. A few stables exist, and an important European riding competition is held here each August. To play tennis, soccer, field hockey, softball, etc., it is necessary to join a sports club offering the appropriate facilities. A WCT tennis tournament with world stars is held here each year.

The Rotterdam Golf Club, an 18-hole course, was opened a few years ago. A private, nine-hole golf course is also available, where foreigners are welcome to play on a greens-fee basis. Other five-to-nine-hole courses are in the vicinity. There are a couple of American-style bowling alleys in the city.

The World Trade Center Club and the Yacht Club (known as the Maas Club) are popular among Americans. The former is in the heart of the business district, and the latter offers a nice view of the harbor from the main tugboat pier. A social membership at the Maas Club is not expensive, and offers regular duplicate bridge evenings as well as dining facilities.


Movies and television programs are aired in their original languages, with Dutch subtitles. Dutch, Belgian, German, British, and French TV stations broadcast numerous, and fairly recent American and British programs via the widespread cable system.

The city's modern concert hall, the Doelen, is noted for its excellent acoustics, and offers frequent performances of classical and modern symphonic, chamber, and solo music by resident and visiting artists. The Doelen is the home of the outstanding Rotterdam Philharmonic. Chamber and sacred music recitals are held at St. Lawrence Church and at the so-called Pilgrims Church in Delfshaven, where the Pilgrims prayed before setting sail for England and America.

The country has two excellent ballet companies, the Nationale Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, both of which have toured the U.S. They perform often in Rotterdam. There is no repertory opera company, but The Netherlands Opera Foundation annually produces a dozen operas (each in its original language), with guest singers, and tours the nation's principal cities.

Frequent performances are given by well-known pop stars and rock groups. These are usually held at the Ahoy Complex in the south part of the city, which is also the venue of boxing matches, six-day bike races, trade and consumer fairs, circuses, etc. Several legitimate theaters exist, but plays are given only in Dutch.

The American-Netherlands Club of Rotterdam (ANCOR), a women's club whose membership is American, Dutch, and other nationalities, was organized in 1955. It maintains a lending library, has monthly meetings, occasional bridge parties, an annual dinner-dance, and organizes tours of cultural or scenic interest. A local chapter of the International Toastmistress Club also exists.

Many American business representatives belong to the American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands, which has monthly speaker-luncheons, business seminars, a pre-Christmas cocktail party, and other functions. An informal monthly luncheon gathering of younger business representatives is also held.

Rotterdam residents are welcome to join the American Association of The Netherlands, a countrywide social organization centered on the American business community of The Hague area (which includes Rotterdam). This organization sponsors occasional speaker-luncheons, wine tastings, a golf tournament, and an annual charity ball to raise funds for American youth activities. Rotary, Lions, and other civic groups, and Boy and Girl Scouts also have chapters here.

Rotterdam has a wide variety of restaurants. Many serve typical Dutch cuisine but, increasingly, international fare is offered at a number of these, as well as in hotel dining rooms.


Utrecht, a picturesque city characterized by numerous sunken canals, is located in the central part of the Netherlands on the Oude Rijn River, a branch of the Lower Rhine. Situated about 35 miles west of The Hague and 20 miles south of Amsterdam, Utrecht is a transportation, financial, and industrial center that manufactures cement, machinery, processed minerals, food products, and chemicals. The capital of Utrecht province, the city is the site of a major trade fair, and has a population of close to 230,000.

Founded and fortified by the Romans about A.D. 48, Utrecht was made an episcopal see for St. Willibrord, the Apostle to the Frisians, in the seventh century. The area around the city was ruled by bishops of the Holy Roman Empire, which resulted in frequent struggles between the prelates and the merchants of Utrecht. The city received a liberal charter in 1122, but had sporadic trouble with the bishops until 1527.

Utrecht was the center of the Netherlands' weaving industry and a major commercial city in the Middle Ages, and was incorporated by Charles V into the rest of the Hapsburg-held Netherlands. In 1577, Utrecht joined the rebellion against Philip II of Spain. On January 23, 1579, the seven provinces of the North Netherlands, called the United Provinces, formed the nucleus of the Dutch republic, drawing up a common defense in the Union of Utrecht. During the 17th century, Utrecht became a center of Jansenism, the Roman Catholic movement whose purpose was a return of people to greater personal holiness. In 1713, the series of treaties that ended the War of the Spanish Successionthe Peace of Utrechtwere signed here.

Major landmarks in Utrecht, a city rich in antiquities, include the Dom Tower of a 15th-century Catholic cathedral; numerous other medieval churches; and a 350-year-old university. Castle De Harr, near the village of Maarssen (four miles outside of Utrecht) was first built in 1165. The medieval structure is complete with towers, battlements, parapets, a moat and drawbridge. Within can be found Chinese porcelains, Flemish tapestries, and hand-carved fireplace mantles. Zuilen Castle is also nearby.

Utrecht has several museums of interest, including an archiepiscopal museum, the Dutch Railway Museum (featuring steam locomotives and model trains), and the National Museum Van Speelklok tot Pierement, a museum dedicated to musical clocks and street organs.

Schools for Foreigners

The International School Beverweerd is located less than 10 miles from Utrecht in Werkhoven. Founded in 1934, it follows a combined U.S., Dutch, and International Baccalaureate curriculum for grades eight through 13. English is the language of instruction in the International section, although Dutch, French, German, and Spanish may be studied as foreign languages. About 80 percent of the school's graduates go on to attend college.

The school year extends from September through June. International School has a current enrollment of 66, most of whom are Dutch. There is also a planned, seven-day boarding program; about two-thirds of the students are boarders. The campus is situated on 45 acres; facilities include six buildings, 10 classrooms, sports fields, science and computer laboratories, and a 2,500-volume library.

The address of International School Beverweerd is Beverweerdseweg 60, 3985RE Werkhoven, The Netherlands.


Haarlem, situated in the west, on the Spaarne River near the North Sea, is 10 miles west of Amsterdam and 40 miles north of The Hague. The capital of North Holland Province, Haarlem has a population of 150,000, and is an industrial center with shipyards, machinery plants and textile mills. However, Haarlem is best known as a center of an important tulip and flower-growing region, as well as the export point for bulbs, especially tulips. Haarlem's flower market is breathtaking in color and scope. The city is also the site of a monument commemorating the legendary boy of Haarlem who stopped a leak in the dike with his finger.

Chartered as a city in 1245, Haarlem was invaded by the Spanish during the revolt of the Netherlands in 1573. The city was the center of Dutch art during the 15th and 17th centuries; such painters as Frans Hals (1580-1666), Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682), and Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685) worked here.

Haarlem has numerous historic buildings, including the 15th-century Church of St. Bavo, or Groote Kerk, which has a world-renowned organ; the Stadhuis (city hall), previously a palace of the counts of Holland, and constructed in the 13th century; many medieval gabled houses; and several museums, including the Frans Hals Museum and the Teyler Science Museum.


Leiden (sometimes spelled Leyden) lies on the Old Rhine River, just north of The Hague. With a current population of approximately 105,000, Leiden is best known as the site of one of the world's great universities. Founded in 1575 by William the Silent, the University of Leiden is the oldest in the Netherlands. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a center for the study of Protestant theology, classical and oriental languages, science, and medicine. Herman Boerhaave, the famous Dutch physician, taught here. Today, the university is noted for its Asian studies, physics, and astronomy.

The history of Leiden began in Roman times. Since the 16th century, when weavers came here from Flanders, Leiden has had an important textile industry. The city was instrumental in the revolt of the Netherlands against Spanish rule late in the 16th century. In 1574, William the Silent (the founder of Dutch independence) saved Leiden from starvation and surrender during the Spanish siege by cutting the dikes and allowing the surrounding land to flood; this incident is commemorated each year on October 3 with a public distribution of bread and herring.

The city became a printing center in 1580, when a press was established by the Elzevir family. Many of the pilgrims who set sail from England for America in 1620 had lived in Leiden earlier, and Americans often come here as tourists to visit Pieterskerk, where those pilgrims worshiped. Leiden was the birthplace of painters Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan Steen (1626-1679), Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), and Rembrandt (van Rijn) (1607-1669).

Today, Leiden is an important industrial city, manufacturing food products, textiles, and medical equipment. Its historical landmarks include a fortress dating to the 10th century; two churchesthe 14th-century Pieterskerk and the 15th-century Hooglandsche Kerk; many museums; and numerous buildings from the 17th century.


Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands, is the capital of Limburg Province in the southernmost part of the country, near the borders of Belgium and Germany. Situated on the Maas River and the Albert Canal system, the city derives its name from the Latin Trajectum ad Mosam, meaning Maas ford. The name signifies that the river was forded at the site of the city during ancient times. With a population today of more than 114,000, Maastricht is an important industrial center, as well as a rail and river transportation point. Chief manufactured products include steel, textiles, ceramics, paper, glass, printed materials, and chemicals.

Maastricht was an episcopal see from 382 to 721, and the city's Cathedral of St. Servaas (Servatius), founded in the sixth century, is the oldest church in the Netherlands; extensive restoration work is now underway, and all but the treasury of relics is temporarily closed to visitors. In 1284, Maastricht was dominated by the dukes of Brabant and the prince-bishop of Liège, and was a strategic fortress for many years. Because of its location as a border town, it has been subject to frequent sieges in various wars. The Spanish captured it in 1579; the Dutch recovered it in 1632; and it fell to the French several times, notably in 1673 and 1794. Occupied by the Germans in 1940, Maastricht was retaken by Americans on September 15, 1944.

The city has many historic landmarks, including the Romanesque Basilica of Our Gracious Lady, which dates from the 11th and 12th centuries; at night the grotto at the entrance to the church is beautified by candles and shaded lighting, and it is not uncommon to see the enclosure filled with supplicants late in the evening. Other places of historic interest are the 13th-century bridge across the Maas River, separating the old and new sections of the city; the 17th-century town hall; and the recently restored area of twisting, cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings, which had deteriorated into a slum area but is now a charming district of galleries, shops, and good restaurants.

Of particular interest to Americans is the nearby U.S. military cemeterythe only one in the Netherlandswhere 8,301 U.S. soldiers were buried. While some of those GIs were returned to the U.S. for reburial, the 65.5 acres in the Dutch countryside are granted in perpetuity as a token of appreciation by the people of the Netherlands.

Every five years since the end of World War II, a reunion of the veterans of the battle that freed Maastricht and of the later German counterattack known as the Battle of the Bulge (fought a few miles south in Belgium), is held in Maastricht. The 50th anniversary was held in 1994.

There are several museums in Maastricht, among them the Bonnefanten, with collections of ancient and modern art, archaeology, and historical artifacts; the Natural History Museum; the Africa Center; a museum of glass and ceramics; and the Santjes en Kantjes, a museum of devotional objects.

Maastricht has an airport on the motorway at Beek.


Eindhoven, with a population of 191,500, is situated on the Dommel River in the southern Netherlands province of North Brabant. About 65 miles south of Amsterdam, Eindhoven is a rail junction and industrial center that produces electrical and radio apparatus, steel, and textiles.

Chartered in 1232, Eindhoven was a small town for many centuries. The city expanded rapidly after the founding of the Philips Electrical Works in 1891. Eindhoven was taken by Allied troops in September 1944 in a major airborne operation which also involved the cities of Nijmegen and Arnhem. The city has a noted technical university, which opened in 1956.

The Regionale Internationale School, founded in 1965 with an American curriculum, enrolls students from kindergarten through grade six. The address is: Humperdincklaan 4, 5654 PA Eindhoven, The Netherlands.


Groningen is located in northeast Netherlands 90 miles from Amsterdam. It is the capital, and bears the name of the Netherlands' northernmost province, and is the site of a famous university, founded in 1614. An important transportation and trade center, the city produces foodstuffs, furniture, machinery, and clothing. The area is also known for dairy farming and horse breeding.

Groningen, once a Roman camp, came under the power of the bishops of Utrecht in the 11th century, rising to prominence a century later by supplying ships for the Crusades. In 1284, it became part of the medieval commercial confederation of German merchants-the Hanseatic League. Groningen was taken by the Allied forces during World War II in April 1945.

Architecturally interesting, and enhanced by splendid gardens, Groningen is a picturesque city with many fine churchesin particular, the 15th-century Martinikerk (honoring St. Martin, patron saint of tourists), and the 17th-century Nieuwe Kerkand several museums. Groningen has a current population of 167,800.


Nijmegen is one of the Netherlands' oldest cities. It was founded in Roman times, flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries under Charlemagne, and was chartered in 1184. The six peace treaties of Nijmegen, ending the Dutch war with Louis XIV of France, were signed here in 1678-79. In World War II, Allied airborne forces recaptured Nijmegen from the Germans in September 1944; they failed, however, to rescue the troops caught in nearby Arnhem.

Located in eastern Netherlands near the German border, Nijmegen has a population today of 146,450. A rail and water transportation point, Nijmegen is also an industrial center that produces paper, clothing, soap, and metal products.

Still standing in Nijmegen are a 13th-century church, a town hall dating from the 16th century, a 17th-century weigh house, and the remains of a palace built by Charlemagne. The Catholic University of Nijmegen was founded in 1923.


Twenty miles north of Amsterdam lies the city of ALKMAAR . An important market town, Alkmaar is world famous as the site of the weekly Edam cheese market, held in front of the 16th-century weigh house. Chartered in 1254, Alkmaar's successful defense against the Spanish troops in 1573 was the turning point in the revolt of the Netherlands. The current population is 92,700. Edam, with a population of 19,300, is situated between Amsterdam and Alkmaar on IJesselmeer Lake. A picturesque town noted for its cheese and fisheries, Edam also attracts many tourists.

AMERSFOORT is situated on the Eem River, 25 miles southeast of Amsterdam in the central region. Development here dates to the 10th century when the area was fortified. The river, formerly called the Amer, gave the city its name, which means "ford on the Amer." Amersfoort, today a livestock and market gardening center, still has medieval street patterns, as well as landmarks such as the 13th-century St. George's Church. The gothic Tower of Our Lady is all that remains of a church built in 1450. Educational institutions here include a Jensenist college and a school for bell ringers. Amersfoort has a government archaeological research station and regional museum. The city's population is approximately 129,000.

The garden city of APELDOORN lies in the east-central area, about 50 miles east of Amsterdam. Known for its sanitariums and nearby Hogue Veluwe National Park, this also is a manufacturing hub, producing chemicals, refrigeration components, pharmaceuticals, and paper products. In the vicinity is Het Loo, the summer home of the Dutch royal family. Here, queen mother Wilhelmina (1880-1962) lived following her 1948 abdication. Built as a hunting lodge, Het Loo was first used by William III in 1686. Apeldoorn has an estimated population of 155,000.

ARNHEM is a port on the Lower Rhine and the capital of Gelderland Province in eastern Netherlands. Located about 50 miles southeast of Amsterdam, it is a transportation and industrial center that manufactures textiles, metal goods, and electrical equipment. A city as early as the ninth century, Arnhem was the site of a serious defeat of British airborne troops in September 1944. The debacle was immortalized in the book and film A Bridge Too Far. The current population is 141,000.

BREDA , in southern Netherlands at the confluence of the Mark and Aa Rivers, is 55 miles south of Amsterdam. A transportation and industrial center, Breda produces canned foods, machinery, and textiles. Founded before the 11th century, Breda was captured by the Spanish in 1624. A famous painting by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Veláquez (1599-1660) depicts the surrender of the garrison. The city has a 13th-century Gothic churchGroote Kerkand a castle that is now a military academy. The population is 163,300.

BUSSUM is a southeastern suburb of Amsterdam about 10 miles outside the capital, with roughly 34,000 residents. Today the home of the country's television studios, as well as an industrial district, Bussum was initially an extension of Naarden, a fortress town. Cocoa and chocolate have been produced here since 1840. The city acts as a resort for the Gooiland region, with its lakes and forests.

DELFT , situated in the western Netherlands just south of The Hague, is a city with a population of 97,000. It has a variety of industries, but is particularly known for its ceramicsthe world-renowned china, tiles, and pottery called delft-ware. The delftware manufactured here in the 17th century was an imitation of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. Delft was an important pottery center from the mid-17th to the end of the 18th century but, by 1850, the industry had nearly disappeared. It was decades later that delftware again became an important product here. Delft was founded in the 11th century, chartered in 1246, and was important commercially until overtaken by Rotterdam in the 17th century. It was in Delft that William the Silent was assassinated in 1584, during the bitter struggle against Spain. Jan Vermeer was born here in 1632, and his famous painting, View of Delft, still characterizes the city todaya city of narrow canals and arched bridges, and picturesque, gabled houses. Historic buildings include the 13th-century Gothic Oude Kerk (old church); the Nieuwe Kerk (new church), dating from the 15th century; and a well-preserved 17th-century town hall. Delft is the site of a technical university.

DORDRECHT is located 40 miles south of Amsterdam in South Holland Province, and has a population of over 120,250. An important river port and rail junction, the city has shipyards and manufactures clothing, chemicals, and heavy machinery. Dordrecht (or Dort) was founded in the 11th century, and was the site of the meeting of the Estates of Holland that proclaimed William the Silent stadholder in 1572. The city has a Gothic churchGroote Kerkmore than 500 years old, and an art museum.

The industrial city of ENSCHEDE is located 80 miles east of Amsterdam just west of the German border in eastern Netherlands. A textile and machinery manufacturing center and a rail junction, Enschede produces textiles, beer, pharmaceuticals, and rubber goods. Historically, the city was first mentioned in 1118; it was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1862, but later rebuilt. Enschede has a natural history museum and a technical university founded in 1961. The current population is approximately 144,550.

GOUDA , noted worldwide for its cheese, has been a town since receiving a charter in 1272. During the Middle Ages, it was a center for textile trade. Gouda is, according to the Dutch, "Holland's tourist heart." Each Thursday morning in summer, at De Waag and the old crafts market, visitors and residents throng the area to watch the farm-cheese weighing. Other popular tourist attractions are Sint Janskerk, with its spectacular enameled window frames, Gouda's unique four-century-old Gothic town hall, and the Catharina Gasthuis Museum. Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), the highly respected Dutch humanist, pursued his early studies here at Gouda before entering the Catholic priesthood.

S'HERTOGENBOSCH , the capital of North Brabant Province in south central Netherlands, is 45 miles from Amsterdam. Located at the confluence of the Dommel and Aa Rivers, s'Hertogenbosch is an industrial and transportation center with a large cattle market. Chartered as a city in 1184, and a fortress until 1876, it is the site of the beautiful Gothic St. John's Cathedral. The artist Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) was born here.

KINDERDIJK , close to Rotterdam, is a small town of particular interest because of its windmills, many of them dating to about 1740. On Saturdays during July and August, when wind and water permit, all mills are in operation. Another unique town in the area is Schoonhaven, with its 17th-century ramparts and its white-brick town hall, built in 1452.

Known for its widely exported gin, SCHIEDAM is located seven miles west of Rotterdam on the Nieuwe Maas River. With a population of about 85,000, the city has shipyards and manufactures glass, chemicals, and machinery. Schiedam's historical structures include the ruins of a 13th-century castle, a 14th-century church, and a town hall built in the 16th century.

Situated just north of the Belgian border, TILBURG is in southern Netherlands, 50 miles southeast of The Hague. With a population of 197,400, Tilburg's growth occurred late in the 19th century with the expansion of industry. Today, the city manufactures textile machinery, textiles, leather, and dyes. The Catholic School of Economics is located in Tilburg. The former royal residence of King William of the Netherlands serves as the city's town hall.

Seven communities merged in 1974 to form the industrial city of ZAANSTAD , six miles northwest of Amsterdam. Zaandam, Koog aan de Zaan, Zaandijk, Wormerveer, Krommenie, Assendelft, and Westzaan comprise the city now, with a population of 138,000. Russia's Peter the Great (1672-1725) came to Zaandam to learn shipbuilding in 1697; the house where the tsar stayed can be seen today. Other sights are 17th-century windmills, and a mill museum in the Koog aan de Zaan area. Zaanstad acts as a rail junction, in addition to being a center for the lumber industry.

The historic city of ZWOLLE is the capital of Overijssel Province, 50 miles northwest of Amsterdam on the Zwarte River. Its commercial traditions date to its founding in 1230. The city was a member of the Hanseatic League (a medieval commercial confederation of German merchants) until its fortifications were ruined in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the late 1600s. The Sassenpoort Gate is one section of the ramparts still standing. Critically located at the juncture of the Netherlands' principal canal systems and at a rail crossing, Zwolle maintains its commercial dominance. Economic activities here center on shipbuilding, chemicals, and industrial products. St. Michael's Church, the Church of Our Lady, and the town hall were all erected in the 1400s. Thomas à Kempis (ca. 1380-1471), the famous priest and writer, spent the better part of his life in the Augustinian Monastery of Mt. St. Agnes, three miles outside of town. Zwolle has a provincial museum and approximately 109,000 residents.


Geography and Climate

The Netherlands is bordered on the north and west by the North Sea, on the south by Belgium, and on the east by the Federal Republic of Germany. It covers about 14,000 square miles, and is almost one-third the size of Virginia. The land is low and flat except in the southeast, where some hills rise to 1,000 feet. About one-third of its area is below sea level, making the famous Dutch dikes a requisite to land use. Continuing reclamation of land from the sea into new areas (polders ) provides fertile land for this densely populated country.

The warmest period falls between June and September; the other months are cool or cold. Despite an occasional warm spell in summer, temperatures rarely exceed 75°F. Winter is long, often dreary, and the damp cold is penetrating.


The Netherlands has a population of 15.6 million, making it Europe's most densely populated nation. The Dutch are mostly of Germanic heritage with some Gallo Celtic mixture. A proud people, they have clung tenaciously to their small homeland against the constant threat of destruction by the North Sea. In the process, they have created farmlands and cities from the sea bed. Religion influences Dutch history, institutions, and attitudes. It is closely interrelated with social and political life, though to a diminishing degree. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution. Although church and state are separate, a few historical ties remain: e.g., the royal family belongs to the Dutch Reformed Church (Protestant). Religion remains important to most Netherlanders. Slightly more than 30% of the population are Roman Catholic, 30% are Protestant and about 40% have no religious affiliation.


Julius Caesar found the Netherlands inhabited by Germanic tribes, one of which, the Batavi, did not submit to Rome until 13 B.C., and then only as an ally. The area was part of Charlemagne's empire in the eighth century, later passed into the hands of the House of Burgundy and the Austrian Hapsburgs, and eventually fell under harsh Spanish rule in the 16th century. The Dutch revolted in 1568 under William of Orange and, 11 years later, the seven northern provinces formed the Union of Utrecht and became the Republic of the United Netherlands.

During its "golden era" of the 17th century, the Netherlands became a great sea and colonial power. Its importance declined, however, during the 18th-century wars with Spain and France. In 1795, French troops ousted William V.

Following Napoleon's defeat, the Netherlands and Belgium became the Kingdom of the United Netherlands under King William I, head of the House of Orange. The Belgians withdrew from the Union in 1830 to form their own kingdom. In 1840, William I abdicated in favor of William II, who was largely responsible for the liberal revision of the constitution in 1848. During the long reign of William III, from 1849 to 1890, the Netherlands prospered. Wilhelmina, William III's 10-year-old daughter, succeeded her father in 1898.

The Netherlands was neutral during World War I, and again proclaimed neutrality at the start of World War II. Nonetheless, German troops overran the country in May 1940. Queen Wilhelmina and Crown Princess (later Queen) Juliana then fled to London, where a government-in-exile was established. They subsequently moved to Canada. The German Army in the Netherlands capitulated May 5, 1945. Juliana succeeded her mother upon Wilhelmina's abdication in 1948.

Juliana, in turn, relinquished the throne to her daughter, Beatrix, the present queen, on April 30, 1980.

Public Institutions

The Netherlands Government is based on the principles of ministerial responsibility and parliamentary government common to most constitutional monarchies in Western Europe. It is composed of three basic institutions: a) the Crown (Monarch, Council of Ministers, and Council of State); b) the States General (parliament); and c) the Courts.

Although her functions are largely ceremonial, the Queen maintains an influence in the government. It is derived from the traditional respect for the House of Orange and her personal qualities. Ministers collectively form a Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, which implements government policies and initiates legislation. The ministers are responsible to but not members of the States General (parliament), which consists of the First Chamber (Upper House) and the Second Chamber (Lower House), that meet separately except for ceremonial occasions. In addition to their legislative authority, both chambers exercise oversight of the Council of Ministers through questioning and investigation. However, only the Second Chamber may initiate legislation and amend bills submitted by the Council of Ministers. The First Chamber's 75 members are indirectly elected by the provincial legislatures. The Second Chamber has 150 members, who are elected directly nationwide for 4 year terms on the basis of proportional representation.

Arts, Science, and Education

Education in the Netherlands is excellent. Many foreign students are enrolled in the 13 schools of higher education. The University of Leiden, the School of Economics of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the medical school in Utrecht, and the Technical University at Delft have played important roles in the development of other European universities. Webster University in Leiden offers an English language undergraduate degree program and an MBA program. It also has a small program in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Extension courses from the University of Maryland and other American colleges or universities are available by correspondence.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Universities of Leiden and Amsterdam offer summer courses in international law that are attended by many Americans. Music schools and art academies also enjoy excellent reputations. Culturally, the Netherlands offers a wealth of opportunities. The Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk, and the Van Gogh Museums in Amsterdam are world famous. Boymansvan Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam and the Kroller Muller Museum in Otterloo have excellent collections of modern art. The small but exquisite Mauritshuis in The Hague features 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings. The performing arts in the Netherlands are well regarded internationally. Het Nationale Ballet, the Netherlands Dance Theater, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Residentie Orchestra, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, have frequently toured the U.S. and Europe. In return, American music and dance troupes frequently perform in the Netherlands. The American performing arts are always well represented at the yearly Holland and the North Sea Jazz Festivals. Theater is abundantly available in the Netherlands, although in Dutch, and many avant-garde theater groups perform off-Broadway plays.

Commerce and Industry

The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy that depends heavily on foreign trade. More than two-thirds of the Dutch Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated through merchandise and services trade. The Dutch are strong proponents of free trade and historically one of our staunchest allies in international economic and financial institutions. The Netherlands has a number of large multinational corporations, including Philips Electronics NV, Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, Akzo/Nobel, DSM, Heineken and Albert Heijn Holding. More than 1,600 companies established in the Netherlands are either wholly or partly American owned. This has made the United States the largest investor in the Netherlands. The U.S. is the single most important market for Dutch products outside of Europe. The Netherlands, Japan, and the United Kingdom are the top three direct investors in the United States.

The Netherlands has for decades been among the ten largest customers for U.S. products worldwide and among the three largest customers for U.S. products in Europe. Over the years, the U.S. developed its largest worldwide merchandise trade surplus with the Netherlands. Agricultural commodities account for roughly 50 percent of U.S. exports to the Netherlands. Other important U.S. exports to the Netherlands include machinery, medical equipment, aircraft and avionics, computers and software, and business equipment.

The Netherlands has stable industrial relations. For several decades, the Netherlands has enjoyed a large current account surplus from its trade and overseas investments. It is a net exporter of natural gas. The Dutch have developed their country's harbors at the mouth of the Rhine and Maas rivers into an European transportation hub centered on the Port of Rotterdam and supported by Schipol International Airport in Amsterdam. Excellent rail, canal, and road transportation complete the system making the Netherlands an important trans-shipment point for goods with destinations within the entire European continent. The single European internal market and the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) make the Netherlands an attractive distribution center for U.S. exporters.

The private sector is the cornerstone of the Dutch economy. Current economic performance is clearly better than that in other European countries with respect to unemployment and inflation. Relatively strong economic performance is attributed to the Dutch "Polder" Model, in which consensus among government, industry and trade unions results in successful and of deregulation, wage restraint, liberalization, privatization and tax reform. The government has gradually reduced its role in the economy in favor of privatization and deregulation. The State continues to dominate the energy sector, and plays a large role in public transport, aviation and telecommunications sectors. The Netherlands is firmly committed to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); public finances are well within the official EMU targets.

Agriculture. Both windmills and polders have been important to Dutch agriculture in the creation of arable land.

Dutch agriculture, due to severely limited availability of farmland, is primarily a conversion industry. It utilizes large ports to import feed-stuffs, transforms them into dairy and meat products, and exports about three-fourths of these products to fellow members of the European Community. Livestock (including dairy) production accounts for more than half of total production by value, followed by horticulture (mainly flowers) and arable crops. Production of milk and milk products, slaughter hogs, and vegetables are of greatest value. The U.S. enjoys a trade surplus in agricultural trade with the Netherlands. Major imports from the U.S. in order of importance typically include: soybeans, feedgrain substitutes, tobacco, fresh citrus, and high quality beef. Dutch agricultural exports to the U.S. consist mostly of beer, cut flowers, flower bulbs, cocoa products, and dairy products.



The Netherlands boasts an excellent free public highway system, comparable to the interstate system in the U.S. A personal car is still the cheapest method of transportation for a family. It makes trips in Holland and Europe affordable. If sold in the Netherlands, American cars must be converted to conform to Dutch laws. Nonetheless, they are popular; service and parts are available in The Hague. The availability of super lead-free, Euro (lead-free) and leaded gasoline throughout the Netherlands makes taking an American car a practical alternative. The roads in the Netherlands are good. The Dutch drive on the right and follow other customary European traffic rules. The Dutch recognize U.S.-issued licenses. You can obtain an international drivers license upon presentation of a valid U.S. drivers license through a local automobile club. An international drivers license in itself is not a valid document for driving. It must always be used in addition to a valid drivers license.

Cars imported into the Netherlands must have license plates. The Netherlands does not issue temporary tags. A car imported into the Netherlands without plates may not be used until the Dutch registration is received. The procedure can take two to three months. Third party or liability insurance is required by law and must be obtained through a company licensed by the Netherlands Government. Dutch insurance rates are high, but a 75 percent reduction is granted if a letter from the previous insurance company is submitted with certification that the applicant had no claims during the preceding 10 years. Smaller reductions are granted for shorter, claim free periods. These companies can write collision, comprehensive, and other types of coverage but the cost is high. You can also insure through one of the American companies authorized in Europe.

Rental cars are readily available.

Biking is a common method of transportation in Dutch society. Holland boasts an extensive dedicated network of bike paths which separate cyclists from cars. Bikes, from cheap to very expensive, may be rented at most railway stations in Holland. Either biking or using public transportation avoids the common problems of congestion and parking in the urban areas of the Netherlands.


The public transportation system in the Netherlands is excellent. Trams and buses service points within cities on frequent schedules. Using public transportation avoids the problems of congested roads and the scarcity or parking. Public transportation is not expensive and you can save money by buying multiple ride tickets or monthly passes. Trams and buses do not run between 1 am and 5 am. Taxicabs, although plentiful and available by night or day, do not cruise and are expensive. Taxis line up in front of the train stations, some hotels, and after cultural events, but often one must phone for cab service. Most Dutch cities are connected by rail and most regions are accessible by other sorts of public transportation.


Schiphol International Airport is located about 45 minutes from The Hague, 35 minutes from Amsterdam, and is serviced by several U.S. airlines. There are direct flights aboard U.S. carriers to major East Coast, Southern, Great Lakes' and West Coast cities. Many airlines fly between the principal European cities, and daily express rail service is available between The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, and Paris. Air travel within Europe remains expensive.


Telephone and Telegraph

The Netherlands telecommunications system is good but can lead to some frustrations for North American users. It may take as long as three weeks to establish phone service in The Hague, although the universal availability of mobile cell phones has considerably shortened this lead time. Direct-dial telephone service is available to the U.S. and throughout Western Europe, or calls can be booked through the long distance operator. Long distance and information services operators are multilingual. You can use a calling card to call numbers in the U.S. Calls placed this way are billed against a Master Card or Visa in dollars.

Radio and TV

Radio and TV are enriched in the Netherlands by programs from many of the surrounding countries. It's possible to find radio programs in French, German, and English as well as Dutch on a normal AM receiver. BBC at 648 on the AM dial offers English language news throughout the day. Good classical and jazz music stations can be found in addition to popular music, rock music and talk stations. Eight Dutch TV channels are on the air: Nederland 1, 2 and 3, Veronica, SBS-6 RTL-5 and 5 and TV West. Much of their programming is in English. English language TV shows are broadcast with Dutch subtitles, and commercials are few. Cable TV provides access to Belgian, West German, French, and British stations as well. The number of English-language channels broadcasting to Europe has increased greatly, bringing more music and American programming to the Netherlands. Cable is universally available. CNN Europe is available by cable throughout Holland. NBC World is also available in Amsterdam and Wassenaar.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Most Dutch bookstores offer a variety of books in English. International editions of Time, Newsweek, Life, USA Today, and the Herald Tribune are sold locally. Popular U.S. magazines-particularly women's magazines such as Vogue, Ladies' Home Journal, and Glamour are sold at newsstands, but at double U.S. prices. The U.S. Army Base at Schinnen has a small bookstore that offers a mixed batch of American paperbacks, reference books of various sorts, and children's books. The American Women's Club of The Hague maintains a library of about 3,000 volumes with a special children's book section. It also carries a good range of newly released fiction and nonfiction books. In addition to these sources, most Dutch public libraries have some English language books.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Dutch doctors and hospitals are good. A general practitioner can treat the entire family, make house calls when necessary, and refer a patient to a specialist when needed. Access to specialists is restricted, however and delays in treatment are to be expected. Specialists are well trained in their fields and all specialties are represented. Good diagnostic clinics and laboratories are available. Common medical supplies may be obtained on short notice. The Dutch rely little on pain medication or tranquilizers and avoid using antibiotics unless they are clearly convinced of their necessity. Hospitals are well spaced throughout the cities, making them easy to find in an emergency. Most of the larger city hospitals are modern, with up-to-date equipment. Although dental training and techniques differ from those in the U.S., dental work, including orthodontics, is usually good and compares favorably with U.S. prices. Eye testing and care is readily available; glasses are expensive.

Community Health

Dutch cities are as clean as our cleanest American cities. Garbage is collected once or twice a week and the water supply is good. Public eating places, butcher shops, and dairies are inspected regularly. Although most Temperate Zone diseases occur, no particular ailment is peculiar to this area. Sporadic cases of typhoid and mild epidemics of influenza occur. Some jaundice, sinusitis, and poliomyelitis exist here, as in other European countries. People with lung, bronchial, and skin disorders suffer in this climate.

Preventive Measures

All standard immunizations are available at local hospitals and medical facilities. Vitamin supplements may be useful, particularly in winter when sunshine is minimal.


Jan. 1New Year's Day

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*

Mar/Apr.Holy Saturday


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

Apr. 30 Queen's Birthday

May 5Liberation Day

May/JuneAscension Day*



Dec. 25 & 26Christmas



Passage, Customs and Duties

United, Delta and Northwest are the American carriers currently flying to Schipol Airport from the U.S. Daily flights depart New York, Boston or Washington, D.C.

A passport is required. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for visits up to 90 days. For further information on entry requirements for the Netherlands, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Netherlands at 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Additional information is available at and the Netherlands Bureau for Tourism in New York at

Seat belt and child seat use is compulsory. Driving is on the right side of the road. The maximum speed limit on highways is 120 km/h, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/h posted in most urban areas. Secondary roads have a speed limit of 80 km/h. The speed limit in towns and cities is 50 km/h, with 30 km/h posted in residential areas. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers from the right at intersections or traffic circles, unless otherwise posted. The maximum allowable blood alcohol level in the Netherlands is 0.5. Use of cellular telephones while driving is discouraged.

Lanes at the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams, and taxis. In cities, pedestrians should be very mindful of trams, which often cross or share bicycle and pedestrian paths. Motorists must be especially mindful of the priority rights of bicyclists. Pedestrians should also pay particular attention not to walk along bicycle paths, which are often on the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement.

Americans living in or visiting the Netherlands are encouraged to register at the Consulate General in Amsterdam and obtain updated information on travel and security in the Netherlands. The U.S. Embassy is located in The Hague, at Lange Voorhout 102; telephone (31)(20) 310-9209. However, all requests for consular assistance should be directed to the Consulate General in Amsterdam at Museumplein 19, telephone (31)(20) 664-5661, (31)(20) 679-0321, or (31)(20) 575-5309. The after-hours emergency telephone number is (31)(70) 310-9499. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General web site at answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting or residing in the Netherlands.


No restrictions exist on importing pets. Dogs and cats must have a health certificate issued by a veterinarian in the animal's country of origin (this includes U.S. Army veterinarians stationed in the county of origin). The certificate must state in Dutch, German, French, or English that the dog or cat has been vaccinated against rabies using a vaccine approved in the country of manufacture, the manufacturer, and the type of vaccine (live or dead). The certificate must also provide a complete description of the animal (species, age, breed, gender, weight, color, and markings), the owner's name, and the owner's address. The certificate must also state that the rabies vaccine was administered at least 30 days, but not more than 1 year, before the date of arrival in the Netherlands.

Arrangements can be made through KLM to receive pets and to see that they are placed in a kennel until you can pick them up. A fee of is imposed for transport to the kennel, and kennels' charges are comparable to those in the U.S.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

As a member of the European Community, the monetary unit in The Netherlands is the euro, which is divided into 100 cent. Coins in circulation are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent and 1 & 2 euro. Bank notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. The exchange rate approximates 1.15 euro to $1 US.


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material available on this country:

At Home in Holland. American Women's Club: The Hague, 1984.

Erickson, Patricia G. Roaming Round Holland. City of Rotterdam Information Department: Rotterdam, 1985.

Lijphart, Arend. The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1968.

Mulisch, Harry. The Assault. Pantheon: 1985.

Newton, Gerald. The Netherlands: An Historical and Cultural Survey, 1795-1977. Ernest Benn Ltd.: London, 1978.

Schama, Simon. The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1987.

Voorhoeve, Joris. Peace, Profits and Principles: A Study of Dutch Foreign Policy. M. Nijhoff: Dordrecht/Boston, 1979.

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The Netherlands


Kingdom of the Netherlands

Koninkrijk der Nederlanden



Once known as Holland, the Netherlands is located in Western Europe. It borders Belgium to the south, Germany to the east and north, and the North Sea along its western coast. The country has a total area of 41,526 square kilometers (16,485 square miles). This includes 33,889 square kilometers of land (13,084 square miles) and 7,643 square kilometers (2,950 square miles) of water. The coastline of the Netherlands is 451 kilometers (280 miles) long. Its land borders are 1,027 kilometers (638 miles) in length. The border with Germany is 577 kilometers (358 miles) long and that with Belgium is 450 kilometers (280 miles) long. The country is about the size of Maryland. The Netherlands is located at the crossroads of 3 of Europe's major rivers: the Rhine, the Meuse and the Schelde. The nation's 2 largest cities are Amsterdam, with a population of 1.1 million, and Rotterdam, also with 1.1 million people. Other major cities include The Hague (700,000 people) and Utrecht (554,000 people). Both the capital and the seat of government are located in the west-central region of the country, near the coast. The Netherlands still has 2 colonies, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (both are located in the Caribbean).


The population of the Netherlands was estimated to be 15,892,237 in July of 2000. In 2000, the nation's population growth rate was 0.57 percent. The birth rate was 12.12 births per 1,000 people. The fertility rate was 1.64 children born per woman, which is below the replacement level (this term refers to the number of children a couple must have to replace both parents, which is roughly 2 children). However, a large number of immigrants move to the Netherlands each year. Annually, there is an average of 2.3 new immigrants in the country for every 1,000 citizens. The mortality rate is 8.72 deaths per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate is 4.42 deaths per 1,000 live births. Like many of the advanced industrialized nations, the population of the Netherlands is aging. The fastest growing segment of the population is the elderly. Those over the age of 65 make up 14 percent of the population, and this group is expected to double in size over the next 20 years. The average life expectancy for males in the Netherlands is 75.4 years and 81.28 years for females.

The majority of the people of the Netherlands are of Dutch ancestry (91 percent). The Dutch are primarily of Germanic and Gallo-Celtic origins. The remaining 9 percent of the population is split between people of Moroccan, Turkish, and Surinamese backgrounds. The society of the Netherlands is open, but in recent years there has been increasing anti-immigrant sentiment among some groups. During the 1990s, a number of new laws were passed which restricted immigration . The year 1998 was a peak time for political asylum seekers; some 45,217 political refugees settled in the Netherlands. Unemployment is higher among minority groups and some discrimination exists in regard to housing, hiring, and wages. Incidents of police brutality in the 2 Dutch Caribbean colonies have led the national government to undertake a variety of reforms in the territories, including retraining of police and reforms of the prison systems.

Dutch is the official language of the nation, but English is also widely spoken. The population is highly educated and skilled. There is mandatory education through age 16 and the literacy rate is near 100 percent. The Netherlands has a relatively low rate of religious affiliation. Roman Catholics make up 34 percent of the people, Protestants 25 percent, and Muslims 3 percent. About 36 percent of the Dutch are unaffiliated with any formal religion.

The majority of people live in urban areas and the country is one of the most densely populated in the world. Its average population density is 369 per square kilometer (958 people per square mile). In comparison, the population density of Japan is 320 per square kilometer (830 per square mile), while that of the United States is 27 per square kilometer (70 per square mile). The most densely populated area of the country is known as the Randstad and includes the coastal regions of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht.


The Dutch have a long history as merchants and traders. From the 1600s through the 1700s, Dutch ships carried spices and other raw materials from India, Asia, and the West Indies to Europe and then carried manufactured products back to these areas. Dutch merchants were responsible for opening seaborne trade with China and Japan. Their success was based on the design of their ships which had large cargo holds and small crews. This reduced the costs of transporting goods. It was not until the late 1700s that the British displaced the Dutch as the world's main trading nation. Today that tradition continues as the nation remains dependent on foreign trade.

The Dutch economy is a private free-market system . The main impact of the government on the economy is through regulation and taxation. The Dutch have long been renowned as merchants and almost two-thirds of the economy is now based on foreign trade. Along with the United States, the country has consistently been one of the main proponents of international free trade and the reduction of duties and tariffs on goods and services. A member of the European Union (EU), the nation is set to replace its currency with the euro, a common currency that will be used by 11 of the 15 members of the EU. This process, known as European Monetary Union (EMU), is expected to expand the already large volume of trade between the EU member states and link the economies of these nations to a degree never seen before. The Dutch have been among the strongest supporters of EMU. The Netherlands is home to some of the world's largest corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever. Despite its small size, the Netherlands ranks number-seven in the world in total value of its corporations.

The nation is in the midst of a long-term economic expansion that began in the 1990s. The Dutch economy grew at an average rate of 2.8 percent during the 1990s, while the rest of Europe averaged only 1.6 percent growth rates. In 2000, the kingdom's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was US$25,695. The Netherlands ranks number 20 out of 191 nations in GDP and number 16 in GDP per capita . The Dutch workforce contains about 7 million people. The current economic expansion is based on increased foreign trade, consumer spending, and investment. By 2000, unemployment in the Netherlands was the lowest since the 1970s, and the nation's economy averaged over 4 percent growth per year. The economic growth of the past decade raised the GDP from US$299.4 billion in 1995 to US$365 billion in 1999. The success of the economy is the result of adjustments and transformations that Dutch businesses underwent in the late 1970s through the 1980s. The government cut its role in the economy by privatizing many public corporations, and a substantial number of Dutch companies began incorporating advanced technology and communications into their business practices. In doing so, the Dutch reformed their economy before most of their European neighbors and became far more competitive than those countries. The low level of unemployment and the rising economy have spurred inflation . In 2000, the kingdom's inflation rate was 2.6 percent and that figure is predicted to rise to 3.4 percent in 2001 (this is compared with the EU average rate of 1.6 percent).

Like many of the other industrialized European nations, the Dutch economy has been marked by the growth of the service sector and the relative decline of agriculture and industry as percentages of GDP. Despite the lessening importance of agriculture, the sector continues to be highly profitable. The modern Dutch agricultural industry is highly technological and sophisticated. Although it only employs about 4 percent of the workforce, agriculture produces enough food to feed the nation and provide a significant number of exports. The Netherlands is the world's number-three producer of agricultural goods.

Although industry has declined as a proportion of the overall economy, it remains a major factor in the Dutch economy. For centuries, the Dutch economy was based on maritime trade; however, shipping and fishing are now only minor components of trade. The main industries include chemical and metal processing. The nation is also one of the world's main producers of natural gas. The rise in global energy prices has produced high profits for Dutch energy companies. The energy company Royal Dutch Shell is the fifth-largest corporation in the world, worth US$191.3 billion in 1998, with operations throughout the globe. Other areas of industry include mining, food processing, and construction. The geographic location of the country, at the crossroads of Northern Europe, has allowed it to emerge as a major port of entry into the continent for goods and services. Many goods are shipped first to the Netherlands and then transported by land, air, or sea to other nations in Europe. Two of its ports, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, are among the busiest in the world.

Services dominate the economy and 73 percent of employees work in this sector. The primary services are transportation, the distribution of goods, and business services. There is also a strong financial sector that includes banking and insurance. The Dutch are major investors in foreign countries and foreign businesses (investment abroad is 3 times the level of foreign investment in the Netherlands). The Dutch have US$160 billion invested in other countries.


The government of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the monarch, presently Queen Beatrix, but the sovereign's powers are now mainly ceremonial. The chief of the government is the prime minister who is appointed by the queen. The prime minister is usually the leader of the majority party in the nation's parliament or the leader of the largest coalition of parties. The country also has an advisory committee, known as the Council of State, which develops and coordinates policy. Members of the council are appointed by the queen on the advice of the prime minister.

The legislative branch, or parliament, of the nation is known as the States General. The States General is a bicameral (2 chamber) legislative body. The 2 houses are called the First Chamber and the Second Chamber. The Second Chamber is the more influential of the 2 bodies. It initiates legislation and may amend bills that are developed by the Council of Ministers. The chamber has 150 members who are elected for 4-year terms by the general population. Unlike the American system, representatives are not elected to represent individual districts but the nation as a whole. During elections, the people do not vote for individual candidates but for a particular party. The election results are proportional so that a party that received 60 percent of the votes would have 60 percent of the seats in the Second Chamber. There are 75 members of the First Chamber. These representatives are elected by the legislatures of the nation's 12 regional governments, known as provinces.

Because of the proportional system of elections, even small parties are often able to have representation in the States General. Hence, unlike the United States, the government of the Netherlands is usually made up of a coalition of a number of small parties, and politics is not dominated by 2 major political parties. Since 1998, the government has been led by the "Purple Coalition" which is made up of 3 parties: Labor, Liberal, and Democrats '66. All of these parties support free enterprise capitalism , but the Labor Party and Democrats '66 tend to be more supportive of government efforts to establish social and economic equality by redistributing wealth through taxes on the wealthy and middle-class. The Liberal Party stresses individual political and economic freedom and is much more conservative on economic issues than its 2 coalition partners. The main party that opposes the coalition is the Christian Democratic Appeal or Christian Democrats. This party was initially formed from the merger of 3 religious parties and is generally one of the more conservative Dutch political groups. The party opposes most government involvement in the economy. The last major party is the Green Party which is pro-environment and advocates strict restrictions on pollution and economic activity which might harm the environment.

The government of the Netherlands does not play a major role in the nation's economy. It does not own a large number of businesses or attempt to control economic ventures. Furthermore, since the 1980s, there has been an ongoing program to turn those few government-controlled companies and businesses over to the private sector . An example of this would be increasing private control over telecommunications and public transport services. Public spending, including infrastructure projects, social spending, education, and health care amounted to 46 percent of the nation's GDP in 2000 and is expected to decline over the next decade. In 2000, the government announced tax reductions, including a cut in the direct taxes paid by most Dutch citizens.

The impact of the government is most significant on 3 different levels. First, there are numerous regulations and restrictions on economic activity which include the need to obtain permits for certain types of businesses and controls on product safety and advertising. Second, the government takes an active approach to managing the nation's credit supply and the value of its currency. Since the 1980s, the government has consistently pursued policies to keep inflation low. The government has also allowed the value of the currency to decline in an effort to make Dutch products less expensive and therefore more competitive in global markets. Third, and finally, the government takes an active role in managing the nation's environment. The centerpiece of Dutch environmental policy is the National Environmental Policy Plan known as the NMP. This plan seeks to cut pollution by 80 percent by 2010. Much of the nation is under sea level, and therefore prone to flooding, so the government also plays a major role in land management, including determining what types of structures can be built on different terrain.

In 1999, the government had revenues of US$163 billion and expenditures of US$170 billion, but in 2000 the government had a small surplus which equaled 0.5 percent of GDP. The government debt amounts to 63.7 percent of GDP. This is higher than the EU average of 60 percent of GDP, but the debt has declined from 67 percent of GDP in 1998.

One of the economic and foreign policy objectives of the Netherlands has been European economic and political integration. In the aftermath of World War II, the Dutch formed the Benelux Customs Union with Belgium and Luxembourg. This organization reduced tariffs between the 3 nations and set the stage for the later formation of the European Community, which itself later led to the establishment of the EU. The nation also helped develop the plans for EMU, which strives to fully integrate the economies of the EU, including replacing national currencies with the euro. Because of their experiences during World War II (when they were conquered by the Germans), the Dutch have supported political cooperation as a way to prevent new conflicts in Europe. Since the Netherlands is a small country, its government has found that the best way to achieve its foreign and economic policy goals is by cooperating with other nations in international organizations such as NATO, the EU, and the UN.

Each year the Dutch spend about US$6.9 billion on defense. The kingdom is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATOa military alliance of several European nations plus the United States and Canada) and a staunch U.S. ally. For instance, Dutch military forces fought alongside American troops in both the Persian Gulf War and the military operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Dutch are among the world's leading providers of foreign aid. In 1999, they gave US$3.4 billion in aid, or about 1 percent of the nation's GDP. They have provided aid for victims of hurricanes in Central and South America and for refugees in places such as Africa, Bosnia, and East Timor. The Dutch are also supportive of international environmental programs.


The Netherlands has an excellent infrastructure of ports, airports, and roadways. It also has a highly developed telecommunications system. Since the Netherlands is one of the main points of entry for goods imported into Europe, it is very important for the nation to maintain its transport system in order to move products into the interior of the continent. In order to improve the infrastructure, the government plans to launch a range of new projects over the next decade. A minimum of US$35 billion has already been budgeted to pay for a variety of projects including a high-speed rail link between Amsterdam and Brussels. There are also plans for a special rail system to connect Rotterdam and areas of Germany. Work is ongoing to improve the existing highway and rail network, and, by 2010, the government expects to spend an additional US$5.5 billion on these projects. Among these funds are US$2.4 billion to expand highways and US$500 million for improvements of regional roadways. The new work will concentrate on helping ease traffic congestion in the heavily urbanized areas of the west, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam. One of the main ongoing infrastructure projects in the Netherlands is the effort to prevent flooding. Over half of the country's territory is protected from flooding by an extensive system of dams and dikes.

In order to pay for current and future projects, the government established a special infrastructure fund. This fund is designed to provide supplemental money for infrastructure works without having too great an impact on the national budget. The fund is made up of proceeds from the sale of natural gas and any surplus tax funds. There are also plans to gain additional revenues by building toll roads and special pay lanes.

The nation has 125,757 kilometers (78,145 miles) of roads, 113,018 kilometers (70,229 miles) of which are paved. There are 2,235 kilometers (1,388 miles) of expressways that link the major cities and facilitate transportation from the coast across the country. All of the major Dutch cities have widespread and inexpensive public transportation systems. The high degree of urbanization has also led many Dutch cities to build comprehensive bicycle pathways that allow people to bike instead of using cars or other vehicles. Still, 79 percent of the Dutch use their personal cars for transportation.

The nation has 2,739 kilometers (1,702 miles) of railways. Transportation is also aided by an extensive network of waterways and canals. In total, there are 5,046 kilometers (3,135 miles) of waterways in the country, and 47 percent of these are usable by watercraft of 1,000 tons or larger. The main Dutch ports are Amsterdam, Dordecht, Groningen, Haarlem, Maastricht, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. Rotterdam is the world's largest seaport and handles more tonnage than any other harbor. Some 70 percent of all imports that go into the Netherlands come through Rotterdam. In 1996, the port set a record of 293.4

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Netherlands 306 978 543 378.3 213 38.4 317.6 403.49 3,000
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Belgium 160 793 510 367.3 173 18.7 286.0 266.90 1,400
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

billion tons of goods received. Because of a trench that extends into the North Sea, supertankers and other large ships with capacities of up to 350,000 tons can access the port. The Dutch merchant marine includes 563 ships of at least 1,000 tons. These ships range from cargo and petroleum tankers to passenger cruise ships. There are 28 airports in the Netherlands, 19 of which are paved. Amsterdam Airport is Europe's fifth busiest airport. The country also has 1 heliport. The kingdom's main airline, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, is one of the largest in the world and has partnership agreements with a number of other international air carriers.

In order to provide energy resources throughout the country, the Netherlands has a well-developed pipeline system. There are 418 kilometers (260 miles) of crude oil pipelines, 965 kilometers (600 miles) of pipelines for other petroleum products, and an overwhelming 10,230 kilometers (6,356 miles) of natural gas pipelines. In 1998, the nation produced 88.7 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electrical power. Some 400 million kWh of electricity were exported that year, but since the nation consumed 94.3 billion kWh of power, it had to import 12.2 billion kWh of electricity. Over 91 percent of electricity is produced by fossil fuels, while atomic energy provides 4 percent. Hydroelectric plants and solar energy provide most of the rest of the nation's energy needs. The kingdom is dependent on imports of oil and coal. However, the nation is a net exporter of natural gas, and it has extensive oil and natural gas fields in the North Sea. The government is highly supportive of efforts to develop solar energy resources. By 2020, the government plans to have solar energy account for 10 percent of energy consumption (this would supply the energy needs of 400,000 homes). In theory, the Netherlands could supply all of its energy needs through solar power. It would need 800 square kilometers (308 square miles) of surface for solar panels. This area is already available on the roof surfaces of houses and buildings.

The nation's telecommunications system is also highly developed. The government began privatizing the telecommunications industry in 1989. By 1997, service for all fixed line telephones was privatized. The country has 5 underwater cables for transatlantic communications and 3 earth stations which receive satellite transmissions. The nation maintains 2 communications satellites. There is a program underway to replace the existing communications cables with fiber-optic cable. Over 90 percent of homes in the Netherlands are serviced by cable television systems. Concurrently, there have been dramatic increases in the use of mobile phones. By 2000, there were 6.8 million mobile phones in use. The Dutch are among the first people in Europe to begin using the third-generation mobile communications systems which allow mobile phone users access to high-speed data (such as e-mail and the Internet) and video communications via their phone. In 1999, there were 70 Internet service providers in the Netherlands.


The Dutch economy is dependent on foreign trade. Like most developed nations, during the second half of the 20th century the Dutch economy underwent a transformation in which agriculture and industry declined in importance while services came to dominate the economic activity. Nonetheless, the nation's fertile soil and deposits of natural gas and oil mean that both agriculture and industry remain competitive with similar sectors in other nations.

Agriculture and fishing are highly profitable even though they account only for a small percentage of employment and of the nation's GDP. Since the 1940s, Dutch agriculture has become highly mechanized and technologically sophisticated. Dutch farmers use the latest technology to maximize crop yields and livestock production. Techniques such as scientific soil analysis and increased use of fertilizers and pesticides have been largely responsible for doubling crop yields during the century. Crops and livestock provide both exports and products which fuel the nation's domestic food-processing industries. Despite the small size of the country, the Netherlands is the world's third-largest exporter of agricultural products.

The main industries in the Netherlands are agribusiness , metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, construction, and microelectronics. The Dutch have significant oil and natural gas fields in the North Sea. This forms the basis for the nation's large energy industry. With such resources companies such as Royal Dutch Shell have gained markets around the globe. Most of the kingdom's energy resources are exported to EU countries. Other major industrial employers include the Dutch State Mines and the Royal Netherlands Blast Furnaces and Steelworks (both of which are partially-owned by the government). Construction accounts for about 6 percent of GDP and is partially propelled by government spending on infrastructure projects.

Services dominate the Dutch economy. The main segments of the service sector are transportation, goods distribution, financial services, and tourism. One of the areas of greatest growth, however, is telecommunications, especially personal communications services. Computer services are also experiencing dramatic growth. Small companies which specialize in various types of service have done the best in the nation's economy over the past decade, but there is increasing consolidation in some areas of the service sector as large corporations buy or merge with the more profitable firms.


In 1998, agriculture accounted for 3.5 percent of the kingdom's GDP. Employment in agriculture has actually been increasing slightly over the past decade. In 1995, there were 109,000 people employed in the sector, but by 1999 that number had grown to 116,000. Much of this increase has been the result of growth in the dairy and horticulture segments of agriculture. As in many other countries, Dutch agriculture has been marked by the decline of the small, family-owned farm and the rise of large corporations that specialize in agriculture. Many Dutch agricultural firms have also become increasingly international and do a significant amount of their business overseas or in other European nations.

Dutch agriculture is divided into 3 broad areas: crop production, dairy and livestock production, and horticulture. The nation's agricultural land is also divided into 3 broad types: grasslands, farmlands, and horticultural lands. The nation's extensive waterways and network of dams and dikes allow for easy irrigation and have produced very fertile soils. On the other hand, the increased use of chemicals in agriculture has created environmental pressures and led to new ecological policies that are designed to reduce damage to the kingdom's environment. Partially because of pollution concerns and partially because of health considerations, the consumption of organic foods (crops and livestock that are raised without chemical fertilizers or pesticides) has increased. While these foods now account for 2 percent of total production, by 2010 they are expected to comprise 5-10 percent of total production.

The main food crops are barley, corn, potatoes, sugar beets, and wheat. Potatoes are the main crop by volume, and in 1999 Dutch farmers produced 8.2 million metric tons of the crop. That same year, the Dutch harvested 5.5 million metric tons of sugar beets, 1 million metric tons of wheat, 240,000 metric tons of barley, and 58,000 metric tons of corn. Despite its wheat and barley production, the nation is a major importer of wheat for animal fodder and cereal production. After suffering a significant drop in production in 1998 because of flooding and bad weather, agricultural harvests were up 23.9 percent in 1999. In 1998, the value of exports was US$18.7 billion, while in 1999 it was US$31.7 billion. The major agricultural processed product was cigarettes. The Netherlands is one of the least forested countries in the world. Over 90 percent of its forest products have to be imported.

Dairy and livestock production is highly specialized and technologically sophisticated. Extensive grasslands provide grazing for dairy cows and beef. Dutch farmers have some of the highest yields of beef and milk in the world (behind only the United States and Great Britain). The nation is self-sufficient in dairy production and most dairy goods are exported. The main dairy exports include butter, cheese, and condensed milk. The number of dairy cows has remained relatively constant in the kingdom. In 1994, there were 1.69 million dairy cows and in 1998 there were 1.61 million. In 1997, the nation produced 11 billion kiloliters of milk, about half of which was used to produce cheese.

Many of the small, independent Dutch dairy farms have been bought by large corporations. One of the largest dairy corporations in the Netherlands is Campina Melkunie. In 1999 this large, multinational company did only 36 percent of its US$5 billion business in the Netherlands, with the rest centered in various EU nations. The Dutch food and beverage company Unilever is one of the world's largest corporations. The Dutch also have a large brewing industry. Firms such as Heineken and Grolsch export beer around the world and have operations in 170 nations.

Besides dairy cows, the other main types of livestock are beef and veal, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, and turkey. Eggs and beef are the main livestock exports. Total livestock numbers have declined slightly over the past few years. For instance, in 1994 there were 7.7 million head of cattle, but by 1998 that number had declined to 4.3 million. Likewise, there has been a similar decline in the number of pigs. In 1994 there were 14.56 million pigs; however, by 1998 that number had fallen to 13.45 million.

Seafood consumption has risen substantially in the Netherlands over the past 2 decades. Dutch fishermen harvest some 407,000 metric tons of seafood each year. About half of this is consumed locally and the rest exported. The Dutch also import significant amounts of seafood, including squid, prawns, shrimp, and crab.

Horticulture, especially the growing of ornamental plants and flowers, is a major factor in Dutch agriculture. The Dutch export significant amounts of cut flowers and bulbs, and the nation is world-renowned for its tulips. About 75 percent of flowers are exported, and there has been dramatic growth in exports to the United Kingdom, Italy, and Russia. This amounts to some 9 billion flowers per year. Horticulture is conducted in both open fields and through the use of glass greenhouses. The Netherlands now contains over half of all of the greenhouses in Europe, and there is a total of 44,000 acres of flowers under cultivation. Over 3,000 companies are engaged in horticulture in the kingdom.


Although it has declined as a percentage of the nation's GDP, industry remains a viable component of the Dutch economy, contributing 26.8 percent to GDP in 1998. Dutch industry is diversified and includes a variety of businesses that range from manufacturing, mining, and energy production to construction and chemical manufacturing. The government has undertaken a variety of programs to encourage the development of new industries in the kingdom and to bring industry to areas of the country that are economically depressed. Specifically, the government has encouraged growth in the aerospace industry, biotechnology, and microelectronics.


The Dutch manufacturing sector is dominated by the production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, metals and electronics, food processing, and tobacco. Over the past decade, the chemical industry has declined slightly (by 2 percent), while metals and electronics and food processing has expanded by 8-10 percent. In 1999, total manufacturing in the kingdom grew by 9 percent. In 1998, there were 847,591 people employed in manufacturing. The largest number, 144,645, were employed in food and tobacco processing. The number-two industry in terms of employment was metal processing with 99,753 workers, and the number-three field was machinery manufacturing with 89,688 employees.

Electronics manufacturing in the Netherlands is dominated by the multinational corporation Philips. The company makes lighting, consumer electronics, appliances, semiconductors, and communications systems. Philips is the ninth-largest manufacturer of semiconductors in the world. Of the 100,000 people employed in the Netherlands in the electronics field, Philips employs 44,000. Worldwide, Philips employs 265,000 people. Other major Dutch electronics firms include ASML, CMG, and Origin. The largest computer chip factory in Europe is in the Netherlands.

The most dramatic declines in employment and output were in the textile manufacturing sector and in shipbuilding and repair. Many of the manufacturing industries are based on the processing of raw materials or semi-finished materials into finished products. In other words, companies in the Netherlands import materials such as metal or chemicals and turn these items into products that consumers can use such as car parts or cleaning chemicals.

The Dutch chemical industry produces a variety of goods including synthetic rubber, plastic consumer goods , and polyester yarns for industrial purposes. Major Dutch chemical companies include Shell, Akzo Nobel, and DSM. Shell and Akzo Nobel are the eleventh-and twelfth-largest chemical companies in the world. DSM produces 70 percent of the polymers and rubber that the European automobile industry uses to produce new cars. Meanwhile, Dutch pharmaceutical companies have an annual output of about US$4 billion.

Ship building and repair continue to be significant factors in the Dutch economy. However, competition from countries where workers are paid less has caused drastic cutbacks in the field which is only about one-half the size it was previously. Still, the Netherlands is the world's seventh-largest producer of ships and the fourth-largest in Europe. Ship building and repair employ about 10,000 workers and are concentrated in the large ports on the western coast. The industry had revenues of US$1.66 billion in 2000, most of which were from ship building. In 2000, Dutch ship builders received orders for 88 new vessels and 45 percent of these orders were from foreign firms.

Over the past 30 years, construction has had a major impact on the Dutch economy. Because the nation is so small in geographic size and has a high population density, real estate is very valuable in the kingdom. On several occasions this has led to a bubble (a rapid increase in value that is unsustainable over many years) in the housing market. The collapse (or bursting) of the housing bubble in the 1970s led to a widespread economic recession . During this recession, real estate prices declined by 45 percent by 1982. Nonetheless, the construction field is aided by government spending on infrastructure projects. In 1999, there were 31,459 construction companies and 416,000 people employed in the field. During the 1990s, the sector averaged 2 percent growth per year.


Although there was once a vibrant coal mining industry in the Netherlands, the discovery of oil and natural gas led to the demise of the coal companies during the 1970s. By the 1990s, the only mining operations left in the kingdom were small companies that extracted salt, peat, and some sand and gravel for construction uses. In 1998, there were only about 9,000 people employed in mining. All metal ore used in manufacturing or other industries has to be imported.

The Dutch do produce a limited amount of oil. However, oil production peaked in 1986 at 66,500 barrels of oil per day. Since that time, production has declined to an average of about 60,000 barrels per day. Many of the kingdom's former oilfields in the North Sea are now in the process of being decommissioned. Energy production employed about 6,670 people in 1998, but produced considerable profits for the nation.

On the other hand, the kingdom is Western Europe's number-one supplier of natural gas. In 1958, the Geneva Convention on the Law of the Sea gave the kingdom the rights to a 56,980 square kilometer (22,000 square mile) area in the North Sea. This region contains the kingdom's main reserves of natural gas and is actually larger than the country itself. The main company in the sector is the Netherlands Natural Gas Company which is owned by Dutch and American energy firms and by the Dutch government. About half the natural gas produced is used within the country, with the rest exported to EU nations. The main export destinations are Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy. In 1999, the total natural gas production of the kingdom was 80 billion cubic meters. The proven reserves of natural gas exceed 2 trillion cubic meters. Government revenues from natural gas were US$1.2 billion in 2000.


The services sector of the economy has experienced the greatest level of growth among the major Dutch businesses over the past 2 decades. Services now account for 69.7 percent of GDP according to a 1998 estimate. The most prominent fields within the service sector are banking and financial services, telecommunications, retail , and tourism.


The banking and financial sectors of the Dutch economy have increasingly come to be dominated by large firms. In order to compete with international banks, companies have had to merge so as to reduce costs and maximize efficiency. The 2 largest banks in the countrythe General Netherlands Bank and the Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bankmerged in 1990 to become ABN Amro. ABN Amro is now one of Europe's largest banks. Recently, Postbank and the Netherlands Traders' Bank merged to create the king-dom's second-largest bank. In 1998, the Dutch insurance company Fortis merged with the large Belgian firm De Generale Bank. Financial services account for about 7.2 percent of the service sector. Other business services account for 10.5 percent of the sector.

In 1999 the banking sector of the Dutch economy was worth 1.33 trillion euros. The nation's banking sector employed 120,000 people in the Netherlands and 220,000 people worldwide. There are 115 banks in the nation. This number includes all major credit-granting institutions and foreign-owned banks. In 1999 there were 6,121 bank branches in the Netherlands, and Dutch banks had an additional 2,575 branches abroad. However, 3 large banksABN Amro, Rabobank and ING Bank account for about 75 percent of lending in the kingdom.


In 1999, the telecommunications market in the Netherlands amounted to US$10.3 billion. Over the next 5 years, the sector is expected to grow by 5-10 percent per year. About 85 percent of the market is based on telecommunications services, and the remaining 15 percent is equipment. In 1989, the government passed legislation which privatized telecommunications services. Nonetheless, the former state-owned telecommunications company KPN Telecom continues to dominate the sector. For instance, in the field of mobile phones, KPN Telecom controls 52 percent of the market. The next largest company, Libertel, controls 32 percent, and the third-largest firm, Telfort, controls 7 percent. The government is in the process of auctioning licenses for the next generation of mobile equipment. Despite the dominance of KPN Telecom, international corporations have gained an increasing share of the telephone market. Among the major international companies that are now in the Dutch market are MCI WorldCom, Global One, and Esprit Telecom.

A growing segment of the telecommunications sector is information technology or IT (computer-based information systems and communications). In 1999, the IT market in the Netherlands was worth US$11 billion. This represented a growth rate of 15 percent from the previous year. Over the next few years, forecasts predict that the field will continue to expand at a rate of 15 to 20 percent per year. The 2 largest Dutch IT firms are Baan and Exact. The government has attempted to promote the establishment of new IT companies under a program known as "Twinning." This program provides government funds for housing, business start-up, and financial advice. Despite this and similar programs, more than 60 percent of IT products and services are imported. The United States is the main supplier of IT goods and services to the kingdom. With more than 3 million Internet users, the Dutch have the highest rate of Internet usage per person in Europe. By 2002, there will be 7.5 million Dutch Internet users. E-commerce (the use of the Internet to purchase goods) was worth US$325 million in 1998, but this figure grew to US$1.1 billion in 1999, and is expected to be worth US$11.5 billion by 2002. Experts rank the Netherlands as being 12-18 months behind the United States in Internet usage and e-commerce.


The Dutch retail sector is highly developed and diversified. In many ways it is similar to that of the United States. Supermarkets comprise 68 percent of grocery stores, while specialty stores make up 22 percent and the remainder includes food stores, local farmers' markets, department stores, and convenience stores. The Netherlands has about 12,600 clothing stores with combined sales in 1999 of US$5.3 billion. Over 60 percent of these are small retail units, and the rest are department stores or chain outlets. Employment in retail and clothing stores is 61,010. Nonetheless, as in the United States, there has been a steady trend toward larger retail units and a decline in small specialty stores.


In 1999, the Dutch spent US$10 billion on tourism, but US$8 billion of this was spent outside of the country. The Dutch tend to travel extensively, and 4 out of 5 have traveled on vacation at some point in their lives. In 1999, there were 30.5 million overnight vacation trips, of which 16.3 million were within the Netherlands. Tourism accounts for 5 percent of all employment in the Netherlands and includes 45,000 companies. Over 95 percent of these companies have fewer than 10 employees. In 2000, tourism was one of the 4 fastest-growing sectors of the Dutch economy, and by 2010 there will be an additional 5,000 hotel rooms built. Within tourism, short trips (those of 2 to 4 days) are becoming the most popular form of vacation. The United States is the most popular destination for Dutch tourists and accounts for about 25 percent of the total overseas tourism market. The most popular destinations for Dutch tourists are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami. Of those who visit tourist destinations in the Netherlands, 52 percent are Dutch and 48 percent are foreign. Germans are the main tourist group to visit the kingdom, followed by the British.


Almost 160 million people live within a 300-mile radius of Rotterdam. This includes more than half of the population of the EU. As a result, the Netherlands is perfectly positioned as a gateway for goods being imported into the EU. In addition, Dutch goods are easily exported throughout the region. In all, 80 percent of Dutch exports go to other nations within the EU and 70 percent of goods imported into the Netherlands come from the EU. Asia accounts for only 17 percent of the nation's exports and 7 percent of its imports. The largest individual destination for Dutch goods is Germany at 27 percent, followed by Belgium-Luxembourg at 13 percent, France at 11 percent, the United Kingdom at 10 percent, and Italy at 6 percent. Imports are divided between Germany with 20 percent of the total, Belgium-Luxembourg with 11 percent, the United Kingdom with 10 percent, the United States with 9 percent, and France with 7 percent. The Dutch are the ninth-largest trading partner with the United States and the third-largest in Europe. The United States has its largest trade surplus with the Netherlands, averaging US$10 billion per year.

The Netherlands leads its EU partners in issues such as trade liberalization and the privatization of key industries such as telecommunications and transportation. Thus, it is in a good position to continue its trade surplus. In 1999, its trade surplus in both goods and services amounted to US$18 billion. This represented a 6 percent growth rate over the previous year and accounted for 6 percent of the kingdom's GDP. Dutch exports are concentrated in products that tend to do well even during periods of recession. These exports include food and agricultural products and energy resources.

In 1998, the Dutch exported US$169 billion worth of goods and services and imported US$152 billion. This represented a 5 percent increase in exports over the previous year and continued a trend of positive growth in exports which extends back into the 1980s. Services were the fastest growing exports and increased 6.9 percent in 1998, while the export of manufactured goods increased by 3 percent.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Netherlands
exports Imports
1975 39.939 40.854
1980 85.046 88.392
1985 78.008 73.268
1990 131.775 126.098
1995 196.276 176.874
1998 199.624 185.104
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

Because of the importance of trade and the impact of foreign sales on the Dutch economy, the government is a staunch supporter of global free trade. The Netherlands has worked closely with the United States to open markets around the world and reduce tariffs and other impediments to international commerce. The country works through international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The main international organization which has aided the Dutch economy has been the European Community, now known as the EU. Before the formation of this regional organization, about 40 percent of Dutch trade exports went to the nations of Europe. However, exports to Europe now account for about 80 percent of Dutch exports. The Netherlands was one of the founding members of the organization and has consistently supported increased economic integration among its members, including the establishment of a common currency, the euro. Because the use of the euro will reduce transaction costs between countries by eliminating differences in currency exchange rates , the implementation of the euro is expected to add US$3.5 billion in new business to the Dutch economy. It is also expected to increase foreign investment in the Netherlands by US$2.5 billion.

Since the end of the Cold War and the opening of Central and Eastern Europe to free-market capitalism, the Dutch have aggressively sought to gain access to the emerging markets in countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. They have also supported international efforts to reform the economies in the region in order to facilitate increased trade, and they support EU expansion to bring countries in the area into the trade organization.

The geographic location of the Netherlands and its highly skilled and productive workforce has attracted numerous international companies. By 2000, there were 6,400 foreign businesses with operations in the kingdom. These companies employed 357,000 Dutch workers. In order to encourage new investment and attract foreign companies, the Dutch government established the Foreign Investment Agency. This agency has overseen the implementation of 85 different projects with a combined value of US$531 million. These projects also resulted in 5,000 new jobs. The Dutch government offers grants of up to 20 percent of the start-up costs of new companies. The bulk of foreign investment in the Netherlands is from the United States (in 2000 the U.S. accounted for 80 percent of new investment). Total American investment in the kingdom is US$106 billion. The majority of U.S. investments were in financial services and real estate. The Netherlands is the third largest recipient of U.S. investment in the world.


The Dutch guilder or florin has fallen in value in relation to the U.S. dollar and other major European currencies. In 1995, 1 U.S. dollar was equal to 1.6057 guilders; however, in 1999, one U.S. dollar equaled 1.8904 guilders. The weakness of the Dutch currency has actually helped the nation's economy since it has made Dutch products cheaper and therefore more marketable. In 1999, the kingdom was one of the founding members of EMU. EMU created a single currency, the euro, for the EU nations which replaced national currencies in 2002. The euro is fixed at a rate of 2.20371 guilders per euro. Since its introduction, the euro has been weak against the U.S. dollar. In 2000, 1 U.S. dollar equaled 0.9867 euros (when the euro was introduced it was equal to US$1.1789). The low value of the euro is expected to continue to help Dutch exports when the nation adopts the currency.

Banks in the Netherlands manage the transfer of funds and securities and handle savings and checking accounts. They also assist companies in stock offerings. The banking system is overseen by the government-owned Dutch national bank, De Nederlandsche Bank, or DNB. The bank also oversees monetary policy . As a member of the European System of Central Banks, DNB coordinates with other European national banks on issues of monetary policy and national economies, as well as the implementation of EMU. Foreign-owned banks are allowed to operate in the kingdom according to the same rules and regulations as Dutch banks.

In 2002, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange will celebrate its birthday as the world's oldest stock market. The exchange has developed close ties with stock markets in Belgium and Luxembourg, and almost half of the investments in the Amsterdam Exchange come from foreign investors. The Amsterdam Exchange lists 972 different companies or investment institutions, of which 604 are Dutch and the rest foreign-owned. In 1999, the total value of the exchange was 1.497 trillion euros.

Exchange rates: Netherlands
euros per US$1
Jan 2001 1.0659
2000 1.0854
1999 0.9386
1998 1.9837
1997 1.9513
1996 1.6859
Note: Rates prior to 1999 are in Netherlands guilders per US$.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


Like most of the West European nations, the Dutch have a high standard of living. In 2000, the nation's GDP per capita was US$25,695. According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2000, the Netherlands ranks number-eight in the world in human development, ahead of nations such as Japan and the United Kingdom, but behind countries such as the Canada, Norway, and the United States. This report measures such features as income, literacy, and life span.

The wealthiest 10 percent of the population control 24.7 percent of the kingdom's wealth while the poorest 10 percent only control 2.9 percent. There are also regional differences in wealth and standard of living. People who live in the southern and western regions of the country tend to have higher incomes as the higher-paying industrial and new technology companies are concentrated in these regions. The northern area of the kingdom is the most rural and least prosperous area of the Netherlands.

While unemployment is low in the Netherlands, at 3.5 percent, as many as 100,000 people have simply dropped out of the labor force . The nation has generous social benefits and this has prevented the widespread expansion of poverty. The Dutch national drug policy continues to have an impact on poverty. The Dutch government differentiates between "hard" drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, and "soft" drugs such as marijuana. The sale and use of small quantities of soft drugs is legal, under certain guidelines. However, the use of hard drugs has risen over the past 2 decades. The government now spends about US$150 million per year on rehabilitation programs for the estimated 28,000 hard drug users in the kingdom (most of whom are unemployed and live below the nation's poverty line).

The poverty rate in the Netherlands is 4.7 percent of families. This gives the nation one of the lowest poverty rates in Europe, second only to nations such as Sweden, and well ahead of countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the United States. However, the main reason for this low rate is generous social payments. If government aid is excluded, the poverty rate in the

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Netherlands 18,584 20,443 21,256 24,009 28,154
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Germany N/A N/A N/A N/A 31,141
Belgium 18,620 21,653 22,417 25,744 28,790
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Netherlands
Lowest 10% 2.8
Lowest 20% 7.3
Second 20% 12.7
Third 20% 17.2
Fourth 20% 22.8
Highest 20% 40.1
Highest 10% 25.1
Survey year: 1994
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Netherlands rises to 18.9 percent. The highest rates of poverty are among individuals, but single-parent households account for almost 75 percent of all poor families.


In 1999, the Dutch labor force numbered 7.13 million. Of this total, 4.02 million were men and 3.11 million were women. Full-time workers numbered 4.12 million, while part-time employees numbered 3.01 million. The large number of part-time workers reflects the growth of the service sector as many jobs in this segment of the economy are part-time. This is especially true of retail workers. Of the total number of employees, 805,000 had seasonal or temporary jobs. The nation had an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in 1999. However, this figure does not truly represent those out of work in the kingdom, since an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 former or potential workers have simply dropped out of the labor force and decided to rely on the Netherlands' generous social benefits rather than try to find employment.

Dutch workers have the constitutional right to join unions. This includes all workers, even members of the military, police, and civil service. Although only about 28 percent of the workforce are active members of unions, collective bargaining agreements cover 75 percent of workers. Currently, union membership among professional workers is expanding. Organized strikes are rare in the country, and labor relations are generally regarded as harmonious. Discrimination against union members is illegal. Several major unions are presently undertaking widespread efforts to reduce the national work week to 36 hours.

Unions and private employers negotiate work contracts, known as social partnerships, which establish wage levels and benefits for workers and production targets for the companies. These contracts are renegotiated in the fall of every year and cover all workers, even those who do not belong to the union. Worker relations and union issues are

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Netherlands 17 7 7 2 13 8 46
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Germany 14 6 7 2 10 7 53
Belgium 17 6 8 3 1 7 57
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

overseen by the national Social and Economic Council which also advises the government on labor matters. As in many other nations, there are disparities between male and female workers in terms of hiring, salary, and promotions. Although gender discrimination is forbidden by law, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts in similar occupations. In 1999, women on average made only about 75 percent of what men earned in equal jobs.

Child labor is forbidden by law, but each year there are minor violations, especially around the Christmas holidays when children are often employed for holiday-related work. The minimum age for a person to begin work is 16 years old. But at 16, people may work only 8 hours per week. Anyone under the age of 18 may not work at night or work overtime. They are also prevented from working in hazardous occupations. Full-time employment for those 18 years old or younger is dependent upon their completion of 10 years of mandatory education. All employees must be given a 30-minute break after they complete 4.5 hours of work.

The nation's minimum wage can be changed every 6 months to adjust for inflation. However, only about 3 percent of workers earn the minimum wage, since most workers are covered by union-employer contracts. The minimum wage is US$1,172 per month. Those employees who earn minimum wage receive social security benefits and medical insurance which is paid for by the employer. These costs work out to approximately US$3,750 per worker. Employees under the age of 23 receive a percentage of the national minimum wage. This percentage ranges from 34.5 percent of the adult minimum wage for workers who are 16 years old to 85 percent of the wage for workers who are 22 years old. Labor costs in the kingdom have risen slower than inflation. In 1999 average wages rose by 2.5 percent which was only slightly higher than the inflation rate of 2.1 percent. In addition, advances in productivity offset wage increases as Dutch workers produced more goods per hour than they had the year before. This helped businesses maintain their profits and prevented an acceleration of inflation.

Under the law, the national work week is 40 hours. However, social partnership contracts have reduced the average work week for most employees to 37.5 hours per week. In addition, an increasing number of employees work non-traditional schedules. Telecommuting (working from home, using a computer or other equipment) is growing in popularity. Worker safety and working conditions are overseen by the Labor Commission. Under Dutch law, employees may refuse to work in hazardous occupations if they feel their safety is in jeopardy.


300 B.C. Germanic and Celtic tribes settle in the region that is now the Netherlands.

1018. Dirk III, Count of Holland, is the first to use the name Holland in his title.

1205. Amsterdam is founded.

1323. Holland gains control of Zeeland from Flanders.

1428. Holland is conquered by the Burgundians of France.

1477. The Hapsburgs gain control of Holland.

1515. Charles I incorporates Holland into the Holy Roman Empire.

1555-79. Charles I turns Holland over to his son Phillip II, King of Spain. The Dutch rise in revolt against the Catholic Spanish as Protestantism spreads throughout the region.

1581. The next 200 years is considered to be the "Golden Age" of Holland as trade flourishes and the country becomes one of the most prosperous and wealthy nations in the world. This prosperity is based on the nation's merchant fleet which transports goods around the globe.

1602. The Dutch East India Company is founded to expand trade with India and Asia. An early stock market is established.

1609. A bank is established in Amsterdam to exchange currency and to provide a safe place to deposit money.

1621. The Dutch West India Company is established to trade with North and South America. The nation again goes to war with Spain (1621-48).

1625. New Amsterdam is founded on Manhattan by the Dutch West India Company.

1648. Trade increasingly shifts away from Antwerp and Ghent to Amsterdam.

1795. The Netherlands is conquered by the French. The French establish the Batavian Republic and initiate a period of governmental and economic reforms.

1806. Louis Bonaparte is made king of Holland by his brother Napoleon Bonaparte.

1806-13. Napoleon attempts to make Holland the central economic power of the "Continental System" which was designed to cut off trade with Great Britain.

1814. After liberation from the French, the country becomes the Kingdom of the Netherlands under King William I. Under William a number of economic reforms are enacted, including a reorganization of the nation's international trade companies.

1815. Dutch troops help defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Belgium is made part of the Netherlands by the Treaty of Versailles. The Dutch attempt to encourage industrialization in Belgium.

1831. Following a revolt, Belgium is granted independence over a 10-year period.

1848. After liberal revolutions that sweep across Europe, the constitution is revised.

1849-90. The reign of William III. During this period, the modern system of political parties is established. Also during William's reign, revelations about harsh treatment of natives lead to reforms in the kingdom's East Indies colonies. Revolts in these colonies drain the national treasury and lead to questions over the economic value of the territories.

1870. Widespread industrialization begins in the Netherlands, much later than in the rest of Europe.

1914-18. The Dutch remain neutral during World War I. The government acts to maintain the nation's economy during the war in the face of naval blockades by both Great Britain and Germany.

1920. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines begins regular air service between Amsterdam and London.

1930s. The economy of the Netherlands is damaged by the Great Depression.

1939-45. When World War II breaks out, the Netherlands tries to maintain its neutrality but it is invaded by Germany in 1940. The Dutch colonies in Asia are conquered by the Japanese. The Allies liberate the kingdom and its colonies at the end of the war in 1945. However, after liberation the colonies in Indonesia begin a revolt and are granted independence in 1949.

1944. The Netherlands joins a customs convention with Belgium and Luxembourg. This association will evolve into the Benelux Economic Union in 1958.

1949. The kingdom is one of the founding members of NATO.

1952. The Netherlands joins the European Coal and Steel Community.

1957. The country becomes one of the founding members of the European Community. Disastrous flooding leads to the development of a comprehensive plan to control waterways and prevent future flooding.

1974. The last coal mines in the south of the kingdom close.

1980. The global recession, caused by the oil crisis of 1979, leads to a collapse of the housing market. Queen Juliana abdicates in favor of her daughter Queen Beat-rix (the present monarch).

1982. The nation undergoes a severe economic recession.

1993. The Netherlands begins a period of dramatic economic growth which lasts into the next century.

1999. The Netherlands joins EMU.


The most important event for the Dutch economy in the 21st century is the introduction of the euro and the subsequent discontinuation of the use of the guilder in 2002. With EMU, the Dutch will gain a number of advantages, including even lower transaction costs for importing and exporting goods with its EU partners. However, EMU will also mean that the Dutch have less control over their monetary policy, since a new European Central Bank will control most aspects of policy surrounding the euro. This might be problematic for the Dutch since the government has traditionally used monetary policy to help trade. EMU will probably mean that the Dutch will have to make a stronger effort to control inflation. This could potentially slow down the economy's rapid growth.

One potential domestic problem for the Dutch economy is that prosperity across the nation is not uniform. The northern regions tend to be less affluent and have less industry than the southern and western regions. In light of this problem, the government has initiated a variety of programs to attract new business to the less-prosperous regions. However, these programs have not had a major impact on the regions' economy yet.

The kingdom's abundant natural gas supply and its strong agricultural sector will help the nation do well even in case of an economic recession among the EU nations. Although the Dutch economy is dependent on foreign trade, exports of energy supplies and foodstuffs tend to remain strong even during economic downturns. In addition, the presence of a number of large, multinational firms in the country means that foreign trade is likely to continue to expand as these corporations persist in opening new markets for Dutch goods and services and provide access to new or less expensive products and services for Dutch consumers.

The expanding trade between the United States and the Netherlands also bodes well for the future of the Dutch economy. The United States remains the largest single market for products and services in the world. Because of their volume of trade with the EU and the United States, the Dutch have access to both of the globe's main consumer markets. Dutch trade with Asia continues to lag, however, and efforts to improve exports to the region have not been successful because of the competitive nature of the market and the area's economic slowdown in the late 1990s.


The Netherlands has no territories or colonies.


CPB Netherlands. Challenging Neighbors: Rethinking German and Dutch Economic Institutions. New York: Springer, 1997.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). OECD economic surveys: The Netherlands, 1998/99. Paris: OECD, 1999.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Regulatory Reform in the Netherlands. Paris: OECD, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000: Netherlands. <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Netherlands. <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Netherlands. <>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. "The Netherlands: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: 1999." <>. Accessed February 2001.

Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, editor. The Economic Development of the Netherlands Since 1870. Brookfield, Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1996.

Tom Lansford


Amsterdam is the constitutional capital; the official seat of the government is The Hague.


Netherlands guilder (Dfl or Fl), also known as gulden or florin. One guilder equals 100 cents. Coins are in denominations of Dfl1, 2.5, and 5, and 5, 10, and 25 cents. Paper currency is in denominations of Dfl10, 25, 50, 100, 250, and 1,000. The euro, the currency of the European Union, replaced the guilder on 1 January 2002.


Machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs.


Machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs, clothing.


US$365.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$169 billion (f.o.b., 1998 est.). Imports: US$152 billion (f.o.b., 1998 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Kingdom of the Netherlands
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 15,981,472
Language(s): Dutch
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 41,526 sq km
GDP: 364,766 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 35
Total Circulation: 4,443,000
Circulation per 1,000: 346
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 49
Total Circulation: 317,000
Circulation per 1,000: 25
Newspaper Consumption(minutes per day): 39
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 1,771 (Euro millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 48.40
Number of Television Stations: 21
Number of Television Sets: 8,100,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 506.8
Television Consumption (minutes per day): 150
Number of Cable Subscribers: 6,166,020
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 387.8
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 330,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 20.6
Number of Radio Stations: 65
Number of Radio Receivers: 15,300,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 957.4
Number of Individuals with Computers: 6,300,000
Computers per 1,000: 394.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 3,900,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 244.0

Background & General Characteristics

Media History

Newspapers were introduced in this part of Europe in the early seventeenth century, a few decades after the northern provinces of the Low Countries obtained their independence from Spain in 1579 by the Union of Utrecht and became the Republic of the United Netherlands. While not qualifying as the birthplace of the printed newspaper in Europe, several towns in the Netherlands became important international newspaper centers in the early 1600s and retained this role for more than a century. A number of French language newspapers, which became known collectively as La Gazette de Hollande, were published in Leyden, The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht, in a free-press environment. French was the most widespread language of politics in the seventeenth century, and Dutch publishers supplied this international market with newspapers that many of their reading public believed to originate in France (Hatin 6). The earliest of these international gazettes were the Tydinghen uyt Verscheyde Quartieren (1618-1670) and the Courante uyt Italien ende Duytschland (1618-1670), both published in Amsterdam and reporting tydinghen (tidings) from abroad. The Dutch word for newspaper, krant, is derived from the French courant (current) and the Spanish corantos, both of which mean "current" (as in current tidings).

Numerous additional gazettes were founded in Dutch cities in the following decades. The Nouvelles extraordinaires de divers endroit, an international gazette better known as La Gazette de Leyde, was published in Leiden since 1680, and La Gazette d'Amsterdam (also published under other titles such as Nouvelles d'Amsterdam ) entered the scene in 1688, the Gazette de Rotterdam was founded in 1695, and La Gazette de La Haye appeared for nearly a half century (1744-1790). Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, several Dutch-language gazettes were also published throughout the northern part of the Low Countries, with titles including the Amsterdamsche Courant (circa 1670), the Oprechte Haerlemse Courant (published in Haarlem, beginning in 1659), and the Ordinaire Leydsche Courant (1686).

Although licensing requirements for newspaper publishers were installed as a vehicle for placing them under the control of local city governments from the beginning of the eighteenth century, competition between the cities and the influence of the liberal merchant class ensured a de facto free press. Local Dutch authorities were not concerned about the many journals that were published in the relatively tolerant environment of their cities by refugees from religious intolerance elsewhere in Europe. An independent Dutch newspaper press continued to develop in the eighteenth century, and many additional daily newspapers flourished, including the Gravenhaegsche Cou-rant in The Hague, the Rotterdamsche Courant, theUtrechtsche Courant, the Leeuwarder Courant, and the Oprechte Groninger Courant.

The constitution enacted in 1798 by the repressive political regime following the French Revolution, which remained in force for 50 years, severely curtailed freedom of the press, since it literally stated that criticism of the government was equivalent to "an offense against freedom of the press." Ironically, it was during this repressive period, in 1830, that the first Dutch daily newspaper was published. After enactment of a new and liberal constitution in 1848, which prohibited all forms of censorship, publication of daily newspapers and other periodicals rose rapidly to more than 150 different publications. In the second half of the nineteenth century, further technological progress in mechanical writing and newspaper production increasingly facilitated production of inexpensive editions of daily papers, exemplified by Het Nieuws van den Dag (The Daily News), founded in 1869. Further, journalism and newspaper production in the Netherlands, as in other countries, was given a major boost by the introduction of the typewriter and its successors.

The large numbers of newspapers were published under editorial policies that have become known under the term "pillarization" (Verzuiling ). Newspapers reflected the combined religious and political views of their editorship, and this remained characteristic for Dutch newspapers until World War II. The main religious tendencies of Roman Catholic and Calvinist-Protestant were combined with a particular political conviction. The Dutch press in the East Indies also played a role in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Contrary to the Gazettes de Hollande, which had been a vehicle to promote nationalist views of outside groups in the previous century, it did not foster nationalist sentiment. The editors of the various newspapers, even those published in the Malay and Javanese languages, steered clear of violations of Dutch press laws, which had been amended in 1856 to ensure the public order but were used to suppress criticism of the government (Hagen).

The invasion of the traditionally neutral Netherlands by Germany in World War II created upheaval in the Dutch newspaper world. A few papers stopped publication altogether, while others collaborated with the Nazi regimeunder effective takeovers by Nazi-appointed editorial trustees. Ever since the Gutenberg revolution, the printed press has served as a vehicle for government propaganda as well as a vehicle for the expression of individual opinions. The Nazi occupation of west European countries provides a set of interesting case studies of officially sanctioned newspapers that published censored material and the simultaneous emergence of an underground press that served the resistance. Establishment of an underground press that stressed the need for individuals and groups to sabotage activities of the occupying forces was accomplished at great risk to both the publishers and distributors. Nevertheless, the underground press achieved very high levels of circulation as the war drew its course. Several of the underground newspapers continued publication after the end of the war, notably the Protestant daily Trouw and the Socialist daily Het Parool. In the 2000s, however, they no longer rank among the top 10 daily newspapers.

Daily, Weekly, and Other Periodicals

The Dutch are among EU members' most avid newspaper readers. Almost 5 million newspapers were sold daily to a nation of 15.5 million people in 1995, making for a daily circulation of 307 per 1,000 inhabitants. While not the largest among the west European countries, this ratio ranks among the highest. There are no Sunday newspapers in the Netherlands (a recent attempt to establish one failed), but there is a very high number of non-dailies, most of them regional in scope. The total number of daily newspapers has remained above 80 in the last two decades, and circulation has expanded in tandem with population growth; as population crept up from 14 million to 16 million in 2001, aggregate circulation rose from 4.6 to 5 million (Reddy 661).

In 2001, according to Translatin, the four leading daily newspapers were De Telegraaf, with a circulation of 777,000, owned by Telegraaf-Holding; Algemeen Dagblad, with a circulation of 390,000, owned by Dagbladunie (Reed-Elsevier); De Volkskrant, with a circulation of 372,000, owned by Perscombinatie co-operative; and NRC Handelsblad, with a circulation of 276,000, owned by Dagbladunie (Reed-Elsevier). When considering the top 10 newspapers in the most recent decades, the list consistently contains De Telegraaf, Algemeen Dag blad, and De Volkskrant. To illustrate, in 1981 the top 10 newspapers were De Telegraaf (circulation of 601,650),Algemeen Dagblad (357,943); De Volkskrant (214,500), Haagse Courant (194,025), Het Vrije Volk (160,152), De Gelderlander (158,946), Het Parool (158,400), Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (140,678), Courant Nieuws van de Dag (139,060), and NRC Handelsblad (138,112). In 1994 the top ten newspapers were De Telegraaf (circulation of 732,860), Algemeen Dagblad (393,371), De Volkskrant (358,750), NRC Handelsblad (267,172), Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (208,950), Dagblad De Limburger (198,365), De Gelderlander (176,795), Brabants Dag blad (164,435), Dagblad Tubantia (152,697), and Haag-se Courant (148,078) (Hendricks 37).

Founded in 1890, De Telegraaf is the leading Dutch, nationally distributed, daily newspaper. Its content is aimed at middle-class readership in the Netherlands, as well as abroad. While the editorial political orientation is generally neutral, articles often have flashy headlines, and there is a heavy focus on show business news. De Volkskrant has existed since 1919. For its first 50 years, it can best be described as being outspokenly Catholic, even militantly so. Since 1965, however, the editorial policy has changed, and the paper is since directed at a readership comprised of the well-educated, middle-ofthe-road, young "Amsterdammers." Its circulation has increased to rival that of Algemeen Dagblad in the mid-1990s. The NRC Handelsblad maintains a liberal political orientation, while the two daily papers founded by the resistance, Trouw and Het Parool, no longer rank in the top ten sellers. While Het Financieele Dagblad (not listed in the top 10) has a relatively small circulation of 47,000, it has a very extensive readership in the business world.

The Netherlands also has a large number of regional and local papers that place a strong emphasis on general news reporting, including Drentse Courant, Friesch Dagblad, Haarlem's Dagblad, and Amersfoortse Cou-rant. Several of the regional papers have a large reader-ship, rivaling that of the national dailies. Many of the regional papers are now also available on the Internet.

A few weekly news-oriented Dutch periodicals are noteworthy. De Groene Amsterdammer was founded in 1877, and in 2002 it had a circulation of 18,000. It is produced in large color format and specializes in publishing in-depth articles on political, economic, and cultural issues, with a leftist political orientation. The Netherlander, which has a 2002 circulation of 44,500, is reminiscent of the times of La Gazette de Hollande, since it is a Dutch periodical published only in English. It was started as an offshoot of Het Financieele Dagblad in 1992. As its parent newspaper, it focuses on financial and economic news and is directed primarily to the non-Dutch business world.

In 1999 two daily tabloid newspapers, Metro and Sp!ts began publication. Both are distributed free of charge to people using public transportation. Metro had first been introduced in Scandinavia and moved to the Netherlands after it had proven its success there. Sp!ts (so named because the morning rush hour is called spits uur, with the exclamation point instead of an "I" signifying the hurried traveller) was published by De Telegraaf, as a competitor to Metro. Although both of these tabloids have a large readership, they tend to undermine the sales of daily papers and threaten to become a profit-invading factor for newspaper producing companies. However, since Sp!ts is also available online, it permits its parent newspaper De Telegraaf to direct readers to profit-oriented links.

Economic Framework

The Netherlands is a typical small open economy. More than half of its gross domestic product (GDP) of 429.2 trillion euros in 2001 (expressed in 2002 prices) derived from exports (according to the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek 2002). Economic growth is modest, and unemployment is remarkably low at 2.3 percent. The rate of inflation is also rather modest, at 3.5 percent. Despite the fact that government expenditures are still high (burdened by social security transfer payments), the annual budget turned into the black in 1999, for the first time since the oil crisis of the 1970s. The public debt ratio has declined substantially in the past 10 years, from approximately 80 percent of GDP in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to 67 percent in 1998 and 64 percent in 1999. Public spending itself, including social security transfer payments, fell below half of the GDP. The strengthening of the budget position is the result of factors both on the revenue and the expenditure side. First, the Netherlands is rich in petroleum and natural gas (mainly from the Slochteren gasfields), and it ranks among the world's largest producers and distributors of natural gas. Annual government revenues from the natural gas industry exceed 1 billion euros. Second, the government has gradually reduced its role since the 1980s and has followed a policy of privatization as well as deregulation in the last two decades.

Increasing concentration of newspaper ownership is one of several changes that have taken place in the Netherlands' newspaper industry in the past decade as it adapts to the rapid development of a multimedia environment beyond the traditional triad of print, picture, and sound, in a liberalized government policy environment where cross ownership is now permitted. Dutch newspapers derive half of their revenue from advertising, an additional 20-25 percent from classified advertising, and obtain relatively high single copy prices exceeding 1 euro. Since approximately half of their revenue is derived from actual copy sales, newspaper businesses are not highly vulnerable to changes in the advertising market in the Netherlands (Hendriks 11). There is vivid competition in the national newspaper market, and competition in local markets is becoming more vivid, although the politically diversity of newspapers provides a niche for existing papers. Production quality is high, and color presses are commonly used. Product development in the printed newspaper is infrequent, however, because of reliance on niche markets.

In past decades, average and large daily newspapers have been able to take advantage of economies of scale. Those with circulations exceeding 100,000 copies have achieved before-tax profit rates of about 8-13 percent of gross revenue in the 15-year period spanning the 1980s and early 1990s, while small newspapers were often running a loss and mid-size papers were gradually becoming more profitable (Hendriks 22). The main cost categories where economies of scale are present are printing, editorial, advertising acquisition, and overhead. Newsprint itself, that is the actual paper to which the newsprint is applied, accounts for about 1/10 of the newsstand price, and cost analyses show that the smaller newspapers have much lower average cost per newspaper copy for this raw material than do larger papers. Large papers have the advantage in printing costs, where economies of scale are present, and smaller ones obviously hold the advantage in transportation and delivery (Hendriks 25-29). Accordingly, it can be profitable for large papers to have printing presses at different locations spread throughout their distribution area. NRC Handelsblad for example, which is usually distributed in the evening, is produced largely by using the printing presses of competitors during off-peak hours. Another cost-saving factor is provided by new printing technology. Digital printing is a fast process that eliminates a number of steps, notably plate making. With digital printing, newspapers can both save labor and reduce newsprint waste; this new technology also makes the production of smaller runs more profitable. Accordingly, newspapers can now be targeted to specific subgroups of users, such as by geographic region. As newspapers become differentiated to satisfy specific customer groups, however, distribution costs may increase somewhat, at least in the short run.

In the long run, the steady rise in circulation that is required to meet costs of labor, printing, and distribution will be hard to achieve in the Netherlands' newspaper industry. It has already moved out of the rapid circulation increases it achieved on the steep part of the S growth curve, and it is now creeping along the relatively flat part of the curve. Moreover, the very rapid development of technology for alternative information media is a threat that can only be met by aggressive participation by traditional newspapers in the new medium and by fostering media conversion. The industry can no longer live in the safe isolation it has enjoyed through much of the twentieth century.

Press Laws

Freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, is protected by three articles (6, 7, and 13) of the Dutch Constitution (Grondwet voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden ). Article 6 is relevant since it specifies that "Every person has the right to freely exercise their religion or life conviction (levensovertuiging ), individually or in community with others. " Article 7 specifically addresses freedom of the press and other communications media, in four consecutive paragraphs. The first states that "No one needs to seek prior permission to express ideas or feelings through the printed press, within every-one's individual responsibility with respect to the law." Article 7, Paragraph 2 specifies that "Radio and television will be regulated by law. The content of a radio-or television broadcast is not subject to prior government clearance" (it will not be censored). Paragraph 3 of the article extends the previously stated rights to media other than the traditional triad of print, radio, and television. It also allows for legislation to limit these rights for persons under the age of 16 on grounds of morality. Finally, Article 7, Paragraph 4 excludes commercial advertising from the aforementioned three paragraphs. Article 13 of the Constitution also has implications for freedom of the press, since it guarantees privacy of the content of communications in the form of letters sent by mail, telephone, or telegraph. It does however, provide for exceptions to be made by law.

The phrase in Article 7, Paragraph 1, "within every-one's individual responsibility with respect to the law" limits the freedom of journalists in a number of categories. Journalists cannot commit offenses that violate state security, that insult members of a group of the population or members of the royal family, or that are blasphemous towards individuals. Furthermore, exceptions may be made to the "no one needs to seek prior permission" clause when the country is at war.


Even though the Dutch press generally enjoys complete freedom from censorship, there is an occasional minor exception, such as the case of Gra Boomsma, a writer, in the early 1990s. He was charged with defamation in relation to a 1992 interview published in a regional newspaper, in which he likened the actions of Dutch soldiers in Indonesia with those of the SS in Nazi Germany. Although he was originally acquitted in 1994, an appeal was filed, and his final acquittal took place in January 1995. This case is typical for countries with low thresholds for bringing libel actions against the press. In the Netherlands, a plaintiff can bring a libel suit by alleging an attack on personal honor (Wimmer and Rosenthal 3). The European Court of Human Rights, however, is bringing such thresholds up to a higher level, as it deals with cases referred to it and applies Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, which states that the right to freedom of expression includes "the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities. "

Another type of infringement on freedom of the press in the Netherlands comes in the form of sanctions for journalists who refuse to reveal their sources. In a recent case (World Press Freedom Review 2000), Koen Voskuil, a journalist with the daily Sp!ts, was detained by the Amsterdam Court of Justice for refusing to reveal the name of the police officer who told him that the public prosecutor's office obtained a false search warrant that was used to gather evidence against an arms dealer. The case caused massive criticism in the international press community.

All in all, however, freedom of the press in the Netherlands ranks very favorably compared with other nations in Europe and around the world. In a survey of 192 countries, Freedom House (2001) ranked the Netherlands in eighth place, ahead of Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, and France, but not as high as the Scandinavian countries Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

A concern of a different kind in relation to freedom of the press is the increasing concentration of ownership. Recently, the Anglo-Dutch publishing group Reed-Elsevier announced that its newspapers and consumer publishing units were to be sold. Reed-Elsevier is thus selling Dagbladunie, the "absolutely prize Dutch stable of newspapers" (World Freedom of the Press Review 74). Dagbladunie includes the national daily newspapers NRC Handelsblad and Algemeen Dagblad, as well as a large range of regional newspapers with a circulation of 300,000. The timing of the announcement came one week after Trinity International Holdingspossibly the biggest buyer in the regional newspaper marketbought a group of competing titles.

State-Press Relations

In addition to self-regulation by the newspaper publishers association, the Dutch newspaper industry is potentially affected by revisions in antitrust legislation. From July 1999, price coordination in circulation and in newspaper advertising was prohibited. The press receives tax favors and obtains additional forms of government assistance. The value-added tax for newspaper publishers is only 6.0 percent, compared to 17.5 percent for other businesses. Newspapers can also obtain low-interest government loans under specific provisions that are contained in the budgetary framework of the Netherlands Press Fund; this fund also compensates newspapers for losses due to small circulation and low density of distribution. Cross-ownership regulation limits the control of national television broadcasting organizations by newspaper organizations to those that control less than 25 percent of the circulation market. Local ownership of broadcasting organizations is not regulated by legislation, however.

The Dutch Public Prosecutor's office adopted a new policy relative to the press in the 1990s. While in previous years, the office was "very passive" in keeping the press informed about charges filed against it, under the new policy, the Public Prosecutor's office actively spreads this information. Jan Renkema and Hans Hoeken (1998) investigated whether the image of the accused party, a corporation for example, may be permanently tainted under this new policy, considering that "Dutch newspapers have a large audience, and the impact of their articles is strong [and] negative publicity in newspapers has a high damage potential" (521). Based on interviews with readers of a regional newspaper, and using a previously published article, they found that readers' opinions are shaped by the degree of certainty that is conveyed in the article pertaining to the alleged illegal behavior engaged in by the company and that the negative effect of the allegation on the company's trustworthiness and expertise is retained for a long time in the public's perception.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The Netherlands has a generally open attitude toward foreign media. This openness is expressed along several dimensions: applicability of constitutional rights to individuals who are not Dutch citizens; availability of foreign newsprint to the Dutch public; accessibility to newsworthy events by foreign journalists; availability of Internet newspapers of other countries to the Dutch public; display of the work of foreign journalists and photographers in exhibitions held in the Netherlands; and participation by Dutch journalists in setting international standards on mass media that maintain editorial freedom. All of these dimensions of openness are exhibited in the Netherlands. In principle, members of foreign media active in the Netherlands receive the same treatment as do domestic journalists. The freedom of the press expressed in Article 7 of the constitution makes no distinction between persons who are of Dutch nationality and others. The Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (Nether-lands Organization of Journalists) is affiliated with several international organizations, including the International Federation of Journalists and the International Organization of Journalists. The Netherlands' newspaper publishers association is also affiliated with international organizations. The only infringement on members of the foreign media occur in those rare situations where both foreign and domestic journalists are denied access (by police on the scene) to a scene in the interest of national security. Unfortunately, this is occasionally also the case in a politically sensitive or embarrassing situation, as the following two examples show.

The 2001 World Press Freedom Review reported that foreign journalists recently criticized the organizers of the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity, held at the Hague in June 2001. According to the PANAFRICAN news agency, its journalists were critical of the lack of transparency in the forum itself. In addition, Bolivian journalist Claudio Rossei questioned why the forum was not open to journalists who were stakeholders in the fight against corruption and safeguarding integrity (World Press Freedom Review 2001). The second example is the highly embarrassing situation that arose during the European Football Championship finals in July 2000, when a group of disabled people were not allowed to enter Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam by means of their wheelchairs and were instead carried up into the stadium by police officers. A group of Italian reporters who were filming Dutch police officers carrying Italian disabled people up to the stadium were arrested and released only after intervention by the Italian ambassador to the Netherlands. One of the Italian journalists, Donatella Scarnati, claimed that the police beat up several of the journalists who were taking photographs of disabled persons who were being carried like "sacks of potatoes."

News Agencies

The ANP (Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau / General Netherlands Press Bureau) is the primary news agency in the Netherlands. It started in 1934 as a cooperative of the newspaper publishers, which agreed to pay for the Bureau's information service according to the circulation size of their respective newspapers. Today, the ANP provides information to a number of newspapers, radio and television programs, Internet sites, and even mobile applications such as SMS, MMS, WAP, and I-Mode;ts stated goal is to be fast, objective, trustworthy, and current. Using the work of hundreds of journalists and photographers, ANP can deliver more than 160,000 news articles and 58,000 photographs annually to its subscribers. It is located in The Hague and works closely with international news agencies, notably Reuters, Deutsche Presse Agentur (Germany), Agence France-Presse (France), and Belga (Belgium).

A number of additional organizations in the Netherlands refer to themselves as news agencies and serve either commercial or ecclesiastical interests. These include Borger Odoorn Web, based in Odoorn, Drent, which provides news on the Internet, together with a number of other services, such as chat lines, links useful to readers, and local community announcements; and Nieuwsbank, a news agency based in Utrecht and offering the opportunity to its subscribers to both read and post news articles.

With the development of multimedia services on the Internet, where audio-visual materials and links to a number of applications and products can be used to attract customers, reliance on news agencies for the traditional text portion of the information becomes increasingly important. The cost of the news agency service to traditional printed newspapers is likely to rise as news agencies provide more and more editorial materials that are directly formatted for online use.

Broadcast News Media


The Netherlands has been one of the pioneer nations in the development of radio broadcasting. Radio communication, including short wave broadcasting, was developed in several nations in the 1920s, with the earliest interest in regular international broadcasting originating in The Netherlands' southern neighbor, Belgium, where wireless communication with the central African colony in the Belgian Congo was established in 1913 (Haslach 1). The Netherlands was the first nation where a regularly scheduled international short wave broadcasting system was initiated by private enterprises. The early ventures saw opposition from government, political parties, religious groups, and broadcasting organizations. The government's opposition was rooted in the belief that this development might compromise its policy of neutrality in international conflicts. The intent of early Dutch short wave broadcasting was to provide information in the Dutch language to the Netherlands' colonies in both the East and West Indies. Interestingly, the motivation for radio broadcasting was directly tied to colonialism in both the Netherlands and Belgium, and the Netherlands' policy of neutrality did not extend to struggles for independence in the colonies. Another minor exception to the neutrality policy was the multi-lingual "Happy Station," which was established to gather international goodwill for the Netherlands.

In the years following the end of World War I, the Netherlands increasingly came to terms with the fact that neutrality and isolation from the other world powers could not be maintained as long as it continued to have colonial power in the strategically located East Indiesa large, self-governing region (headed by a Governor-General) composed of thousands of islands, which was independent of the Netherlands with the exception of the strategic areas of defense and foreign policy. Dutch was the common official language imposed in this large region of many languages and religious beliefs. In the 1920s, an Islamic liberation movement took hold in the East Indies, under leadership of Sukarno and others, and the Netherlands' authorities were careful not to add to the rebellious mood among educated natives. Accordingly, NIROM (The Netherlands Indies Radio Broadcasting Company) was created as a tool to communicate a common Dutch policy to the fragmented native population that typically lived far away from Java on remote islands. In 1923 the PTT (Post, Telegraph, and Telephone Company) was linked up to the receiver on Java, giving birth to the first long wave wireless telegraphy connection between the Netherlands and the East Indies colony. In 1928 anyone could make an appointment to make a call to Java at the East Indies booth at the PTT headquarters in The Hague.

The first actual radio station in the Netherlands was established in 1919, following experiments with the new medium in the private sector. Meanwhile, the Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek (Dutch Wireless Equipment Company, also known as NSF) forged a licensing agreement with the Marconi Company to install a wireless transmitter for the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, and Philips Radio expanded its activities in radio by purchasing the requisite technology and signing licensing agreements with established companies like RCA and Westinghouse in the United States, Telefunken in Germany, and several others. By 1927 a boom period had developed for short wave broadcasting and, to avoid international interference in the small territory of the Netherlands, no more than a few radio stations could operate simultaneously, and those that did needed to be at a low power. Since stations were affiliated with many different political parties, religious groups, and life philosophies, political realities dictated that radio stations should no longer be operated solely by private companies and was brought under state control. In this way, the Dutch broadcasting system became a hybrid of a state-run and a commercial venture.

Laws relating to media ownership Until 1960, when the offshore radio station Veronica began its pirate transmissions of commercial pop music, broadcasting associations had been the only presence on the Dutch airwaves (Parkes 1999). In 1964 REM (Reclame-televisie Exploitatie Maatschappij, or advertising-television exploitation company) started offshore television and radio broadcasts. These two ventures showed the need for protection of public broadcasting by means of media laws and regulations, which came in the form of the Broadcasting Act of 1969 and 1981, and the Media Act of 1987, 1988, 1990, and 1994. The development of this legislation, specifically allowed for in the constitution, followed the realities of what was happening in the media.

In 1965 new organizations were allowed to join the public broadcasting system, and TROS (Televisie en Radio Omroep Stichting /Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation) entered in 1966, followed by EO (Evangelische Omroep /Evangelical Broadcasting) in 1970. The Broadcasting Act was passed in 1969, establishing the NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting /Dutch Broadcasting Corporation), which was provided with air-time and facilities for groups in society who had no air-time of their own. The act also specifies that broadcasting organizations must be not-for-profit and serve the public interest by providing programming that addresses the population's cultural, educational, and spiritual needs. NOS was permitted to utilize up to 40 percent of radio and TV airtime with its own programs. Following the Broadcasting Act's specifications, broadcasting organizations would get access to airtime according to one of three categories: category A for organizations with more than 400,000 subscribers, category B for those between 250,000 and 400,000 subscribers, and category C for those with 100,000 to 250,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, TROS (Televisie en Radio Omroep Stichting /Television and Radio Broadcasting Organization) entered the public system in 1975, and the VOO (Veronica Omroep Organisatie /Veronica Broadcasting Organization) followed suit in 1975, ending its 15 years as a pirate station.

By the end of the 1970s, there were eight broadcasting organizations that had a membership exceeding 100,000, which were "pillarized" by political and religious affiliation, as follows: (1) AVRO (neutral), (2) TROS (independent), (3) KRO (Catholic), (4) VARA (socialist), (5) NCRV (Protestant), (6) VOO (independent), (7) VPRO (progressive), and (8) EO (fundamentalist Protestant).

The Media Act was passed in 1988, which privatized NOS as part of the government's global policy move to privatization and deregulation of the economy. The production facilities were reborn as a commercial enterprise, the NOB (Nederlands Omroepsproductie Bedrijf /Dutch Broadcast Production Company). The 1994 amendments to the Media Act introduced a system of airtime concessions. Additional laws regulating the media are the Netherlands Competition Act (Law 242, 1997) and the 1999 Telecommunications Act. The Telecommunications Act (Telecommunicatiewet ) was adopted in April 1998 by the Second Chamber of the States General, and it became law in February 1999. It regulates the rights and responsibilities of everyone who is active in today's liberalized telecommunications market, which welcomes market competition and seeks to attract foreign as well as domestic investments.


Although television technology was being developed since 1925, and the Telegraph and Telephone Law (T & T Law) was revised in June 1927 to include under broadcasting the new technology of television, actual TV broadcasting was only introduced in the Netherlands on October 2, 1951 (Wieten 1994). The delay was due to a combination of factors, mainly the time needed to improve the technology and the lack of program development to attract the public's interest in this new medium.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, national television had three channels that were used by more than a dozen public broadcasters, each of whom is assigned a specific channel and time slot for broadcasting. The main national television networks were as follows: AVRO or Algemene Vereniging Radio Omroep, EO or Evangelische Omroep, KRO or Katholieke Radio Omroep, NCRV or Nederlandse Christelijke Radio Vereniging, NOS or Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, NPS or Nederlandse Programma Stichting, TROS or Televisie Radio Omroep Stichting, VARA or Vereniging Arbeiders Raio Amateurs, and VPRO or Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep.

Regional television networks included Radio-TV Noord Holland, Radio-TV Oost, Radio-TV Rijnmond, TV Noord, Westlandse Omroep Stichting, and several others. The many cable and satellite television broadcasters cover programs that are theme-oriented and provide programs from pay-per-view sport events to children's programming, news, travel, and music.

Electronic News Media

Expansion of new electronic media

Electronic news media in the Netherlands now includes the traditional radio and television, as well as a variety of other media, such as newspapers distributed via the Internet, teletext, Acrobat-readable text, and streaming audio and streaming video productions. It remains to be seen whether the new wave of technology innovation taking place in the last decade of the twentieth century will lead to a completely unimpeded flow of knowledge and information among the Dutch people and between them and the global society. Ideally, in the words of Shalini Venturelli: "A universally networked broadband, interactive, multimedia information society could be the richest source of creative, diverse, empowering, and democratizing communication ever to connect humanity. It may perhaps evolve into the world's first true mass medium' by allowing anyone with a few simple tools to communicate ideas to thousands of people at once." (1)

While it is too early to see whether the Netherlands will evolve as a leading contributor to such a mass medium, the Dutch have certainly made the move to the introduction of all forms of new communication technology, including personal computers, digital terrestrial television, cinema, cell phones, and conversions of the various electronic media (such as personalized versions of media information).

According to the latest figures released by the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS, the Netherlands' Central Bureau of Statistics), Dutch citizens today spend an average of 10 hours weekly at their personal computer. There are substantial variations by region, age, sex, and education level, however (van Mieghem 2002). Persons aged 25-34 spend 16 hours per week, as do persons with higher education; those older than age 65 spend only 1 hour on average, and men's use of 14 hours is twice that of women's. The lowest user rates, as expected, are from persons older than the age of 65 (1 hour), persons with only a primary level of education (4 hours), and those living in rural areas (8 hours). Increased use of personal computers has made non-print newspapers popular. Several daily newspapers have established online editions, with subscription rates ranging from 4.75 euros for three weeks to 17 euros for 6 weeks. While many of the online papers are also the well-known printed daily newspapers (Algemeen Dagblad, De Telegraaf, De Volkskrant, Het Financieele Dagblad, Het Parool, Nederlands Dagblad,and NRC Handelsblad ), some lesser known titles are also available online (the tabloid newspapers Sp!ts and Reformatorisch Dagblad ). The branching out of newspapers to the Internet has caused disputes between the publishers and the journalists' union concerning intellectual property rights and royalties for journalists who are full-time staff members as well as for freelancers, since newspaper publishers favor the old system in which their work is compensated on a one-time basis.

Education & Training

Higher education in the Netherlands consists of a two-track system with universities on the one hand and other institutions of higher learning, Hogescholen, on the other. Higher education in journalism is conducted as part of the Hogeschool system. The first journalism school in the Netherlands was founded at the Hogeschool van Utrecht, in 1967, ending the long tradition that the craft is acquired merely with on-the-job training. In Utrecht journalism is taught at the Faculty for Communication and Journalism (Fakulteit Communicatie en Journalistiek ) in the School of Journalism (School van Journalistiek en Voorlichting or SvJ). The program is comprised of four years of course work, with students typically taking four or five courses concurrently, with topics covering both the specialty and background knowledge. The academic year has three trimesters, with examinations at the end of each. A number of other Hogescholen now offer journalism programs as well, and students often have the option of choosing between journalism as a full-time specialty or taking a few courses in journalism and communication as electives. Full-time programs in journalism are offered at the Academy for Journalism (Academie voor Journalistiek en Voorlichting ) of the Fontijs Hogescholen in Tilburg (full-time, part-time, or courses taken as electives), the Faculty of Journalism (Faculteit Journalistiek en Communicatie ) of the Christelijke Hogeschool Windesheim in Zwolle, and the Evangelical School for Journalism (Evangelische School voor Journalistiek en Voorlichting ) of the Christelijke Hogeschool Ede. The typical course of full-time study comprises courses in journalism education and courses in political science, international politics, and intensive language study (English and two additional foreign languages). A portfolio or other capstone experience and an internship are also required. An English-language program is offered at the New School for Information Services in Amsterdam. This four-year program leads to a degree in communication, with elective courses in photojournalism and business journalism.

In addition to the full-time degree programs, there are a number of graduate and continuing education programs in journalism education. One such program is the Post-doctoral Education in Journalism (PDOJ, Postdoctorale Opleiding Journalistiek ) of the Erasmus Universiteit in Rotterdam. This eight-month training program runs from January to September, with the first five months spent on campus for formal education and practica. The summer months are devoted to an internship with one of the daily newspapers participating in the program. Another program for continuing education in journalism is available at the Institute for Media and Information Management at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. Here, students take individual courses, in editing for example, to round out their education. Finally, the Media Academie in Hilversum offers continuing education in the form of individual courses on a range of subjects useful to practicing journalists, such as Internet journalism, composition of texts, editing, investigative reporting, and anchoring programs for television and radio.

The four largest Dutch newspapers (De Telegraaf, Het Algemeen Dagblad, De Volkskrant, and NRC Handelsblad ) offer summer internships to journalism students. Internships are arranged through a coordinator at the university. The approximately 100 available internships are allocated quarterly to the four major institutions of higher learning that offer journalism degrees, in accordance with their enrollments in the program. A few additional internships are offered by smaller national and regional newspapers. It is possible for students to complete their internship with an international newspaper, as long as the goals of the program can be met, and the program coordinator gives approval.

There are a number of councils, agencies, and societies supporting Dutch journalists; the Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ, Netherlands Association of Journalists) is the major professional association. The NVJ was established in 1968 and is physically located in Amsterdam, while also maintaining an Internet presence. The association assumes a number of supporting roles for journalists and other professionals, as well as members of the public at large. It sets fees for freelance work, and it provides safeguards for the protection of intellectual property rights of journalists and authors of non-newsprint materials. It takes an advocacy position for both its members and for the public at large, and it consistently stands for freedom of the press, freedom of access to information, and responsibility of the media in both the printed press and broadcasting. A special working group deals with issues of migrants and the media. The NVJ also fosters continuing education for journalists and provides specific assistance to those who are on assignment in war zones and disaster areas. Over the years, the NVJ has evolved into an elaborate organization with several divisions of specialized sections. One type of section organizes members according to the medium they are active in (daily newspaper journalists, Internet professionals, freelancers, photojournalists, and regional broadcasters, for example), while other NVJ sections are organized by profession (sports journalists and editors-in-chief) and by region (Central Netherlands, Amsterdam, International). The NVJ is affiliated with "Reporters Respond," an international association that provides financial and other assistance to journalists, camera operators, and other members of the media who face emergencies, from kidnapping to anonymous phone calls. Together with many other journalists' unions and organizations, the NFJ is also a member organization of the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organization for journalists.

Some organizations specialize in assuming an advocacy role for citizens in an adversarial positions with journalism professionals. In particular, the Journalism Council (Raad voor de Journalistiek ) is an independent agency for citizens who wish to file a complaint about journalistic activities and who do not wish to litigate using the court system. The Council is one of the tools of self-regulation of the media. Half of its members are journalists, while the other half is composed of experts in a variety of areas, such as legal studies, academic journalism, editing, and the electronic media. While the Council can hold hearings and pronounce a verdict, it does not impose sanctions. Its verdicts are published in the professional publication De Journalist, and the history of the verdicts constitutes a set of guidelines for journalism ethics. Even when no specific complaint has been made in relation to an issue involving journalism ethics, the Council may enter the public debate and express an opinion, as in the use of hidden cameras, and thus contributes to the formation of public opinion in media ethics.

The Netherlands Audiovisueel Archief (NAA), is a large archive with holdings of 800,000 hours of audiovisual materials that are accessible to the public and provide a valuable database for journalism education and research.

Awards for Journalists

The European Journalism Center (EJC, a mid-career training facility for European journalists) and Europartner NRW jointly organize the Europartner Journalism Award for "excellence in reporting cross-border business cooperation." In excess of 1,500 small and medium sized enterprises attended the latest meeting, held at the Europartner conference in Dortmund, Germany, on June 24, 2002. In addition to awards for their written words, journalists can also be recognized for excellence in photography. In May 2001, Lara Jo Regan won the 44th annual World Press Photo 2000 award at a ceremony taking place at the Old Church in Amsterdam. The winning entry was her photograph documenting living conditions of illegal immigrants in the United States.


The Dutch are among the European Union's most avid newspaper readers. Almost 5 million newspapers were sold daily to a nation of 15.5 inhabitants in 1995. The daily circulation of 307 newspapers per 1,000 inhabitants is one of the highest in Europe. The four leading national newspapers are De Telegraaf, Algemeen Dagblad, De Volkskrant, and NRC Handelsblad ; their combined circulation is close to two million copies daily. There is also a substantial local and regional daily press and, in 1999, the tabloid newspaper format became popular with the introduction of the no-charge papers Metro and Sp!ts.

The economic framework is set on the one hand by government policies, which have fostered deregulation and liberalization in the past two decades, and the pecularities of costs of production and distribution facing the printed newspaper industry itself. Newspaper ownership has become increasingly concentrated, with three of the four largest newspapers now residing under a single ownership.

Dutch newspapers cost more than 1 euro as a rule, and newspaper companies rely on circulation for about half of their revenues. Niche markets provide fairly stable readership, although the industry has definitely moved beyond the steep portion of the S-shaped growth curve. Economies of scale are important in the area of printing, editorial costs, distribution and transportation, where larger papers have the advantage. New technologies, especially digital printing, make possible the production of smaller runs of newspapers that are tailored to specific customer groups.

Freedom of the press is constitutionally protected in the Netherlands. Specifically, Article 7, states that "no one needs to seek prior permission to express ideas or feelings through the printed press, within everyone's responsibility with respect to the law," that "radio and television will be regulated by law," and that the content of broadcasts is not subject to "prior government clearance." A subsequent paragraph extends these rights to include newly developed media. Although the Dutch press generally enjoys complete freedom from censorship, there are minor exceptions to complete freedom of the press, usually in relation to hijacking, matters of national security and, unfortunately, highly embarrassing political situations, such as the incident where journalists were prevented from taking photographs of handicapped persons who were not allowed to take wheelchairs into Feyenoord Stadium. Attitudes towards the foreign media are generally very open.

The Netherlands has been one of the pioneer nations in the development of radio broadcasting. Radio communication, including short wave broadcasting, was developed in the 1920s. In 1927 the industry had already reached the stage where no more than a few radio stations could operate simultaneously, at low power, to avoid interference. Eventually, the private stations were brought under partial control, in the form of regulations, by the state. Applicable legislation includes the Broadcasting Act of 1969 and 1981, and the Media Act of 1987, amended in 1988, 1990 and 1994.

Television technology was also developed since the 1920s, but the first TV station only became operative in 1951. In 2002 national television has three channels that are used by more than a dozen broadcasters, each of whom is assigned a specific channel and time slot. New electronic media are being rapidly introduced. Many newspapers are available online and offer a number of attractive features to their customers, including audio-visuals as well as links to a number of applications and sites.

Education of journalists nowadays takes place at institutions of higher learning, with several Hogescholen offering four year degree programs. The first journalism school in the Netherlands was founded in 1967 at the Hogeschool of Utrecht. Advanced students in journalism take internships at a newspaper that are arranged through the coordinator of their university studies. In the long run, journalists' activities will be redefined in terms of both paper and multi-media technologies. There are a number of councils, agencies, and societies supporting Dutch journalists, with the NVJ (Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten ) as the major professional association.


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Brigitte H. Bechtold

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Kingdom of the Netherlands
Region: Europe
Population: 15,892,237
Language(s): Dutch
Literacy Rate: 99%
Number of Primary Schools: 7,287
Compulsory Schooling: 13 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 5.1%
Libraries: 1,130
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,230,987
  Secondary: 1,415,712
  Higher: 468,970
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 108%
  Secondary: 137%
  Higher: 47%
Teachers: Primary: 84,900
  Secondary: 69,000
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 15:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 107%
  Secondary: 134%
  Higher: 46%

History & Background

The Netherlands is located in northwestern Europe, between the North Sea to the north and west, Germany on the east, and Belgium to the south. Land area includes only about 13,255 square miles, and with a population of 15.5 million, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Although indigenous Dutch are most likely a combination of Frisians, Saxons and Franks, immigrants from many other cultures have settled in the Netherlands for centuries. Twentieth century immigrants from former Dutch colonies, mainly Indonesia, Molucca and Suriname, make up a majority of ethnic minorities. In 1996, more than 16 percent of the Dutch population was non-indigenous. The largest minority population groups came from the Dutch Indies (more than 300,000), Surinam (282,000), Turkey (272,000), Morocco (225,000), the Antilles (94,000), and other Mediterranean countries (164,000).

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Dutch Constitution, church and state are separate, and there is no state religion. The Dutch population in 1997 was generally divided among Roman Catholics (32 percent), Protestants (22 percent), and the non-religious (39 percent). Almost 8 percent of the population belonged to other religious groups. Among those, 2.5 percent of the population was Muslim and.5 percent Buddhist.

In 1999, approximately 40 percent of the Dutch population was under twenty-nine years of age, making it not a particularly young country but nonetheless known for its counterculture youth. Dutch is the language of the country and of instruction, but in the province of Fries-land, Frisian is also an official language and taught in the schools. Due to its history of occupation, geographic location, and tourism interests, many people in the Netherlands are fluent in a few languages. Three-quarters of the Dutch speak a second language, and 44 percent speak two foreign languages. The most common foreign languages spoken regularly in the Netherlands are English, French and German.

Historical Evolution: The Netherlands has a long history of educational reform. In the fourteenth century, the Brethren of the Common Life was founded to bring together laymen and religious men. The Brethren eventually set up schools that some of the most important humanists from northern Europe attended. The most well known was Desiderius Erasmus, a great scholar and liberal educator.

The first piece of educational legislation in the Netherlands, the Elementary Education Act, was passed in 1801. Before the Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded in 1813, education was the responsibility of mainly private religious institutions, and guilds supplied vocational training. In the Constitution of the New Kingdom, education was declared the responsibility of the state to ensure that citizens unable to afford expensive private schools had an opportunity to receive a basic education free of charge. This was the beginning of Dutch public schools. Later the Constitution of 1848 restored the right of private organizations to found schools, but without financial help from the state. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, elementary schools were divided into government-funded public schools and privately-funded private schools.

The unequal treatment of public and private education led to the "schools dispute," a political battle to achieve complete equality under the law for both types of schools. Catholics and Protestants wanted their own schools but with equal state funding. The Liberals also wanted their freedom of education guaranteed by the Constitution to receive equal financial treatment. Dutch taxpayers were already contributing to the costs of funding state education. Most active church members felt they should not have to pay for private ("confessional") education at their own expense in addition to helping to pay for state ("profane") schools. Ultimately this led to the political emancipation struggle, often referred to as the "school funding controversy." This was finally resolved with the 1917 Constitution, in what is known as the "Pacification of 1917," establishing equal funding for state and private schools. After 1917, the principle of financial equality was extended to secondary and higher education. There are now nearly twice as many private schools as public schools.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Constitutional Provisions: One of the key features of the Dutch education system is freedom of education, guaranteed under Article 23 of the Constitution. Freedom of education includes the freedom to found schools, to organize the teaching in schools, and to determine the principles on which the schools are based. This means that different groups in society have the right to found schools on the basis of their own religious, ideological or educational beliefs. Schools in the Netherlands, therefore, differ markedly from each other due to their differences in religion or educational philosophy.

Laws Affecting Education: Numerous Acts of Parliament govern education in the Netherlands. Some of the most important and recent acts are the Primary Education Act of 1998, the Expertise Centers Act, the Secondary Education Act, the Adult and Vocational Education Act, the Higher Education and Research Act, the Recognized Educational Institutions Act, the Student Finance Act, the Study Costs Allowances Act, the Compulsory Education Act of 1969, the National Education Support Activities (Subsidies) Act, and the Education Participation Act of 1992.

Educational Philosophies: Freedom of choice is central to Dutch life and education, as well as the spirit of humanism. The Netherlands has long been a country of tolerance of diversity in religion, education, and social life. Strong groups of liberals, socialists and conservatives have always co-existed, but the prevailing atmosphere has been progressive in terms of education, culture and society.

Educational SystemOverview

Compulsory Education: The first legislation making education compulsory was passed in 1900. It prescribed six years of compulsory education (between the ages of six and twelve). The Act was repeatedly amended and eventually replaced by the Compulsory Education Act of 1969, which required children to attend school full time between the ages of six and sixteen. In 1985, the Primary Education Act required compulsory schooling to begin at five years of age. For example, if a child reaches the age of five in March, he or she must start school on April first of the same year. In practice, however, most children in the Netherlands go to school from the age of four. This additional year is especially important for children whose native language is not Dutch.

Full-time education is compulsory up to and including the child's sixteenth year. For example, if a student turns sixteen in February, he or she must complete that school year. In 1971, the Compulsory Education Act was extended to include an additional year of part-time compulsory education two days a week. This may be combined with practical training or employment. Children aged twelve and over may be punished for not attending school. For pupils aged fourteen and over who are experiencing problems with full-time education, a special program can be devised combining general education with some form of light work.

Academic Year: In primary, special, and secondary schools, the school year runs the entire year, from August 1 to July 31. However, primary and special schools have a six week summer holiday and secondary schools have seven weeks. These holidays are staggered across three regions of the country to make vacation traffic and tourism more manageable. All schools have a holiday at Christmas and at the beginning of May (Queen's Birthday and Liberation Day). In addition, there are autumn and spring holidays. The school year contains at least two hundred days between August and June. Schools run Monday through Friday, but Wednesday afternoon is generally free. The minimum number of hours taught a year is 880 (children aged seven), one thousand (age ten) and 1,067 at the lower secondary level.

Language of Instruction: Dutch is the official language of instruction throughout the country. In areas where Frisian or another living local dialect is spoken as well as Dutch, this language can be used as the language of instruction in schools alongside Dutch. In primary schools, pupils from ethnic minorities may receive lessons in their home language and culture, such as Turkish or Arabic, but these are given after regular school hours. In higher, adult, and vocational education, legally classes and examinations must be in Dutch. Exceptions include courses in foreign languages or courses taught by non-Dutch visiting lecturers. In addition, if the native language of the student requires it, an exception can be given. In a number of primary schools close to the border, some experimental teaching is being done in French and German, the languages of the neighboring countries.

Examination & Assessment: Teachers continuously assess students throughout the primary and secondary school years. When children are in their final year of primary school, parents must select secondary schools for them. They are assisted by the head teacher who uses the students' achievement records, and in many cases, results from national tests designed to help guide secondary school choice. Some 70 percent of all Dutch primary schools use tests for primary school leavers developed by the National Institute for Educational Measurement (CITO). These tests assess pupils' level of attainment at the end of primary schooling. Progression depends on student achievement, and students may be required to repeat a year. Secondary students who fail a year twice must transfer to a less demanding type of education.

Public & Private Schools: There are two main categories of schools: publicly run and privately run. Public schools are nondenominational and open to all children. Private schools can be denominational or nondenominational. The former include Roman Catholic and Protestant schools and schools founded by other religious groups. Private nondenominational schools are based on ideological or educational principles. Almost 65 percent of all pupils attend privately run schools. The Constitution requires equal financial support of public and private schools, but private schools must satisfy certain conditions in order to qualify for funding. Some publicly run schools are also based on specific educational principles. The Netherlands has a relatively large number of Montessori, Steiner, and Jena Plan schools, both public and private. The freedom to organize teaching means that public and private schools are free to determine content and methods of teaching. However, this freedom is limited by the qualitative standards set by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The standards state which subjects should be studied, the attainment targets or national examination syllabi to be used, as well as the number of teaching periods per year, and the required qualifications for teachers.

Curriculum Development: The Ministry of Education determines the overall curriculum and details of compulsory subjects. Schools devise their own curricular plan, teaching methods, and they select teaching materials. Compulsory areas of learning at the primary level include sensory coordination and physical exercise, Dutch, mathematics, English, humanities and sciences, expressive activities, social and life skills, and health education. The compulsory core curriculum for the first three years of all secondary education programs consists of core primary subjects and a second modern language, information technology (IT), economics, technology, and arts.

Parental Involvement: There is an extensive amount of parental involvement in Dutch schools. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science publishes guides for parents to primary and secondary education with information about the education system and the rights and obligations of parents. Schools are required to produce a prospectus to inform parents about the school's curriculum and results achieved. Every school must also have a participation council and a complaints committee. The participation council includes representatives of both parents and staff; they discuss matters such as facilities, resource allocation, pupils' rights and obligations, textbooks, holiday dates, and parental involvement in school activities. In addition, many schools also have a separate parents' council or committee.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Children often attend day care centers or playgroups up until the age of four. The 1994 Social Welfare Act, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, covers childcare standards and facilities. The 1999-2002 welfare policy called "Towards Social Quality" coordinates childcare with local youth programs and education policy. In 1996, approximately 10,800 children attended day nurseries, approximately 198,600 children participated in established playgroups, and approximately 25,200 children aged four to twelve attended out-of-school centers.

Primary Education: Primary schools in the Netherlands are designed for children from four to twelve years of age. In 1997, there were over seven thousand primary schools in the Netherlands, attended by over 1.6 million children. Roughly one-third of these children attend publicly run schools while two-thirds go to private schools. The aim of primary education is to promote the development of children's emotions, intellect and creativity and the acquisition of adequate social, cultural and physical skills. The curriculum includes: sensory coordination and physical exercise; Dutch; arithmetic and mathematics; English (in the last two years); expressive activities such as language, music, drawing, handicrafts, play and movement; self-reliance such as road safety and healthy living; social sciences such as geography, history, biology, social structures, and political studies; and religious and ideological movements. Attainment targets have been formulated indicating the basic minimum that schools are required by law to teach their pupils in each area of the curriculum. However, schools have considerable freedom in the choice of course books and materials, and they can also add their own emphases to the curriculum.

Special Education: Children in need of special care and attention can attend special schools. Like mainstream schools, these may be either publicly or privately run. In 1997 there was a total of almost one thousand institutions providing special education, including schools for physically disabled children, for the partially hearing and visually impaired, and for children with learning and behavioral difficulties. However, under the "Going to School Together" policy, children with learning and behavioral difficulties are integrated into mainstream schools as much as possible. Children who require special provision because of their disability are given a personal budget, which parents may spend at either a special or a mainstream school.

Improvements in Quality: The Netherlands is undergoing measures to improve the quality of primary education by tailoring instruction to the individual needs and abilities of the students. Developing intermediate attainment targets and teaching guidelines, introducing student monitoring systems, evaluating the quality of textbooks, improving the training and supervision of teachers, and reducing class size are the most important among these goals. Initially, the focus will be on improving the teaching of arithmetic and Dutch and on identifying and resolving problems at the earliest stage possible.

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) is essential for the general improvement in teaching and adaptability to individual student needs. Substantial investment in ICT has already been made and will continue in Dutch schools. The action plan "Investing in Progress" outlines many opportunities to improve education quality through the use of computers and for providing a good educational network between schools with access to the Internet. It supports an integrated approach of funding in-service training for teachers at the same time as funding courseware development and hardware. The goal is to have one computer for every three students.

Secondary Education

The main goals in secondary education are interrelated: to encourage broad, personal development and social education of all students; to create active, independent learners; and to recognize and make use of individual differences between students. There have been a number of curricular reforms in secondary education based on these goals.

Secondary education is intended for students aged twelve and over. It is divided into prevocational education (VBO), junior general secondary education (MAVO), senior general secondary education (HAVO), and pre-university education (VWO). In 1999, VBO and MAVO were combined to create prevocational secondary education, VMBO. However, the new VMBO is being gradually phased in and both systems co-existed in 2001.

In the 1999-2000 school year, there were 861,485 pupils attending 635 public or private secondary schools. In the past, the different kinds of secondary courses were provided in separate schools, but by the end of the 20th century, many of these schools had been merged, creating broad-based combined schools. This has given students a choice in programs within the same school. Some schools are still independent, however, and many of these only have one kind of education program, such as preuniversity education with Latin and Greek.

Prevocational Education: Prevocational education (VBO) lasts four years and prepares students for secondary vocational education (senior secondary vocational education and apprenticeships). There are fifteen departments within VBO: building techniques, metalworking, electrical engineering, motor mechanics, fitting techniques, catering, printing technology, caring occupations, beauty care and hairdressing, fashion and clothing, retailing, clerical work, commerce, agriculture and the natural environment, and food technology. However, not every VBO school offers all of these courses. Some VBO schools have a separate department for individualized education (IVBO) to teach students who need extra help at their own speed.

Junior General Secondary Education: Like VBO, junior general secondary education (MAVO) lasts for four years. However, unlike the more vocationally oriented VBO, MAVO provides a more general education. Like VBO, MAVO prepares pupils for senior secondary vocational education (MBO) and apprenticeships.

Senior General Secondary Education: Senior general secondary education (HAVO) lasts five years and prepares students to enter higher professional education. However, many of these students go on to either preuniversity education (VWO) or MBO.

Pre-university education: Pre-university education (VWO) lasts six years and prepares students for university studies. However, some of these students prefer to enroll in higher professional education courses. There are three types of VWO schools: the atheneum (where Latin is sometimes offered as an optional subject), the gymnasium (where Greek and Latin are compulsory) and the lyceum (where Latin and Greek are optional).

Special Secondary Education: Schools for special secondary education (VSO) are created for children with physical disabilities, impaired hearing or vision, or chronic illnesses. Children with learning and/or behavioral difficulties also frequently attend VSO schools. Special secondary schools work in conjunction with MAVO, VBO or IVBO schools to put together courses based on students' individual needs to improve their chances of graduating from school or going on to vocational training.

Basic Secondary Education: In August 1993, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science introduced basic secondary education and a new core curriculum. Basic secondary education replaced the first three years of VBO, MAVO, HAVO, and VWO with a compulsory core curriculum of fifteen subjects: Dutch, English, German or French, history and politics, geography, economics, physical education, mathematics, physics and chemistry, biology, self-sufficiency (social and life skills), IT studies, technology, and two creative subjects. Each school chooses their creative subjects from these possibilities: drawing, handicrafts, textile crafts, photography, film/audiovisual studies, music, drama, or dance.

At the end of the basic secondary education period, pupils are assessed to see if they have acquired the knowledge, understanding, and skills defined in the attainment targets. Students need to take at least one final national test for each subject. Schools can vary the tests according to different learning styles and abilities of their pupils, and they may include additional school-specific examination questions. There are also cross-disciplinary general attainment targets relating to social issues and skills that are assessed at the end of basic secondary education.

Reforms in Secondary Education: Prevocational secondary education (VMBO) was introduced on August 1, 1999 as part of the secondary education reforms. The "learning pathways" of VMBO will eventually replace VBO and MAVO courses, although they both existed in 2001. The goal of the learning pathways is to provide a sounder basis for the next stage of vocational training, secondary vocational education (SBO) the new name for senior secondary vocational education (MBO).

After completing basic secondary education, students spend the second stage of their courses preparing for the school-leaving examinations for the program they have selected. These are both internal examinations given by the school and national examinations administered under government supervision. The system for selecting examination subjects was also changed in 1999. The VMBO, replacing VBO and MAVO, is made up of engineering and technology, economics, agriculture and care, and welfare. Students choose among three learning pathways: theoretical (MAVO), vocational (available at two levels), or combined theoretical and vocational. A fixed combination of examination subjects is specified for each pathway. In addition, a new kind of practical training was created to prepare students to enter the labor market directly if they do not qualify for completing VBO or MAVO.

Four set subject combinations were also introduced in 1998 for the second stage of HAVO/VWO. Students now choose among set combinations of: science and technology, science and health care, economics and society, or culture and society. Each combination includes an optional component for students to take subjects outside of their set combination or non-examination subjects chosen by the school, such as religious education. The reforms have been created to improve the transition from secondary to higher education by emphasizing independent learning.

Information & Communication Technology: The "Investing in Progress" action plan integrates information and communication technology (ICT) into the basic secondary education core curriculum to support independent learning and to support the teaching of modern languages and Dutch. Information and communication technology is also being used to update VBO, HAVO and VWO curricula to reflect the use of computers in trade, industry, research, and higher education.

Higher Education

More than one-third of all Dutch men and women between twenty and twenty-four years of age pursue higher education degrees. Annually, more than 375,000 students attend higher education programs. There are three types of higher education in the Netherlands. Higher professional education (HBO) is taught at hogescholen, university higher education is taught at universities (WO), and higher distance education is taught at The Open University (OU). Different admission requirements exist in hogescholen and universities, whereas The Open University has no admission requirements other than students must be at least eighteen years of age. The Open University is a state institution, but there are public and private hogescholen and universities, both funded equally by the Dutch government. To retain this funding, they must meet set standards of educational quality, and public and private degrees must be equivalent.

Higher Professional Education: In 1997 there were 59 hogescholen or HBO institutions with 259,000 students. HBO institutions provide theoretical instruction and practical training for more demanding and professional occupations than those studied through vocational education. Some of the types of training and programs available are: educational theory, language and culture, behavior and society, social welfare, art, science, health care, agriculture and natural environment, economics, and engineering and technology. All HBO programs include an important practical training element, and most programs require professional placement outside of the hogescholen. Courses usually last four years.

The government and industry are working together to attract more students to technical HBO programs. They are also experimenting with dual training and combining learning and working in new ways. Since many students of ethnic minorities and lower income groups are entering HBOs with MBO diplomas, more is being done to prepare MBO students for HBO programs. HBO and MBO institutions are working together to condense course requirements and facilitate enrollment by minority students.

University Education: There are thirteen universities in the Netherlands with 169,000 students attending in 1997. Universities combine scientific research with academics that distinguishes them from higher professional education. Increasingly, however, graduates of universities compete with HBO graduates in the professional world.

Three Dutch universities focus on technology: Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, and the University of Twente. There is one agricultural university, Wageningen Agricultural University, whereas the University of Utrecht and the University of Leiden offer more general courses. Other universities are gradually known for either progressive teaching techniques or specific areas of study: The University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen, University of Maastricht, Erasmus University at Rotterdam, Free University of Amsterdam, University of Tilburg, and the University of Nijmegen.

Most courses at the universities last four years. However, some professions require longer initial periods of training. Doctors, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons, and dentists require six years of initial study; philosophers in a particular discipline, some engineers, and some agricultural scientists require five years of initial study. After completing the initial degree, students in all areas may continue studying towards a specialization, for research, or for a doctoral degree.

Universities are experimenting with new ways of combining working and learning, and they are attempting to make university programs more adaptable and practical. They are also examining and making changes to their administrative structure. To this end, the government allocated a substantial amount of money from 1996-1998 to fund projects to improve teaching and the quality and practicability of courses. One goal was to redesign courses to make it easier for students to complete programs within the desired time frame.

Admission to Higher Education: Students who have senior general secondary education (HAVO) diplomas or senior secondary vocational education (MBO) diplomas are eligible for admission to HBO institutions. Students are eligible to enter a university if they hold VWO certificates or HBO propaedeutic certificates which are conferred at the end of the first year of HBO courses. In some cases there are additional requirements of specific courses that must be completed at the secondary education level to be admitted to the university. Exceptions exist for applicants aged twenty-one or older who do not possess the required VWO or HBO qualifications. These applicants may be admitted to university courses if they pass a viva voce entrance examination.

For medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science, the government imposes a numerus fixus (quota) to restrict the number of first-year students admitted to the programs each year. In these cases, from 1972-1999, students have been admitted through a weighted lottery draw with a higher average VWO examination grade generally giving applicants a better chance of obtaining a place. This system was debated for years, and in 1999, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science accepted a new system which will guarantee students with high examination grades and grade point averages admission to medical studies. Interestingly, the Netherlands is undergoing a shortage of doctors, and the maximum number of medical students accepted will be increased from 2001-2004. There is some discussion of eliminating the numerus fixus system entirely.

Degree System: University graduates may use one of the following academic titles: ingenieur, doctorandus, or meester, depending on the type of degree (ingenieur for more technical degrees, meester for law, doctorandus for the rest). After further study towards a doctorate and completing a thesis, graduates may use the title "doctor."

Beginning in 2002, the Netherlands will introduce a Bama or Anglo-Saxon degree system where graduates may use the title of "bachelor" or "master" in addition to the Dutch doctorandus. This will be done to adapt the Dutch university system to a single European system that will be used in twenty-nine European Union countries. Students who choose the new degree system will be required to study for at least three years for a bachelor degree and at least an additional year for a master's degree, so there will be some curricular changes as well. HBO institutions will be allowed to offer master's programs, but most likely, the government will not fund these.

Accreditation: In addition to adopting the degree system of the European Union, the Netherlands will also initiate an accreditation system in 2002 to certify all universities and higher professional education programs. Educational institutions will need to reapply for accreditation every five years. This will make international recognition of higher education programs easier, and it will enable students to compare the quality of Dutch programs to other European programs.

Student Finance: Most higher education courses last four years during which all students are entitled to a basic grant. In September 1997, the basic grant was set at NLG 125 a month for students living at home and NLG 425 for students living away from home. In addition, students may take out loans of up to NLG 372.92 a month. Depending on parental income, students can apply for a supplementary grant of up to NLG 395.53 a month if living at home or up to NLG 430.53 a month if living away from home. If students need more time to complete their courses, they may take out loans for three more years. If students are in courses that require more than four years of initial study, they are eligible for loans for a longer period.

Grants are awarded to students depending upon performance according to a "loan then grant" principle. Initially students receive grants as loans, which are converted to non-repayable grants if they meet the performance criteria. To keep grants non-repayable the first year of study, students must obtain 50 percent of the available credits (21 out of 42). Similar criteria exist for the second, third and fourth years of study, and all loans eventually become non-repayable if the student graduates within four years. Students are allowed six years to complete a four-year course, but they must finance themselves during the additional two years. In 2002, the time allowed to finish a degree will be increased to ten years. Student loans must be repaid within fifteen years of graduation, but only if the borrower can afford to do so. Those on low incomes do not need to pay back much, and any outstanding debt is cancelled at the end of fifteen years.

Foreign Students & Students Abroad: As in all areas of education in the Netherlands, internationalization of higher education is a priority. To that end, the government promotes international exchanges of teachers and students. In 1998-1999, almost 27 percent of higher education graduates had had experience abroad. Six thousand of these higher education students studied on scholarships, and the United Kingdom was the most popular country for foreign study. During the same year, seven thousand foreign students studied in the Netherlands. Most of these students came from other European Union countries.

As of the 2003 academic year, Dutch students will be able to enroll in foreign universities and retain their student grant or loan. They will not need to be enrolled in a Dutch university at the same time. This is part of the "Education without Frontiers" policy created to make education finance more flexible for Dutch students. Students will need to verify that the foreign institution and program is of equivalent quality to their Dutch university program. Initially programs in other European Union countries will be eligible, but eventually programs in the United States, Australia and Canada and other countries should be eligible.

In addition to studying abroad, a unique international cooperative effort began in January 2001, when the education ministers of the Netherlands and Flanders signed a treaty to create the Transnational University Limburg. The University of Maastricht and the Limburg University Center in Flanders will combine their teaching and academic research programs in the new university. Dutch or Flemish students will receive dual degrees that are recognized in their respective countries, but the new university will be structured according to the Bama bachelor/master system.

Administration, Finance & Educational Research

Ministry/Department of Education: The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is headed by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, and there are two state secretaries or junior ministers, each with specific areas of responsibility. The Education Council is the only national advisory body that advises the government on educational policy and legislation.

Since the 1990s, there has been increased emphasis on greater autonomy and decentralization. Many governmental powers have been passed down to the local level. For public schools, the individual municipality and elected school board is responsible for implementing legislation and for policy-making. For private denominational or nondenominational schools, the national umbrella organization of the church or foundation that established the school is responsible for implementing regulations and for policy-making.

Central government concentrates on broad policy-making and encouraging quality education. Educational institutions need to conform to policies and performance standards stated by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, but they are generally allowed to allocate their finances as they see fit. The Educational Inspectorate supervises the Dutch educational system for the Minister, verifying that schools are conforming to regulations and policies. Individual education inspectors visit schools on an annual basis.

Universities and higher education institutions have umbrella organizations, management boards or executive boards, and they are given a large amount of autonomy by the central government.

Primary and secondary schools are assisted by a large group of support institutions, providing advice on educational theory, teaching methods, and materials. Four of these support organizations are the School Advisory Services, National Educational Advisory Centers, the National Institute for Curriculum Development, and the National Institute for Educational Measurement.

Educational Research: Dutch academic research is extremely well developed with several hundred research institutes and laboratories in the country. Although most research is university related, joint research with industries and contract research accounts for over 25 percent of research at Dutch universities. Natural and engineering science research in the Netherlands is among the ten most productive (in terms of publications) and the most influential (in terms of citations) in the world. Dutch researchers produce 2.45 percent of all scientific publications worldwide. About 75 percent of these publications come from Dutch universities, 20 percent from public or semipublic organizations, and 5 percent come from trade and industry. The Dutch government funds 38 percent of the research, whereas trade and industry funds almost 49 percent. Much of the university research is privately funded. As in other aspects of Dutch higher education, there is an increasing amount of international collaboration in research with foreign scientists on publications, especially with scientists from other countries in the European Union.

Nonformal Education

Adult Education: Adult education provides a foundation for vocational and secondary education courses and to help adults become productive, participating members of society. Courses are offered in broad basic education and adult general secondary education (VAVO) to give adults a second chance to obtain MAVO, HAVO or VWO qualifications. Dutch as a second language courses are designed to bring language skills of non-native speakers to an acceptable level. Newcomers to the Netherlands are required legally to attend a social integration program at a Regional Training Center, to receive not only Dutch language lessons but also training to help them cope with the Dutch way of life. In 1998-1999, there were 203,800 adults enrolled in adult education courses.

Open University: The Open University in Heerlen is a public institution offering open higher education distance learning courses for people aged eighteen and over. No certificates are required for admission, and all course work can be individually paced. Courses are offered in law, social sciences, arts subjects, economics, management and administrative science, engineering sciences and natural sciences. The courses are taught as separate modules, creating flexibility for students who can combine them to create their own program of study. It is also possible to study for a complete HBO or university degree through the Open University. Study centers throughout the Netherlands help provide assistance and advice for students. The Open University also works with other higher education institutions on developing joint teaching materials and new methods of teaching.

Teaching Profession

Training & Qualifications: Primary school teachers are qualified to teach all subjects, but they specialize in one subject area. Teachers complete a four-year teachertraining degree at an HBO institution. Secondary teachers specialize in one subject area and are qualified to teach the lower years of VMBO, HAVO and VWO. Teachers who complete a one-year postgraduate course at a university or a three-year part time program at an HBO are qualified to teach at all levels of secondary education. ICT training is emphasized, especially with primary school teachers. In 2000, the eventual goal is to use ICT for 50 percent of teaching time, and teacher-training institutions need to build this expertise.

Between 2001 and 2004, the Netherlands will need approximately 8,500 new primary school teachers a year, 5,500 secondary school teachers, and from 2,500-3,500 vocational and adult education instructors. There is a teacher shortage in the Netherlands, and not enough teachers are being trained to keep up with demand. Steps are being taken to bring ex-teachers back to the profession and to recruit new teachers from college graduates in other fields. The teacher shortage is most pronounced in the large cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Utrecht.

The government understands that it needs to make the teaching profession more attractive by offering competitive working conditions and salaries, making time and money available for in-service training, and to lighten teacher load by increasing support staff. Teachers want more time for innovation and student counseling. In addition, more efforts towards decentralizing working conditions in primary education are needed. The "Professions in Education Act" will be sent to Parliament at the end of 2001, outlining necessary reforms in the teaching profession in the hopes of curbing the national teacher shortage.


The Netherlands has a long tradition of educational reform and progressive educational philosophy. This tradition continues into the twenty-first century with innovative approaches to teaching and uses of technology. Despite problems of limited space, population growth, and an influx of refugees and immigrants, the Netherlands continues to make education accessible to close to 100 percent of its population. As student bodies and needs have changed, the educational system has tried to change with them. The latest government policy stresses quality and variety of education and the need to individualize and customize education at all levels to reach students most effectively. There is some concern, however, that as non-native populations grow, educational institutions are becoming increasingly segregated, especially in the larger urban areas. The admirable qualities of freedom of education and freedom of choice, and the increasing desire for autonomy, unfortunately make self-segregation unavoidable. In order to maintain equal educational opportunities for all, the Dutch will need to do more to combat educational disadvantages among ethnic minorities. Although much has already been done, statistics show little improvement in educational attainment by minorities. If the Dutch are able to discover new methods of reaching this population group effectively, they will be able to make great advancements not only educationally but socially as well.


Blom, J.C.H., and E. Lamberts, eds. History of the Low Countries. James C. Kennedy, trans. New York: Berghahn Books, 1999.

Eurydice: Education Information Network in Europe. Eurybase 2001. May 2001. Available from

Hooker, Mark T. The History of Holland. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Education in the Netherlands. February 1998. Available from

Michèle Moragné e Silva

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Netherlands (nĕŧħ´ərləndz), Du. Nederland or Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, officially Kingdom of the Netherlands, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 16,407,000), 15,963 sq mi (41,344 sq km), NW Europe. It is bounded by the North Sea on the north and west, by Belgium on the south, and by Germany on the east. It is popularly known as Holland. Amsterdam is the constitutional capital; The Hague is the administrative and governmental capital. The kingdom also includes three overseas territories, Aruba, Curaçao, and Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea, as self-governing parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba, and Saint Eustatius are special municipalities in the Netherlands.

Land and People

The Netherlands has 12 provinces: Zeeland, South Holland, North Holland, Friesland, and Groningen, all of which border on the North Sea; and North Brabant, Limburg, Gelderland, Utrecht, Flevoland, Overijssel, and Drenthe. The country is mostly low-lying. About 40% of it is situated below sea level and comprises territory (mostly in the western part of the country) reclaimed from the sea since the 13th cent. and guarded by dunes and dikes. The land is crossed by drainage canals, and the main rivers, the Scheldt, Maas (Fr., Meuse), IJssel, Waal, and Lower Rhine, are canalized and interconnected by artificial waterways, linked with the river and canal systems of Belgium and Germany. The Scheldt estuary includes the former islands of Walcheren, North Beveland, and South Beveland. The West Frisian Islands are located off the northern coast of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is extremely densely populated. The maritime provinces include many of the famous cities of the Netherlands—Amsterdam and Rotterdam (the chief ports) and The Hague, Leiden, Delft, Utrecht, Dordrecht, Schiedam, and Vlissingen (Flushing). In addition, Alkmaar, Gouda, and Edam are internationally known as cheese markets, and Haarlem is the center of the flower-raising district. The inland provinces have generally poor and sandy soil. Leading cities include Breda, 's Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, and Tilburg in North Brabant; Maastricht and Heerlen in Limburg; and Arnhem and Nijmegen in Gelderland.

Linguistic conformity to Dutch, the official language, is complete except in Friesland, where Frisian is spoken in places. After the Netherlands obtained independence in the late 16th cent., it became largely Protestant. Now, however, Roman Catholics, concentrated in the southern provinces, make up the largest religious group (31%), while about 20% are Protestant. Muslims are a small but growing minority; some 40% of the population claims no religious affiliation. The archbishop of Utrecht is the Roman Catholic primate of the Netherlands.


Agriculture, which engages only a small percentage of the workforce, is specialized, mechanized, and efficient, and yields per acre are high. The major crops are truck-farm commodities, sugar beets, potatoes, and grains. Cattle and poultry are raised and dairy farming is important; the country is known for its cheese industry. Horticultural production (especially bulbs) and fishing are also important, as is tourism.

The Netherlands is heavily industrialized. The chief industries are food processing, petroleum refining, and the manufacture of chemicals, electrical machinery, metal products, and electronics. The country's few natural resources include coal, natural gas, and petroleum. A considerable amount of the country's wealth is contributed annually by financial and transportation services. Amsterdam is one of the world's major financial centers, and Rotterdam is one of the world's busiest ports. The Netherlands has a large foreign trade. The main exports are machinery, chemicals, natural gas, processed foods, and horticultural products. Imports include machinery, transportation equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs, and clothing. The main trading partners are Germany, Belgium, France, and Great Britain.


The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1815 as amended. The hereditary monarch is the head of state; the prime minister is the head of government. There is a bicameral legislature, the States General. Members of the deliberative upper house, the 75-seat First Chamber, are elected by the 12 provincial councils. Members of the more powerful lower house, the 150-seat Second Chamber, are popularly elected. All legislators serve four-year terms. The royal succession is settled on the house of Orange (see Nassau), which adheres to the Dutch Reformed Church. Administratively, the country is divided into 12 provinces.


The Rise of the Netherlands

One of the Low Countries, the Netherlands did not have a unified history until the late 15th cent. The region west of the Rhine formed part of the Roman province of Lower Germany and was inhabited by the Batavi; to the east of the Rhine were the Frisians. Nearly the entire area was taken (4th–8th cent.) by the Franks, and with the breakup of the Carolingian empire, most of it passed (9th cent.) to the east Frankish (i.e., German) kingdom and thus to the Holy Roman Empire.

The counts of Holland emerged as the most powerful medieval lords of the region, next to their southern neighbors, the dukes of Brabant and the counts of Flanders. In the 14th and 15th cent., Flanders, Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, and Brabant passed to the powerful dukes of Burgundy, who controlled virtually all the Low Countries. Though the Dutch towns and ports were slower in economic development than the flourishing commercial and industrial centers of Flanders and Brabant, they began to rival them in the 15th cent. They nearly all belonged to the Hanseatic League and enjoyed vast autonomous privileges.

In 1477, Mary of Burgundy by the Great Privilege restored all the liberties deprived by her predecessors. Her marriage to the Archduke Maximilian (later Emperor Maximilian I) brought the Low Countries into the house of Hapsburg. Emperor Charles V gave them (1555) to his son Philip II of Spain. By that time the northern provinces (i.e., the present Netherlands) had reached economic prosperity.

Revolt in the Netherlands

The inroads of Calvinism were helping to distinguish the Low Countries from Catholic Spain; the nobles, supported by many of the people for economic and religious reasons, demanded greater autonomy for the provinces in addition to the removal of Spanish officials. Philip's attempt, first through Cardinal Granvelle and then through the duke of Alba, to introduce the Spanish Inquisition and reduce the Low Countries to a Spanish province met determined opposition from among all classes of the population—Catholics and Protestants alike.

The struggle for the Low Countries' independence began (1562–66) in Flanders and Brabant. The northern provinces, under the leadership of William the Silent, prince of Orange, succeeded (1572–74) in expelling the Spanish garrisons. The Low Countries united under William in their struggle against Spain in the Pacification of Ghent (1576).

Alessandro Farnese, who in 1578 succeeded John of Austria as Spanish governor, reconquered the southern provinces, which remained in Spanish possession (see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish) and were gradually reconverted to Catholicism. The river barriers were crucial in protecting the rebellion and the Protestant religion of the north. The seven northern provinces—Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Friesland, and Groningen—formed (1579) the Union of Utrecht and declared (1581) their independence.

William the Silent, assassinated in 1584, was succeeded as stadtholder (chief of state) by his son, Maurice of Nassau, who was at first guided by Johan van Oldenbarneveldt. An English expedition under Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, to aid the Dutch against Farnese was ineffectual; later Maurice won important successes, and in 1609 a 12-year truce was concluded with Spinola, the Spanish commander.

The United Provinces

Fighting with Spain was resumed in the Thirty Years War (1618–48), after which the independence of the United Provinces—as the independent Netherlands was then called—was recognized in the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Spain also ceded North Brabant, with Breda, and part of Limburg, with Maastricht. Still struggling for independence and involved in religious contention between Calvinists and Remonstrants, the Dutch laid the foundation of their commercial and colonial empire.

The Dutch East India Company (see East India Company, Dutch) was founded in 1602, the Dutch West India Company in 1621. The decline of Antwerp under Spanish rule and the right (awarded to the Dutch in the Peace of Westphalia) to control the Scheldt estuary gave supremacy to the Dutch ports, particularly Amsterdam. Dutch merchants traded in every continent (including exclusive privileges in Japan), and captured the major share of the world's carrying trade. The United Provinces opened their doors to religious refugees, notably to Portuguese and Spanish Jews and to French Huguenots, which contributed vastly to the prosperity of 17th-century Holland.

With material wealth came a cultural golden age. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, Frans Hals, and others carried Dutch art to its peak. The Univ. of Leiden won world acclaim; the philosophers Descartes and Spinoza and the jurist Grotius were active in the United Provinces.

Prince Frederick Henry, who had succeeded his brother Maurice in 1625 as stadtholder, was in turn succeeded by his son, Prince William II, in 1647. His death in 1650 signaled the opponents of the house of Orange to reassert the rights of the provinces and the States-General. Jan de Witt, the political leader of the estates of Holland, was chosen (1652) grand pensionary and led the Dutch republic for the next 20 years. To prevent Prince William III of Orange (son of William II) from regaining the authority of his father, de Witt by the Eternal Edict (1667) abolished the office of stadtholder in Holland and secured the virtual exclusion of the house of Orange from state affairs.

A Succession of Wars

De Witt's administration was largely encompassed by the Dutch Wars with England (1652–54, 1664–67), arising out of the first of the English Navigation Acts (1651) and the Dutch-English commercial rivalry. The Treaty of Breda (1667) was advantageous to the Netherlands; it gained trade privileges and had its possession of Suriname recognized. The Netherlands reached the peak of political power when, by forming (1668) the Triple Alliance with Sweden and England, it forced Louis XIV of France to halt the War of Devolution against Spain.

Louis XIV took revenge by starting (1672) the third of the Dutch Wars, in which the French overran the Netherlands. In defense, the Dutch opened their dikes and flooded the country, creating a watery barrier that was virtually impenetrable. De Witt sought to negotiate peace but was murdered (1672) by a mob of Orange followers. The stadtholderate was restored to William III (after 1689 also king of England). The war devastated the provinces, but in the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678–79) the Dutch obtained important concessions from France.

The Netherlands again fought Louis XIV in the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97) and in the War of the Spanish Succession. On the death (1702) of William III the stadtholderate was again suspended and the States-General resumed control of the government, but in 1747 the republican party lost power, and William IV of Orange became hereditary stadtholder. In the 18th cent. the relative commercial, military, and cultural positions of the United Provinces in Europe declined as those of England and France ascended. The Netherlands sided against England in the American Revolution and as a result lost several colonies at the Treaty of Paris of 1783 (see Paris, Treaty of).

A patriotic movement by J. D. van der Capellen (1741–84) began to popularize the ideas of the Enlightenment; when in the French Revolutionary Wars the French overran (1794–95) the Netherlands, there was much popular approval. William V fled abroad, and the Batavian Republic was set up (1795) under French protection. In 1806, Napoleon I established the Kingdom of Holland and made his brother Louis Bonaparte (see under Bonaparte, family) its first king. Bonaparte was deposed in 1810, and the kingdom was annexed by France, whereby French legal, financial, and educational reforms pervaded the Netherlands.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands

At the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) the former United Provinces and the former Austrian Netherlands were united under King William I, son of William V of Orange. In 1830, however, the former Austrian provinces (Belgium), whose language, religion, and culture differed from those of the Dutch, rebelled against Dutch rule and declared independence. An agreement between Belgium and the Netherlands was reached only in 1839 (see London Conference). William I was forced to abdicate in 1840 and was succeeded by William II, under whom Jan Thorbecke introduced important constitutional reforms in 1848.

Under William III (1849–90) the Netherlands enjoyed a period of commercial expansion and internal development. The Industrial Revolution progressed rapidly after 1860. Trade unionism grew in the late 19th cent., and considerable national social-welfare legislation was passed. At the same time the country's cultural life flourished, led by the painter Vincent van Gogh, the writer Louis Couperus, and others.

In 1890, Queen Wilhelmina began her reign of almost 60 years. The Netherlands was neutral in World War I. In 1932, a 19-mi (31-km) dam was completed; it enclosed the Zuider Zee and thus created the IJsselmeer, a large freshwater lake. A number of large polders, including the Northeast Polder and Eastern and Southern Flevoland, were later reclaimed from the IJsselmeer.

In World War II, Germany invaded (May, 1940) the Netherlands without warning, crushed Dutch resistance, and wantonly destroyed Rotterdam. The queen and her government fled abroad. German occupation authorities, headed by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, established a reign of terror; underground resistance led to mass executions and deportations. Of the approximately 112,000 Dutch Jews, about 104,000 were deported to Poland by the Germans and exterminated. Allied airborne landings (1944) at Arnhem and Eindhoven liberated Zeeland, North Brabant, and Limburg provinces.

The Postwar Years

The German collapse in May, 1945, was followed by the immediate return of the queen and the cabinet. The Netherlands became a charter member of the United Nations (1945) and in 1947 joined in a close alliance with Belgium and Luxembourg, which became (1958) the Benelux Economic Union. The country also participated actively in the development of the organizations that came to be the European Union, and in 1949 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Queen Wilhelmina abdicated (1948) in favor of her daughter, Juliana, who continued to rule with a coalition cabinet dominated by the Catholic and Labor parties. In 1959 a new coalition excluding the Labor party was formed, and similar coalitions primarily held power into the 1970s.

The Netherlands gave Indonesia independence in 1949, and in 1962 relinquished Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua) to Indonesia. Despite the loss of the eastern empire and the catastrophic floodings in the North Sea storms of 1953, the Dutch economy expanded in the 1950s and 60s. Industry was enlarged significantly. After the 1953 floods, the 25-year Delta Project was begun. As a result of the project, Walcheren and North and South Beveland were joined to the mainland and ceased to be islands.

Considerable controversy surrounded the marriage (1966) of Crown Princess Beatrix to Claus von Amsberg, a former German diplomat who had served in the German army in World War II. In 1967, Princess Beatrix gave birth to a son, Willem-Alexander, the first male heir in line of succession since 1884.

In the early 1970s the Netherlands enjoyed material prosperity and considerable influence in European affairs. The country suffered, however, from a ban on the sale of petroleum imposed by Arab nations in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War of Oct., 1973, in retaliation for the Netherlands' traditional friendship with Israel. The embargo was lifted in mid-1974. Suriname was granted independence in 1975.

In 1980, Queen Juliana was succeeded by Queen Beatrix. In 1981, Prime Minister Van Agt's support for deploying U.S. cruise missiles on Dutch territory caused an intense public outcry. He was defeated in the 1982 elections, and Ruud Lubbers became the next prime minister, primarily through a coalition of Christian Democrats and Liberals. The Netherlands population increasingly protested against the presence of foreign armaments on their soil, and in the late 1980s nearly 4 million Dutch citizens signed an antimissile petition.

Lubbers formed his third government in Nov., 1989. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War the Netherlands sent two marine frigates to aid the anti-Iraq coalition forces. In the 1994 elections the Christian Democrats and their coalition partner, the Labor party, lost seats. With some difficulty a new coalition government of left- and right-wing parties was formed and Labor party leader Wim Kok became prime minister. In early 1995 unusually heavy flooding along major rivers necessitated massive evacuations in the country.

Also in 1995, Dutch peacekeepers under UN auspices were overwhelmed by Serb forces in the Bosniak-held town of Srebrenica; the Serbs subsequently massacred Bosnia civilians. Several investigations were launched into the role played by the peacekeepers. An independent investigation that released its report in 2002 said that UN and Dutch political and military officials shared some of the blame for placing peacekeeping forces in an untenable position, and Prime Minister Kok's government resigned to accept responsibility.

In the subsequent election campaign (May, 2002), the right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn, who ran on an anti-immigrant platform, was assassinated, stunning the nation. Voters subsequently veered to the right, giving conservative and rightist parties a majority of the seats in the new parliament. A center-right government, headed by Christian Democrat Jan Peter Balkenende and including Fortuyn's party, was formed in July, but the coalition collapsed in October.

Elections in Jan., 2003, gave the Christian Democrats and Labor nearly the same number of seats (44 and 42, respectively) and resulted in significant losses for the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF). Balkenende remained prime minister, but the new center-right government excluded the LPF. Dutch voters strongly rejected a proposed new constitution for the European Union in 2005; voters appeared to resent a likely loss of Dutch influence under the new charter despite their country's sizable contributions to the EU.

Balkenende's government fell in June, 2006, when one of the member parties withdrew over a government minister's tough handling of a Somali-born Dutch politician's citizenship case. In November, the parliamentary elections resulted in some lost seats for the Christian Democrats as both far-right and far-left parties increased their seats. Although the Christian Democrats nonetheless remained the largest party, neither the governing coalition nor that aligned with Labor secured a majority in parliament. In Feb., 2007, Balkenende formed a new, centrist coalition government that included Labor.

Disagreement over whether to further extend the deployment of Dutch troops with NATO forces in Afghanistan led to the collapse of the government in Feb., 2010, and elections were scheduled for June. The elections were a major defeat for the Christian Democrats, who lost half their seats; the anti-Islamic and Eurosceptic Freedom party won more seats and placed third. The Liberals won, but secured only one more seat than Labor, and politically the new parliament was very fragmented. In October the Liberals and Christian Democrats agreed to form a minority conservative coalition government with the support of the Freedom party. Liberal Mark Rutte became prime minister. In Apr., 2012, the government collapsed after it could not get Freedom party support to pass an austerity budget; the budget ultimately was passed with the support of other parties. In the September elections, the Liberals and Labor won the largest blocs of seats, and subsequently formed a coalition government with Rutte as prime minister. Queen Beatrix abdicated in Mar., 2013; King Willem-Alexander succeeded her.


See P. J. Blok, History of the People of the Netherlands (5 vol., tr. 1898–1912, repr. 1970); P. Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands (2d ed. 1958); S. Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780–1813 (1977); A. Vandenbosch, Dutch Foreign Policy Since 1815 (1981); S. Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (1987); A. Hopkins, Holland (1988); H. H. Rowen, The Princes of Orange (1988); J. Israel, Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585–1740 (1989); J. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477–1806 (1995).

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The Netherlands

The Netherlands

Official name: Kingdom of the Netherlands

Area: 41,526 square kilometers (16,033 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Vaalserberg (321 meters/1,053 feet)

Lowest point on land: Prins Alexanderpolder (7 meters/23 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 312 kilometers (194 miles) from north to south; 264 kilometers (164 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 1,027 kilometers (638 miles) total boundary length; Germany 577 kilometers (359 miles); Belgium 450 kilometers (280 miles)

Coastline: 451 kilometers (280 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The Netherlands (formerly also known as Holland) is located in Western Europe between Belgium and Germany, bordering the North Sea. With an area of about 41,526 square kilometers (16,033 square miles), the country is slightly less than twice the size of the state of New Jersey. The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces.


The two island groups of the Netherlands Antilles and the island of Aruba are dependencies of the Netherlands. All of these islands are located in the Caribbean Sea. Aruba and the Antilles islands of Curaçao and Bonaire are located just north of Venezuela. The other group of Antilles islandsSaba, Stint, Eustatius, and Sint Maarten (the Dutch portion of Saint Martin)are located farther north, east of the Virgin Islands.


The Netherlands shares the temperate maritime climate common in much of northern and western Europe. The average temperature ranges from 1°C to 5°C (34°F to 41°F) in January and from 13°C to 22°C (55°F to 72°F) in July. Because the Netherlands has few natural barriers, such as high mountains, the climate varies little from region to region. Annual precipitation averages 76 centimeters (30 inches).


The Netherlands may be divided into two main regions, one comprising areas below sea level, called the Low Netherlands, and the other including land above sea level, called the High Netherlands. These classifications are based not only on differences in elevation, but also on differences in geological formation. The High Netherlands was formed mainly in the Pleistocene Age (which began about two million years ago and ended about ten thousand years ago) and is composed chiefly of sand and gravel. The Low Netherlands is relatively younger, having been formed in the Holocene Age (fewer than ten thousand years ago), and consists mainly of clay and peat. There are other differences as well. The High Netherlands is undulating and even hilly in places, with farms alternating with woodland and heath. The Low Netherlands is predominantly flat, and is intersected by natural and artificial waterways. Dunes and dikes protect the Low Netherlands against flooding. The western and northern regions of the country consist of about five thousand polders (plots of land reclaimed from the sea), which cover over 2,500 square kilometers (950 square miles).


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Netherlands has a western border on the North Sea, which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Great Britain from northwest Europe.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Waddenzee is a shallow body of water that stretches along the northern coast of the country. It is separated from the North Sea by the West Frisian Islands and is protected as a popular nesting area for birds.

In the delta region at the southern coast, there are two major inlets: the Westerschelde and Oosterschelde.

Islands and Archipelagos

The West Frisian Islands were formed when the North Sea broke through a series of dunes along the Netherlands' ancient northern coastline. The area behind the dunes became the Waddenzee, while the tallest of the dunes remained intact, becoming the islands. From west to east, the largest of these islands are Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog. Vlieland Island is the site of a national park.

Coastal Features

The North Sea coastline of the Netherlands consists mostly of dunes. The low-lying sandy dunes of the northwestern coastline were created by the action of wind and water. In some areas, they are nearly 30 meters (100 feet) high.

Further south, the major rivers flow into the North Sea and form the delta region. This area is characterized by islands connected by dikes or dams, and waterways connected by canals.


There are many small lakes located in the northern and western portions of the Netherlands. In the northeast, more than thirty lakes are interconnected by canals. Some of the largest of these are Lake Fluessen, Lake Sloter, and Sneek Lake. Southwest of these is the nation's largest lake, IJsselmeer, a freshwater lake that was formed by the construction of the Afsluitdijk Barrier (completed in 1932). Prior to construction of the dam, this body of water was a shallow, salty arm of the North Sea known as the Zuider Zee. It now covers an area of about 1,210 square kilometers (467 square miles). South of the IJsselmeer is Marker Lake (Markermeer), another freshwater lake enclosed by a dam.


The Rhine (Rheine) River and the Meuse (Maas) River dominate the western and central part of the country. The Rhine is considered to be the nation's longest river. With a total length of 1,319 kilometers (820 miles), the river is formed by the confluence of two tributaries in eastern Switzerland; it then flows north and northwest through Germany before reaching the Netherlands. Inside the Netherlands, it branches out into two major arms: the Neder Rijn (called Lek in its lower course) and the Waal. They flow west, roughly parallel to each other and never farther apart than about 30 kilometers (19 miles). Both branches have many tributaries entering and leaving them before they reach the North Sea.

The Meuse River is the largest tributary of the Rhine in the Netherlands. It enters the country in the far southeast and flows north to the middle of the country before curving to the west. In this part of its course it is only a few miles south of the Waal; eventually, the two rivers meet and flow into the North Sea.

The IJssel River is a major branch of the Neder Rijn. It branches off from the Neder Rijn shortly after that river's beginning. The IJssel flows north, receives a number of small tributaries, and then empties into Lake IJsselmeer.

The Schelde (Scheldt or Escaut) River enters the Netherlands from Belgium in the southwest. It almost immediately widens into a broad estuary and flows into the North Sea.


There are no desert regions in the Netherlands.


The western and northern regions of the country consist of polders (land reclaimed from the sea), where the water level is mechanically controlled to stay about 1 meter (3 feet) below ground level, thus permitting cultivation. There are also polders that were reclaimed by earthen dikes in the late nineteenth century. The soil of these polders is marshy and too wet to be used for cultivation, but it may be used for grazing livestock. Polders do not necessarily lie below sea level, although most of them do. For example, the IJsselmeer polders are 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) below sea level, polders created by draining lakes can lie as much as 6.7 meters (22 feet) below sea level. In areas of young marine clay and along the rivers, many polders lie above the average sea level; consequently, it is not always necessary to pump the water out. Almost half of the land area of the Netherlands is made up of polders.


The Netherlands was once famous for its windmills. Though these structures once covered the countryside, now there are many fewer operational windmills than before the invention of steam engines and other, more powerful, sources of energy.

The highest point is Vaalserberg (321 meters/1,053 feet) in the hills of the South Limburg Plateau on the German border. Low hills created as the result of ancient glacial activity can be found in the eastern part of the country. These reach elevations of only about 100 meters (328 feet).


There are no significant mountain ranges in the Netherlands.


Near the city of Maastricht, the Caves of Mount St. Pieter were created by the excavation of marl, a stone used for building. The caves are connected through a labyrinth of over twenty thousand passageways. During World War I (191418) and World War II (193945), military personnel and civilians used the caves as emergency shelters and escape routes.

There are nearly 180 inactive limestone quarry mines scattered throughout the southern Limburg province. In the past, the fine-grained limestone has been used as a main ingredient in mortar, white paint, and chalk.


The South Limburg Plateau is the only part of the country not classified as lowland. The hills, some of which rise to over 300 meters (1,000 feet), comprise the foothills of the Central European Plateau. This is also virtually the only area of the country where rocks can be found at or near surface levels.


The Netherlands is famous for its vast system of dams and dikes, some of which date back many centuries. They were constructed to reclaim large swaths of land from the sea and stabilize the coastlines. Two of the most impressive are the Afsluitdijk and the Oosterschelde.

The Afsluitdijk is the largest and most famous dike in the Netherlands. It is a closure dike that connects the province of North Holland with Friesland. Construction of the 32-kilometer-long (20-mile-long) system separated the Waddenzee from the newly created lake of Ijsselmeer.

The Oosterschelde Dam serves as a barrier that crosses the Oosterschelde inlet on the southern coast. The dam is 3 kilometers (2 miles) long and contains sixty-five pillars supporting sixty-two iron floodgates.

The Netherlands has an extensive system of canals that run throughout almost the entire country. The North Sea Canal connects Amsterdam and Marker Lake to the North Sea. The Amsterdam-Rhine River Canal just one of several waterways that connect the city and that river. A network of canalsincluding the Wilhelmina, Zuid-Willems, and Juliana Canalsconnects the southern part of the country to the Rhine River and to other canals in Belgium. In addition, many of the Netherlands's natural rivers, including all of its largest rivers, have had their shores reinforced (canalized) to prevent them from flooding or from shifting their courses.



Blom, J. C. H., and E. Lambert. History of the Low Countries. Translated by James C. Kennedy. Providence, RI: Berghahn Books, 1999.

Dash, Mike. Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused. New York: Crown, 2000.

Hintz, Martin. The Netherlands. New York: Children's Press, 1999.

Stergen, Theo van. The Land and People of the Netherlands. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Web Sites

The Royal Dutch Geographical Society (KNAG). (accessed April 11, 2003).

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC. (accessed April 11, 2003).

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Interest in psychoanalysis within Holland developed from 1905 onward and came from three different sources. The first source consisted of psychiatrists who were struck by Freud's studies on dreams. August Stärcke corresponded with Freud and J. van Emden had an analysis with him during a holiday in Karlsbad in 1911. Both became members of the Viennese Society in 1911. The second source came from psychiatrists who went to Jung in Zürich for analysis between 1911 and 1913. The third source was Leiden University. Jelgersma's rectorial address in 1914 at Leiden University was the first official recognition of psychoanalytic science in Europe. Thirteen representatives of these three groups, Freudians, Jungians and theoretical university analysts, founded the Dutch Society of Psychoanalysis on March 24, 1917. It was the seventh branch society of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), formed with the goal of supporting the development of psychoanalysis according to Sigmund Freud. The Sixth IPA Congress took place in The Hague in 1920, chosen (because of Dutch neutrality during World War I) to facilitate the reunion of analysts who had been territorial enemies.

After that, however, there followed a period of quarreling and lessened productivity, which was partly due to the diversity of the members. The main points of controversy were the question of lay analysisuntil 1938 only medical doctors were admittedand the introduction of the tripartite training system, especially the obligation of personal analysis, introduced by Max Eitingon and Hanns Sachs in 1925 for all IPA branch societies. The conflict was mainly between the Society's president, Van Ophuijsen, who defended both lay analysis and the tripartite training model (he was treasurer and later vice-president of the IPA), and the theoretically-oriented psychiatrists of the university and Van Ophuijsen's former analysand Westerman Holstijn. The conflicts escalated and led to a split when in 1933 four Jewish analysts emigrated from Germany to Holland: Karl Landauer, Theodor Reik, Levy-Sühl and Watermann. The poorly-trained Dutch analysts, with lesser income from analytic practice, felt threatened by the arrival of four more competent analysts. A few expressed their panic in open anti-Semitism. Most were not anti-Semitic but refused to accept the refugees as members of the Society. Van Ophuijsen, however, saw a possibility to improve the quality of psychoanalysis in Holland with the help of the refugees and arranged Landauer's participation in his psychoanalytic institute (founded in 1930 in The Hague). In the resulting uproar by the members Van Ophuijsen resigned as president and member and founded, with Van Emden, Maurits Katan and a few others, a new society, the Society of Psychoanalysts in the Netherlands, of which the German immigrants became members. In the years to come the diplomatic analyst Westerman Holstijn put much energy in the reconciliation of the two societies, which succeeded in 1937. However, he himself resigned as a member, badly hurt by the lack of appreciation of his colleagues.

In 1938, after the Anschluss of Austria, Jeanne Lampl-de Groot and Hans Lampl came from Vienna to Amsterdam. Jeanne de Groot, a Dutch psychiatrist, had gone to Vienna in 1923 for analytic training with Freud and in 1925, after her marriage with Hans Lampl, to Berlin. In 1933 they had returned to Vienna. In Holland they started to reform the training program according to Viennese standards in cooperation with the members Le Coultre and Maurits Katan. Both the tripartite training model and lay analysis were accepted.

In May 1940 Holland was occupied by the Germans. When in November 1940 Jews had to resign as society members by German law, the non-Jewish psychoanalysts resigned as well in an act of solidarity and the Society virtually ceased to exist. Psychoanalytic training was organized underground with only two analysts functioning: Jeanne Lampl-deGroot and Le Coultre. In November 1945 the Society was refounded.

In 1946 some members founded the Psychoanalytical Institute (PAI), an ambulatorium where patients could come for psychoanalytic treatment at limited cost by candidates who earned a small fee. The house of the PAI became and as of 2005, still is the center of training, where, among other things, seminars are held and scientific meetings organized.

In 1947 Westerman Holstijn and Van der Hoop, who both had left the Society in discontent, founded with others the Dutch Psychoanalytical Association. Initially, the Association was meant to be a forum where one could discuss psychoanalysis in a free atmosphere without the stress of training. Soon, however, a training program was organized, though with much milder requirements than those of the Society. Training analyses were performed at low frequency and for a short period. During the first twenty-five or thirty years of its existence, the relationship between Society and Association varied from non-existent to very bad. Three successive presidents of the Association; Jan Groen, Poslavsky, and Stufkens, managed to raise the quality of training gradually to IPA level, coinciding with a much more friendly cooperation with the Society. The societies share an increasing number of mutual members. In 1983 the Association founded its own institute in Utrecht, the PIU. The psychoanalytic institutes of Society and Association fused into the Dutch Psychoanalytic Institute (NPI) in 1995, which serves the candidates of both societies. It is expected that the Association will be a component society of the IPA in the near future.

From 1945 until roughly 1970 psychoanalysis blossomed in Holland. The number of candidates steadily increased; there were more patients for analysis than could be treated; there was an active scientific life. Three IPA congresses were organized in Amsterdam, in 1951, 1965 and 1993. Van der Leeuw became vice-president of the IPA in 1963 and president from 1965-1969. Montessori was secretary from 1965-1969 and vice-president after that until 1975. Lampl-deGroot was honorary vice-president from 1963 until her death in 1987. Several Dutch held an office in the European Psychoanalytical Federation: Thiel and Dalewijk as vice-president, Mekking as treasurer, and Groen-Prakken as president.

In 1966 a child-analytic training was organized within the Society by Teuns, with great support of especially Frijling-Schreuder through many years to come. Teachers from the Hampstead clinic came to Leiden or Amsterdam for theoretical and technical seminars and supervision. Also in 1966 the government decided to subsidize psychoanalytical treatments as far as the patient could not afford the treatment himself. In 1980 therapies at the Institutes for mental health, including the analytic Institutes, became virtually free from payment. The important chairs in psychiatry, child psychiatry and clinical psychology at the universities were mainly occupied by psychoanalysts.

Over the course of the 1980s there was a decline in interest in psychoanalysis, as in most western communities. In Holland, the growing grip of the authorities on psychoanalytic practice, the near-disappearance of private practice, and the replacement of psychoanalytically-oriented university teachers by biologically oriented ones were important factors. The same period, however, saw a mounting interest in the application of psychoanalysis to other fields. In 1979 the analytic societies founded together the Dutch Society for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and in 1989 the Foundation for Psychoanalysis and Culture was established, by the analysts Baneke and De Jong and the scientists in literature Schönau and Hillenaar, to connect psychoanalytical with general cultural experience. The annual workshops, organized by the Association, to introduce modern analytic views to a wide audience of psychotherapists are always overbooked.

Traditionally, the Dutch have been tradesmen for many centuries. They played an active role also in the export of psychoanalytic knowledge to Germany in the first period after the war, and in the late twentieth century to some former Soviet satellite countries: Prague first, and from 1994 onward, to Romania and Lithuania, where regular seminars are organized.

Four main scientific threads have developed, mostly after 1945. From the predominantly ego-psychological orientation after 1938 a continuous trend emerged to integrate drive- and ego- psychology with observations on narcissistic development and pathology (Lamplde Groot, Le Coultre, Van der Leeuw, Spanjaard, Treurniet). Many analysts from before the war already came from Child Guidance Clinics. The direct observation and treatment of neurotic and psychotic children has led to a mutual influence of adult and child psychoanalysis and to the use of psychoanalytical approaches in prevention of childhood disorders (Frijling-Schreuder, Kamp, Van Waning). The Dutch training programs are founded upon integrated child and adult theoretical seminars. In the third place there was and is a vivid exchange between psychoanalysis and the adult psychiatric clinic (Kuiper, De Blécourt, Van Tilburg). The fourth mainstream is centered around the aftermath of war in the first, second, and the contemporary generation (Keilson, De Wind, Jacques Tas, Louis Tas, De Levita, Bruggeman). Among the solitary theoreticians in the widened scope of psychoanalysis, De Jonghe, Ladan, Stufkens, and Bögels should be mentioned.

Regularly, textbooks and analytic books on a specific topic are published in Dutch. In 1978 Keilson published his long-term investigation on Jewish war orphans in Germany, Sequentielle Traumatisierung bei Kindern (now translated into English). In 1985 the collected papers by Lampl-de Groot were published in English titled Man and Mind. In 1991 Halberstadt-Freud published Freud, Proust, Perversion and Love. In 1993, at the thirty-eighth IPA congress in Amsterdam, Dutch Art and Character, a Psychoanalytic View was edited by Baneke and others. In 1993 and 1995 two volumes of the Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis appeared, edited by Ladan, Groen-Prakken, and Stufkens, and in 1996, on the occasion of a celebration of Treurniet, Psychoanalysis in a Post-Classical Context was published, edited by Groen-Prakken and featuring Treurniet's article "On an Ethic of Psychoanalytic Technique," alongside papers by foreign and Dutch friends.

Han Groen-Prakken


Brinkgreve, Christien. (1984). Psychoanalyse in Nederland. Een vestigingsstrijd. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

Bulhof, Ilse N. (1983). Freud en Nederland. Baarn: Ambo.

Freud, Sigmund. (1914d). On the history of the psychoanalytic movement. SE, 14: 1-66.

. (1974a). The Freud/Jung letters: The correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung (William McGuire, Ed.; Ralph Manheim and R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Groen-Prakken, Han. (1993). The psychoanalytical society and the analyst, with special reference to the history of the Dutch Psychoanalytical Society 1917-1947. In Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis, 1993 (p. 13-37). Amsterdam-Lisse: Swets and Zeitlinger.

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For general early occultism among German peoples, see the entry Teutons.


Spiritualism was introduced into Holland in about 1857. The first Dutch Spiritualist on record is J. N. T. Marthese, who, after studying psychic phenomena in foreign countries, finally returned to his native Holland, taking with him the American medium D. D. Home. The latter held séances at The Hague before several learned societies, and by command of Queen Sophia a séance was given in her presence. The medium himself, in an account of the performance, stated that the royal lady was obliged to sit seven séances on consecutive evenings before any results were obtained. These results, however, were apparently satisfactory, for the queen was thereafter a staunch supporter of the movement.

During Home's visit Spiritualism gained a considerable following in Holland and the practice of giving small private séances became fairly widespread. Allegedly, spirit voices were heard at these gatherings, the touch of spirit hands was felt, and musical instruments were played by invisible performers.

Séances held at the house of J. D. van Herwerden in The Hague were particularly notable and were attended by many enthusiastic students of the phenomena. Van Herwerden recruited a 14-year-old Javanese boy of his household as the medium. The manifestations ranged from spirit rapping and table turning in the earlier séances to direct voice, direct writing, levitation, and materializations in later ones. The séances were described in van Herwerden's book Ervaringen en Mededeeling op een nog Geheimzinnig Gebied and took place between 1858 and 1862. One of the principal spirits purported to be a monk, Paurellus, who was assassinated some 300 years previously in that city. Afterward van Herwerden was induced by his friends to publish his diary, under the title Experiences and Communications on a Still Mysterious Territory.

For a time Spiritualist séances were conducted only in family circles and were of a private nature. But as the attention of intellectuals became more and more directed to the new phenomenon, societies were formed to promote research. Oromase, or Ormuzd, the first of these societies, was founded in 1859 by Major J. Revius, a friend of Marthese's, and included among its members many people of high repute. They met at The Hague, and the records of their transactions were carefully preserved. Revius was president until his death in 1871. He was assisted by the society's secretary, A. Rita. They assembled a fine collection of works on Spiritualism, mesmerism, and kindred subjects.

Another society, the Veritas, was founded in Amsterdam in 1869. The studies of this association were conducted in a somewhat less searching and scientific spirit than those of the Oromase. Its mediums specialized in trance utterances and written communications from the spirits, and its members inclined to a belief in reincarnation, an opinion at variance with that of the older society. Rotterdam had for a time a society known as the Research after Truth, which had similar manifestations and tenets, but it soon came to an end, although its members continued to devote themselves privately to the investigation of spirit phenomena.

Other equally short-lived societies were formed in Haarlem and other towns. In all of these, however, there was a shortage of mediums able to produce form materializations. To supply this demand a number of foreign mediums hastened to Holland, including Margaret Fox Kane (of the Fox sisters ), the Davenport brothers, Florence Cook, and Henry Slade.

Before this the comparatively private nature of the séances and the high standing of those who took part in them had prevented the periodicals from making any but the most cautious comments on the séances. The appearance of professional mediums on the scene, however, swept away the barrier and let loose a flood of journalistic ridicule and criticism. This in turn provoked the supporters of Spiritualism to retort, and soon a lively battle was in progress between the Spiritualists and the skeptics. The consequence was that "the cause" was promoted as much by the articles that derided it as by those that were in favor of it.

Among the defenders of Spiritualism was Madame Elise van Calcar, who not only wrote a novel expounding Spiritualist principles but also published a monthly journal, On the Boundaries of Two Worlds, and held a sort of Spiritualist salon where enthusiasts could meet and discuss their favorite subjects. Dutch intellectuals, such as Drs. H. de Grood, J. Van Velzen, Van der Loef, and Herr Schimmel, were among authors who wrote in defense of the same opinions, and the writings of C. F. Varley, Sir William Crookes, and Alfred Russel Wallace were translated into Dutch.

A mesmerist, Signor Donata, carried on the practice of animal magnetism in Holland and endeavored to identify the magnetic force emanating from the operator with the substance of which disembodied spirits were believed to be composed. Progress of the movement was hampered by the many exposures of unscrupulous mediums, but on the whole the mediums, professional or otherwise, were well received. Haunted houses and poltergeists were also noted.

Psychical Research and Parapsychology

Some of the pioneers of psychical research in Holland were Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932), K. H. E. de Jong (1872-1960), P. A. Dietz (1878-1953), and Florentin J. L. Jansen (b. 1881). Van Eeden was an author and physician who sat with the English medium Rosina Thompson and was also acquainted with F. W. H. Myers. Van Eeden contributed "A Study of Dreams" to the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 26, p. 431), in which he used the term lucid dream to indicate those conditions in which the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming. This condition of consciousness in the dream state was emphasized by the British writer Oliver Fox as a frequent preliminary to astral projection.

Jong was a classical student whose doctoral thesis dealt with the mysteries of Isis. As World War II began, he was a lecturer in parapsychology at the University of Leiden and was responsible for a number of books and articles dealing with psi faculty.

Dietz attempted to organize a student social group for psychical research when studying biology at the University of Groningen. Although this was short-lived, Dietz went on to investigate parapsychological card tests, using himself as the subject. After qualifying as a medical doctor in 1924, he became a neurologist in The Hague. A few years later he and W. H. C. Tenhaeff founded the periodical Tijdschrift voor Parapsychologie. In his book Wereldzicht der Parapsychologie (Parapsychological View of the Universe) Dietz coined the terms paragnosy for psychical phenomena and parergy for physical phenomena. He became a lecturer in parapsychology at the University of Leiden in 1931 and had a reputation as an excellent speaker.

Jansen seems to have established a parapsychological laboratory as early as 1907, while still a medical student. He founded the quarterly periodical Driemaandelijkse verslagen van het Psychophysisch Laboratorium te Amsterdam. He took a special interest in experiments with Paul Joire 's sthenometer and conducted a number of experiments to verify the od force proposed by Baron von Reichenbach. In 1912 he immigrated to Buenos Aires, where he worked as a physician.

Other pioneers included Marcellus Emants (1848-1932), a novelist who experimented with the famous medium Eusapia Palladino; engineer Felix Ortt (1866-1959), who published articles on parapsychology and a book on the philosophy of occultism and Spiritualism; and Captain H. N. de Fremery, who published a manual of Spiritualism and also contributed to Tijdschrift voor Parapsychologie.

In 1920 the Studievereniging voor Psychical Research, the Dutch Society for Psychical Research, was founded in Amsterdam through the enterprise of Gerardus Heymans (1857-1930) of Groningen University. Although the society began well, it was soon criticized for an unsympathetic atmosphere for mediums, but in 1927 it received a new impetus from the psychologist W. H. C. Tenhaeff and the journal Tijdschrift voor Parapsychologie. Some notable investigations over the years included studies of dowsing (water witching), physics and parapsychology, and precognitive elements in dreams.

The society was suppressed during World War II, and the Germans took the library to Germany and destroyed it. After the war the society was reconstructed and soon numbered a thousand members, including Javanese parapsychologist George Zorab. Some of the work in this period included observations on the noted psychic Gerard Croiset, an attempt to replicate the Whately Carington tests with Zener cards, and the investigation of "objective clairvoyance." Meanwhile, in 1933 Tenhaeff founded the Parapsychology Institute of the State University of Utrecht, later known as the Parapsychological Division of the Psychological Laboratory, Utrecht.

In 1953 the First International Conference of Parapsychological Studies, sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation, New York, was held in Utrecht. In 1959 the Amsterdam Foundation for Parapsychological Research was established and began an investigation of the influence of psychedelics on ESP. Another investigation was a widely conducted inquiry into the occurrence of spontaneous phenomena.

In 1960 a controversy erupted in the Studievereniging voor Psychical Research over Tenhaeff's authoritarian control of the organization. Some members withdrew and founded the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Parapsychologie, which now provides the primary focus for parapsychological research in the country. By 1967 there was growing interest in parapsychology among students of five major universities, and various societies were set up. These were later grouped into the Study Center for Experimental Parapsychology.

The Federation of Parapsychological Circles of the Netherlands emerged as an umbrella for several small local parapsychological groups, including the Amsterdamse Parapsychologische Studiekring, the Haarlemse Parapsychologische Studiekring, the Haagse Parapsychologische Studiekring, and the Rottendamse Parapsychologische Studiekring.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Dykshoorn, M. B., with Russell H. Felton. My Passport Says Clairvoyant. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1974.

Hurkos, Peter. Psychic. London: Arthur Baker, 1962.

Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology. New York: Helix Press, 1964.

Pollack, Jack Harrison. Croiset the Clairvoyant. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964. Reprint, New York: Bantam Books, 1965.

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41,526sq km (16,033sq mi)



capital (population):

Amsterdam (736,538)


Constitutional monarchy

ethnic groups:

Netherlander 95%, Indonesian, Turkish, Moroccan, German


Dutch (official)


Roman Catholic 34%, Dutch Reformed Church 17%, Calvinist 8%, Islam 3%


Euro = 100 cents

Kingdom in nw Europe. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is popularly known as Holland, and with Belgium and Luxembourg forms the Low Countries. Except in the far se, the Netherlands is flat and c.40% lies below sea level. Large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea. Dykes prevent flooding and have created Ijsselmeer. The maritime provinces contain the constitutional capital Amsterdam, the administrative capital The Hague, and the cities of Rotterdam, Delft, Haarlem, Leiden, Groningen, and Utrecht.

Climate and Vegetation

It has a temperate maritime climate, with mild winters and abundant rainfall. It is very densely populated. About 66% of the land is arable or grazing. A series of canals irrigates the country.

History and Politics

From the 4th to 8th century, the Franks ruled the region. In the 10th century, it became part of the Holy Roman Empire. Trade flourished through the Hanseatic League in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1477, the region passed to the Habsburgs. Philip II's attempt to impose the Inquisition met with fierce resistance. The n Protestant provinces, led by William I (the Silent), declared independence in 1581. The foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 marked the beginnings of Empire. After the Thirty Years' War, the Peace of Westphalia (1648) recognized the independence of the n and s provinces as the United Provinces. In 1652, Jan de Witt formed a republic. Trading rivalry with England led to the Dutch Wars. The Treaty of Breda (1667) confirmed Dutch imperial possessions. In 1672, France invaded and de Witt was murdered. The House of Orange regained control under William III (of Orange). France ruled the Netherlands from 1795 to 1813.

In 1815, the former United Provinces, Belgium, and Luxembourg united to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands under William I. Belgium broke away in 1830. In 1890, Luxembourg seceded, and Wilhelmina began her long reign. The Netherlands was neutral in World War I. Germany invaded in May 1940; most Dutch Jews were deported to Poland and murdered. Queen Wilhelmina was exiled during World War II. Arnhem was a vital bridgehead in the Allied liberation of Europe. In 1948, Wilhelmina abdicated in favour of her daughter, Juliana. In 1949, the Netherlands joined NATO, and Indonesia gained its independence. In 1957, it was a founder member of the European Community, and in 1958 formed the Benelux customs union. It gave Netherlands New Guinea and Surinam independence in 1962 and 1975 respectively. It retains the Netherlands Antilles. In 1980, Queen Juliana abdicated in favour of her daughter, Beatrix. A succession of coalition governments ruled the Netherlands after World War II. In 1994 Wim Kok became Prime Minister. Re-elected in 1998, he led the nation into the euro in 1999. In 2002, the government resigned over Dutch failure to prevent the massacre at Srebenica, Bosnia, in 1995. Pim Fortuyn was assassinated during the subsequent election campaign, but his anti-immigration party joined a coalition government led by Christian Democrat Jan Peter Balkenende.


The Netherlands prospers through its close ties with the rest of Europe (2000 GDP per capita, US$24,400) and the combination of private enterprise and progressive social policies. Services account for 65% of GDP and industry 30%. Highly industrialized, its products include aircraft, chemicals, electronics, machinery. Natural resources include natural gas. Agriculture is intensive, employing only 5% of the workforce. Dairy farming is the major agricultural activity.

Political map

Physical map


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In the Middle Ages the Netherlands, or Low Countries, was a territory of the duchy of Burgundy, a wealthy realm that stretched from the English Channel south to the Alps. The major Flemish cities, including Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent, were among the most prosperous in all of Europe. The dukes of Burgundy were patrons of the arts and the Netherlands was home to the most innovative painters and composers of northern Europe. Musicians of the Flemish School were in high demand throughout Europe. Josquin des Prez, Guillaume Dufay, and Johannes Ockegham developed a widely imitated style, written for selected groups of instruments and always with a mind to balanced melody and careful harmonic progressions. Local artists traveled to Italy and brought home new trends in art, while Italian artists and architects came north to enjoy the patronage of Burgundian monarchs and aristocrats. While the ideals of classical Greece and Rome had less importance, the artists of the Netherlands made their own innovations. Jan van Eyck developed an astonishing realism in his pictures, while Pieter Brueghel turned to the natural world and the lives of ordinary townsmen and peasants for inspiration. Hieronymus Bosch used the startling imagery of fantasy and dreams to convey his deep religious convictions. Later painters of the Netherlands specialized in still-lifes, landscape paintings, and portraits.

In 1496, the marriage of Philip the Handsome with Joanna, a Habsburg princess of Spain and daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile, eventually brought the Netherlands under the rule of Emperor Charles V, their son and the ruler of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. During the next century, the region suffered occupation by Spain and a destructive civil war. The Protestant Reformation took hold during the sixteenth century, when the Netherlands were in revolt against the rule by the Catholic Habsburgs. The emperor sent armies to put down the rebellion and enforce Catholicism. At the end of the period, the Habsburgs retained control of the Flemish provinces (now Belgium), while Holland won its independence and built a far-flung colonial empire, from the Americas to East Asia.

See Also: Bosch, Hieronymus; Brueghel family; Rubens, Peter Paul; van Eyck, Jan

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The Netherlands

The Netherlands

Culture Name


Alternative Names

Netherlands culture, Hollandic culture. The Dutch use Nederlandse cultuur and Hollandse cultuur to describe their culture.


Identification. The English word "Dutch" derives from the German deutsch ("German"). "Dutch" referred originally to both Germany and the Netherlands but came to be restricted to the people and language of the Netherlands when that country became independent in the seventeenth century. "Holland" and "the Netherlands" often are used as synonyms even though "Holland" refers only to the provinces North and South Holland.

The Dutch distinguish between two major cultural subdivisions in their nation. The most important distinction is between the Randstad (Rim City) and non-Randstad cultures. Randstad culture is distinctly urban, located in the provinces of North Holland, South Holland, and Utrecht. The non-Randstad culture corresponds to the historical divide between the predominantly Protestant north and the Catholic south, separated by the Rhine River.

Significant local variations of Dutch culture include the Friesian culture in the extreme north and the Brabant and Limburg cultures in the south. The southern culture was subject to discriminatory policies until the nineteenth century. The Friesians prize their language and descent from the ancient Friesian people, while the Limburgers and Brabantines emphasize their southern culture and Catholic heritage.

The Netherlands has for centuries provided a safe haven for ethnic minorities fleeing from discrimination and persecution, with each minority influencing Dutch culture in its own way. Many Jews from Spain and Portugal and Protestant merchants from the Spanish-ruled southern Netherlands sought refuge in the Dutch Republic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The twentieth century was characterized by the influx of guest workers from the Mediterranean, migrants from the former Dutch colonies, and refugees from war-torn countries.

The Netherlands does not have a strong uniform national culture. Most Dutch people reject the notion and consider it to be tainted with an unacceptable form of nationalism. Instead, they emphasize the country's cultural diversity, tolerance of difference, and receptiveness to foreign influences. Nevertheless, the Randstad culture has been hegemonic in the Netherlands because of the concentration of political, economic, and cultural power in that densely populated region.

Location and Geography. The Netherlands is situated in northwestern Europe and borders on Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North sea to the west and north. The name "Netherlands" means "Low Lands" in reference to the nation's topography as an alluvial plain. Differences in altitude are minimal. Almost one-quarter of the landmass is below sea level, protected from the encroaching sea by dikes and dunes. The Netherlands is also a relatively small country (13,297 square miles [34,425 square kilometers]) without surface water.

The Netherlands is divided in twelve provinces. Amsterdam (730,000 inhabitants) is the capital, but the government meets in The Hague (440,000 inhabitants). Utrecht (235,000 inhabitants) is the transportation hub, while the port city of Rotterdam (590,000 inhabitants) constitutes the economic heartland. These four cities together with a string of interconnected towns, form the Randstad, which has a population of 6,100,000.

Demography. The Netherlands had a population of 15,898,331 in 2000. It is the most densely populated country in Europe (1,196 inhabitants per square mile [462 per square kilometer] in 1996). There are 2,700,000 foreign residents. The majority, approximately 780,000, originate from the European Union, including 432,000 Germans. Other sizable groups are Surinamese (297,000), Turks (300,000), Moroccans (252,000), and Antilleans (99,000).

The average life expectancy in 1996 was 75.2 years for men and 80.7 years for women, while the infant mortality rate was 5.1 per 1,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language of the Netherlands is Standard Dutch. This language is used in all official matters, by the media, and at schools and universities. Dutch closely resembles German in both syntax and spelling. It freely borrows words and technical terms from French and especially English.

Dutch is also the official language in Flandres, Belgium, where it is called Flemish. Creole languages are increasingly replacing Dutch in Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles as decolonization progresses. Afrikaans, which is widely spoken in South Africa, is related to Dutch. Friesian is the second official language of the Netherlands; it is spoken by a half million Friesians. In addition, there are about twenty-five major dialects of Dutch.

Symbolism. The display of the national flag and the singing of the national anthem are important expressions of identity for a decreasing number of citizens. The flag consists of three horizontal strips in the colors red, white, and blue. The national anthem is the Wilhelmus. It was a rebel song during the independence war against Spain and was adopted as the national anthem in 1932.

The complex relationship of the Dutch people with the sea is notable. The sea has historically been both adversary and ally. The Dutch used to repel foreign invaders by deliberately piercing river dikes. However, if not for the extensive waterworks, 65 percent of the Netherlands would be flooded permanently. The Dutch take great pride in their struggle against the sea and reclaiming of land, which they view as mastery over nature.

Another source of national pride that sets aside regional and religious differences is sports, especially soccer and speed skating. Whenever the national team engages in international competitions, orangemania reigns. People dress in orange (in reference to the name of the royal family), raise national and orange flags, and decorate houses and streets as a patriotic feeling of athletic superiority floods the nation. The Elfstedentocht ("Eleven-City Tour") also raises national awareness. This speed-skating event in Friesland occurs only occasionally as it takes a prolonged period of frost to harden the 125 miles of lakes and canals that connect the eleven Friesian towns.

The clearest example of national symbolism is the Dutch royal family. The queen is regarded as the embodiment of the Dutch (nation) and a symbol of hope and unity in times of war, adversity, and natural disaster. Her popularity is manifested annually at the celebration of Queensday on 30 April. The capital, Amsterdam, in particular, is transformed into a gigantic flea market and open-air festival.

The 19401945 occupation by Nazi Germany provides a continued source of national identity. There are more than eight hundred World War II monuments and memorials, and the Dutch people still use the war years as the most important historical point of reference. The conflation of Jewish and non-Jewish Dutch suffering is a striking characteristic of national remembrance. The Dutch pride themselves on their fierce resistance to the Nazi regime and their sheltering of 25,000 Jewish and 300,000 non-Jewish Dutch, but there also was extensive collaboration with the Nazis. More than a hundred thousand Jews were deported to concentration camps. Anne Frank symbolizes this deeply ambiguous self-perception of the Dutch as victims, resisters, collaborators, and passive bystanders. The Frank family was harbored for two years by Dutch resisters before finally being betrayed by Dutch collaborators.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Dutch national identity emerged during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in the struggle for independence from Catholic Spain during the Eighty Year War (15681648). The Dutch people received independence from the House of Habsburg in the Treaty of Munster in 1648. The Netherlands was temporarily unified with Belgium after the Congress of Vienna. The Catholic Belgian elite sought its freedom from the Protestant Dutch, and Belgium became independent in 1839.

National Identity. Dutch national identity emerged from the struggle for political sovereignty and religious freedom from the Catholic Habsburgs (Philip II). The Dutch merchant class formed an alliance with the House of Orange; the merchants supplied the funds to wage war, while the House of Orange provided political stability and military protection. Politics became more dependent on consensus and negotiation than on authoritarian rule as power rested in the hands of provincial viceroys.

The rapid expansion of the Dutch merchant fleet enabled the establishment of a worldwide network of trade relations that created naval dominance and increasing wealth for the merchant class. Handicapped by a small population (670,000 inhabitants in 1622) and besieged by growing English and French might, the Dutch Republic began to decline. Paradoxically, at that time, the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy merchant class resulted in the so-called Golden Age. Stately canal houses were constructed in Amsterdam, and great works of art were commissioned.

The Netherlands was one of the poorest nations in northwestern Europe by 1750. In 1813, at the end of the French occupation (17951813), William I of the House of Orange-Nassau accepted the throne and became the first Dutch king. The Dutch nobility never had a position of prominence and influence in Dutch society. Only after constitutional reforms in 1851 did the nation begin its ascent to industrialization.

Ruralurban migration and especially the establishment of male suffrage in 1887 undermined traditional ways of life in the eyes of some politicians. The Anti-Revolutionary Party was founded in 1878 to reverse that trend. That party advocated autonomy for different political and religious communities. Its initiative resulted in the early twentieth century in a process of vertical segmentation or pluralism known as pillarization. Pillarization meant that each substantial subsection of the Dutch population was able to participate in social institutions and organizations (labor unions, schools, universities, political parties, social clubs, churches, newspapers, and radio stations) that catered to its specific needs. The four main pillars where Catholic, Protestant, socialist, and conservative. Intensive cooperation and negotiation between the pillars took place among national politicians. Secularization and emancipation in the late 1960s resulted in depillarization because of a greater vertical social mobility, growing intermarriage, and a declining identification with each of the four pillars.

A strong self-conscious national identity did not develop in the Netherlands because of these centrifugal historical processes, and this denial of a national identity became a hallmark of Dutch culture. Religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity are considered the essence of Dutch culture. The persistence of sizable religious and regional minorities and the decentralization of administrative power have allowed cultural diversity to survive. In the absence of a countrywide shared identity, the hegemonic Randstad culture has provided most of the markers of national identity.

Ethnic Relations. There is not much debate about racism or ethnic discrimination among the Dutch people, probably because of their self-ascribed tolerance. Nevertheless, the socioeconomic position of most non-European minorities is far worse than that of the indigenous population. The status of immigrant groups after World War II depended mainly on the moment and condition of their entry. Dutch-speaking Indonesians arrived at the height of the postwar economic upswing after Indonesia's independence in 1950. The Indonesians had ample time to secure a stable position in Dutch society. By contrast, the Mediterranean guest workers who arrived in the late 1960s and early 1970s regarded themselves and were viewed by the Dutch authorities as temporary residents and therefore did not familiarize themselves with Dutch culture. Guest workers were recruited principally from Spain and Italy and later from Turkey and Morocco. Those workers performed unskilled labor in the industry and service sectors. Many Dutch-speaking Surinamese arrived after Suriname became independent in 1975. Those immigrants and the poorly educated Turkish and Moroccan labor migrants were among the first to suffer from the economic decline of the 1970s. The position of the Surinamese improved during the 1980s and 1990s, but the Turks and Moroccans remained the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in Dutch society. Local residents of the Netherlands Antilles have been migrating to the Netherlands since the mid-1970s in search of work and schooling. The 1990s was marked by the immigration of substantial groups of refugees from west Africa, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the Balkans.

Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space

Dutch cities are extremely compact and densely populated. Government intervention ensures that intercity areas are well kept and that ethnic ghettos and industrial wastelands do not emerge. The major cities are constantly subject to urban renewal projects. Much attention is given to fostering a sense of community by creating public places, such as parks and squares with benches and playgrounds. The country has an intricate network of railroads and an even denser web of bicycle paths.

Early Dutch architecture was influenced by a Calvinist ethos of uniformity and sobriety. This distinct style emerged after the Netherlands separated from Spain in 1581. Unlike their contemporaries in France and Great Britain, wealthy Dutch merchants built fairly modest yet stately canal houses in Amsterdam. Dutch cities lack the grandeur and flamboyance of Paris and London because the government meets in inconspicuous buildings.

Contemporary Dutch architecture is more cosmopolitan. The expressionist Amsterdam School and the cubist Stijl architects of the 1920s were inspired by international art movements. Modernism became the principal style of the post-World War II housing boom. The city center of Rotterdam is a typical example. Largely destroyed in World War II, the heart of this port city was rebuilt in an American style with steel and glass skyscrapers. At the end of the twentieth century, the Randstad cities began developing postmodern suburban business parks and indoor shopping malls.

The Dutch have a desire for spatial organization that is informed by Calvinist assumptions about order as a synonym for cleanliness and sinlessness. The Calvinist sense of space can be seen clearly from the air. The land is carefully divided in Mondrian-like squares and rectangles. In part, this is related to surface water management with its need for canals and dikes, but it also reflects the Dutch desire for order and uniformity. This can be seen most clearly in the undistinguished suburban housing development projects.

Dutch houses are relatively small and have prominent front doors and large windows. Homes are stacked with formidable amounts of furniture, indoor plants, and flowers. Dutch interiors are a reflection of the outside world, congested but orderly and clean.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The Netherlands does not have a distinct culinary culture because of its Protestant ethnic and the absence of a strong culinary tradition at the court due to an emphasis on Calvinist soberness. Food is seen as a necessary part of life, with no need for luxury. Traditional foods include pea soup, kale stew, hotchpotch (a thick stew), white asparagus, French fries with mayonnaise, meat croquets, and raw herring. In the morning, the Dutch consume several sandwiches with cheese, peanut butter, or chocolate sprinkles. Lunch consists of sandwiches, often with cold cuts and perhaps a small salad on the side. Dinner, which generally is served between five and seven p.m., is a twoor three-course meal that often begins with soup. The main dish usually contains a mixture of potatoes with vegetables and meat, fish, or poultry and is followed by dessert. ChineseIndonesian, Surinamese, and Italian food have become part of the Dutch diet.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The Dutch hardly ever invite people with whom they are not closely acquainted for dinner. Instead, coffee has a strong social significance. Neighbors often invite each other over for a cup of coffee with the invariable one cookie, and the morning coffee break at work is a sacred institution. Coffee-drinking rituals reveal the core meaning of the crucial Dutch word gezelligheid ("cozy," "sociable," or "pleasant").

Basic Economy. The Netherlands has an advanced free market economy. The Dutch pride themselves on having an economy that performs smoothly, known as the polder model, which hinges on periodic negotiations among labor unions, employers' associations, and the government to control wage scales and taxes. The labor force consisted of 7,097,000 persons in 1999; the unemployed numbered 292,000. The annual gross national product (GNP) amounted to 323 billion euros ($373 billion) in 1997. Imports totaled about 55 percent of GNP; and exports totaled 61 percent. The average income after taxes is 20,000 euros ($23,160). The Netherlands never had a major wave of industrialization but remained firmly oriented toward agriculture, trade, and service industries. Two percent of the Dutch population are employed in the highly mechanized agricultural sector (which includes the fishing industry), 24 percent are employed in the industrial sector, and 74 percent work in service industries.

Trade. Dutch exports can be divided into five main categories: agricultural products, 15 percent; natural or enriched fuels, 6 percent; chemical products, 17 percent; industrial products, 12 percent; and machinery, 24 percent. Germany is the principal trading partner. Two-thirds of Dutch exports go to five nations: Germany, Belgium, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Those five trading partners account for 61 percent of Dutch imports.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Differences in wealth are relatively small in comparison to many other countries because of progressive taxation and the redistribution of fiscal funds to the unemployed and occupationally inactive. This equality of income is clearly shown when Dutch households are subdivided into four separate income categories. The lowest quartile has an average income of 8,730 euros ($10,105) after taxes, whereas the highest quartile has an average income of 38,365 euros ($44,420). An open discussion of class, income, and status differences is more or less taboo in a society that strongly emphasizes equality. Although Dutch society in general is firmly middle class, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the population lives at a subsistence level. This income polarization and the ensuing social segmentation began in the 1980s. Low-skilled workers, the unemployed, the disabled, the aged, and single-parent households have been hit hardest. Low-income households are concentrated in the Randstad cities and the two most northern provinces, Friesland and Groningen.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Class differences entail few visible signs of cultural differentiation, but those minor differences have a great symbolic value in creating social distinction. The most obvious differences can be observed in housing, consumption patterns, and community participation. Lower-class homes are small and tend to hold a large amount of furniture and decorative articles. Higher-class homes are more spacious and tend to hold less and often more sober furniture. The social participation of Dutch people does not depend entirely on class background, but higher-income households tend to have less involvement in community life than do low-income households. Lower class people are in general more rooted in community life and less restrained in contacts with neighbors and relatives.

Differences in clothing are relatively slight but important class markers. The Dutch dress with little eye for flamboyance. Even corporate dress codes are informal. Only the very rich and young urban professionals have a dress style that adheres to international clothing standards.

Speech patterns also may vary with class. Lower class people tend to speak in a local dialect, while the middle and upper classes speak Standard Dutch.

Political Life

Government. The Netherlands is a unitary state governed by a central body. The political system is a parliamentary democracy as well as a constitutional monarchy. The queen has little political influence; her role is largely symbolic. Political power lies in the hands of a cabinet of ministers headed by a prime minister. The cabinet is accountable to the parliament (Staten-Generaal ), whose members are elected at four-year intervals. The Dutch Parliament consists of the First Chamber and the Second Chamber, which together constitute the legislative body. The Second Chamber initiates new legislation. Its members are directly elected by the people, who have had universal suffrage since 1919. The members of the Second Chamber are elected by proportional representation, which leads to a great number of political parties that together compete for 150 seats. The First Chamber either ratifies or rejects the new legislation proposed by the Second Chamber. Its members are elected by the members of the Provinciale Staten. Each of the twelve provinces has a local governing board (Provinciale Staten ) whose chair is the commissioner to the queen, who is appointed by the government for a life term. Its members are elected by the inhabitants of the province. Each municipality has an elected council presided over by the mayor and elected aldermen. Commissioners and mayors are handpicked by the government for life terms.

Leadership and Political Officials. The main political parties are the PvdA (social democrats), VVD (conservatives), and CDA (Christian democrats). These parties are supplemented by a large number of smaller parties, ranging from socialist and nationalist to religious and green. Dutch cabinets are invariably coalitions of the major political parties. Open debate and negotiation toward consensus are part of Dutch political culture.

Most top level government positions are occupied by former members of the Second Chamber who have moved up in the party ranks. Most public functionaries at the ministries are career bureaucrats. Interactions between politicians and ordinary citizens are fairly limited, especially on the provincial and national levels. Only industrial associations, unions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and political lobbies interact directly on political matters. These groups have a strong impact on political decision making.

Social Problems and Control. Traffic violations are the most common legal infraction. Violent crimes are low compared to other European countries and the United States; 273 murders were committed in 1996, amounting to 1.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Dutch citizens worry mostly about muggings and burglaries. People hardly ever take the law into their own hands. There are very few neighborhood watches and no armed citizens' militias. The Netherlands has very strict gun control. Possession of small quantities of soft drugs (marijuana and hashish) is not prosecuted. The sale of soft drugs in so-called coffeeshops is not legal but is tolerated. The Netherlands has become a magnet for drug tourists because of its liberal stance toward drugs and its position as a major transport hub within Europe. The Netherlands has a great tolerance of prostitution. Randstad cities have red light districts in which women display themselves behind windows to potential customers.

Military Activity. The Dutch army was professionalized during the 1990s, when conscription was formally abolished. The defense budget declined substantially between 1989 and 1998 because of the end of the Cold War. In the absence of armed conflicts, the Dutch armed forces become only active during national disasters such as major floods and forest fires and in international peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations or NATO. Even though the Dutch hold the military in low esteem, their attitude toward peacekeeping missions is very positive.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The modern Dutch welfare state, with its elaborate system of laws and regulations, came into existence after World War II. The current array of welfare laws is impossible to summarize, but the main assumption is that people are entitled to a sufficient income to satisfy their basic needs and should not be at the mercy of charity.

The welfare system was created to provide for the aged and as a temporary safety net for unemployed breadwinners. However, in the present post-industrial economic system, this system has become a permanent source of income for a large and stable group, and this has created increasing dependency on the state. High economic growth at the turn of the twentieth century, tax incentives, and government reeducation programs had rapidly reduced long-term unemployment to record lows. Unemployment benefits are sufficient to maintain the recipients at a minimum standard of living.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations in the Netherlands consist mostly of charity funds and environmental and human rights organizations. Important organizations include Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and Natuurmonumenten (an organization for the protection of the Dutch natural environment), which have a large middle and upper class following. They have a considerable impact on national politics. The Dutch contribute large sums to international disaster aid and consider themselves morally obliged to do so.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women constitute only 38 percent of the labor force and often work part-time. This low rate of participation has ideological and historical reasons. There is a prevailing belief that maternity care has great developmental benefits for children. Furthermore, the Dutch involvement in both world wars contributed to the late entry of women in the labor force. Unlike in Great Britain and Germany, where many men fought in the war, the Dutch did not enter World War I. The German occupation during World War II kept the male labor force largely intact in spite of the hundreds of thousands of forced laborers who were deported to Nazi Germany, and women thus were not needed to take the place of male workers. Dutch women only slowly started entering the labor force after the pillarization of society crumbled in the late 1960s. They still lag behind men in terms of income and job status. The average annual income of men was 26,410 euros ($30,580) before taxes in 1997 versus only 13,455 euros ($15,580) for women. Women are found mostly in low-paying service jobs such as nursing and cleaning.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although women and men are equal before the law and the trend toward gender equality has been noticeable, women and men still occupy distinct functions in Dutch society. The differences between men and women are especially noticeable within the nuclear family, where the woman continues to perform the role of homemaker, while the man is seen as the breadwinner or provider. This is especially true among working-class families. Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in politics and the economy.

Marriage,Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Dutch people are free to choose their spouses. The common basis for marriage is most often love. This does not mean that people marry independently of the constraints of class, ethnicity, and religion. The choice of a partner is often class-based. Monogamy is the only marriage form allowed. Many Dutch couples live in a consensual arrangement. Same-sex couples can marry and have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

The marriage ceremony may consist of two separate formal events: the municipal registration and a religious ceremony, with the latter being optional. The couple holds a wedding reception where friends and relatives gather to celebrate the nuptial engagement. Almost 45 percent of the Dutch population is married; about eighty thousand marriages are registered each year, while on average thirty thousand couples file for divorce.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the most common household unit, although it is increasingly losing ground to single-parent families, couples without children, and single-person households. The principal authority in the household is generally the man, although there is a trend toward more equality of marriage partners. Extended family households are rare. Dutch couples have a neolocal postmarital residence pattern, as couples are free to choose where they live.

Kin Groups. The Dutch make a distinction between relatives by marriage and relatives by blood. Consanguineal relatives are considered more important than are affinal relatives. Solidarity and support (financial and emotional) are usually directed at the closest kin (parents, children, and siblings). This is also illustrated by prevailing inheritance patterns. Disinheritance is not permitted by law. Every child receives an equal share.


Infant Care. The average nuclear family is relatively small, with only one or two children. Toddlers receive much parental attention. Many children are cared for primarily by their parents in the parental home. Infants usually are put in playpens, where parents can leave them without restraining their own movement around the house. Since in many families both parents are employed, children aged 6 weeks and up are often placed in a nursery when their parents are at work. Children often enter play groups at age 2 and at age 4 are officially required to attend primary school.

Child Rearing and Education. Dutch childrearing practices are permissive. Children are encouraged to discover their surroundings individually or with other children. Corporal punishment is disapproved of by most parents. Instead, parents reprimand misbehaving children verbally. Peer groups are important among Dutch adolescents. Teenagers have developed a wide array of subcultures in which to explore their identity such as punks, head-bangers, and in particular gabbers (Dutch slang for "mates") whose working-class members shave their heads, wear expensive training suits, and congregate at rave parties.

Higher Education. Dutch children are praised for successful performance at school. It is firmly believed that a good education and fluency in English are a sure road to success. Many children thus seek additional education after finishing high school. Approximately 70 percent of the adult population receives formal education after high school, and 20 percent of the adult population has received higher vocational training (HBO) or attended a university.


Most traits of Dutch etiquette resemble those of the rest of the Western world, but there are several distinguishing national codes of behavior. The Dutch either shake hands when they meet and depart or, in the case of women and closely acquainted men and women, kiss each other three times on the cheek.

The Dutch have a strong desire to order their time in agendas and on calendars. Dutch children are given their first agenda at primary school to write down scheduled lessons and homework. A full agenda signifies a full life. The Dutch are very punctual, and showing up even five minutes late is considered inappropriate. As a result, everything has to be done at fixed times: There is a time to work, a time to clean the house, a time to drink coffee, and a time to visit friends.

The Dutch do not line up and show almost no consideration in public for a person's status, gender, or age. The use of the formal "you" (U ) to address a person is becoming less common, whereas the growing importance of the informal "you" (jij )is meant to illustrate a commitment to equality.


Religious Beliefs. The largest religious congregation in the Netherlands is Catholic (30 percent of the population), followed by Reformed Protestant (14 percent), Dutch Reformed (7 percent) and Muslim (4 percent). More striking, however, is the fact that 40 percent of the population are not religious or connected to a denomination. The extremely rapid secularization of the Netherlands after the 1960s has meant that religion plays a decreasing role in ordering people's social and cultural lives, with the notable exception of the small rural communities in the Dutch Bible Belt, which runs along the towns Zierikzee, Dordrecht, Utrecht, Zwolle, and Assen. Among the 60 percent who profess to being religious, an ever-increasing group either does not actively participate in religious ceremonies or is involved in New Age religions.

Religious Practitioners. Religious practitioners (priests, ministers, and imams) belong to the major religions in the Netherlands. The Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authority is represented by bishops who try to influence national debates about the family, social welfare, abortion, and euthanasia.

Rituals and Holy Places. The Catholic south of the Netherlands is rich in annual religious processions, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, such as the blood processions in Boxtel and Boxmeer, both in the province of North-Brabant. Shrines include those of Saint Gerardus in Wittem and Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Masatricht.

Death and the Afterlife. Beliefs about death and the afterlife correspond to the doctrines of the major religions. The deceased is either buried at a cemetery or cremated at a cremation center. All burials and cremations are arranged by professional undertakers.

Medicine and Health Care

Health care is almost completely the responsibility of the state. The Dutch institutionalized, although they did not socialize, health care during the twentieth century to a much larger extent than did many other Western nations. Even care for the aged and the disabled takes place primarily in an institutionalized setting. Secularization and increasing wealth have compelled the government to take over care for the aged because traditional institutions such as church, community, and family are no longer able or willing to perform this task adequately. Almost everyone in the Netherlands carries medical insurance. The unemployed and low-income families are protected by public health insurance, while higher-income families have private insurance.

Secular Celebrations

Carnival celebrations the weekend before Ash Wednesday have become secular festivities that are spreading rapidly from the Catholic south to the Protestant north. The symbolic celebration of the Queen's birthday (Queen's Day) takes place on 30 April. Although Queen Beatrix was born on 31 January, the festivities are held on the former Queen Juliana's birthday. Remembrance of Dutch casualties in World War II is celebrated on Memorial Day, 4 May. The nation observes a minute of silence at eight p.m. to commemorate the dead. Liberation Day, the celebration of the end of the German occupation in 1945, occurs on 5 May. Most major cities stage elaborate festivities and music festivals. Family members and friends exchange gifts on the eve of Saint Nicolas Day (5 December), while children receive gifts on his birthday (6 December). On New Year's Eve, the Dutch reflect on the year that has passed and gather with friends rather than family members. The new year is welcomed with champaign and fireworks, and resolutions are made.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Graduates of art academies receive a four-year stipend of about 455 euros ($525) a month to start a professional art career. In addition, several public and private foundations provide modest funding for artists. An important source of support are the artworks for public places commissioned by national, provincial, and local governments.

Literature. Dutch oral literature dates back to at least 500 b.c.e. The earliest Dutch written literature goes back to the mid-1200s with the songs of the troubadour Heynric van Veldeken. The works on world history and the lives of saints written in verse by Jacob van Maerlant (12301300) mark the beginning of a truly national literature. Dutch literature bloomed during the Renaissance with playwrights such as Hooft, Cats, Huygens, Bredero, and Joost van den Vondel (15871679).

Dutch literature entered a period of relative decline after the seventeenth century, only to arise to world stature in the mid-nineteenth century with the publication of Max Havelaar by Multatuli (a pseudonym for Eduard Douwes Dekker), which describes the colonial exploitation of the Netherlands Indies. The Movement of the Eighties (18801894), led by the poets Kloos and Gorter, marked a new era in Dutch literature. The novels of Louis Couperus were the fin-de-sicle apotheosis of the national literature.

The breadth of twentieth-century Dutch literature is great; Slauerhoff, Roland Holst, Bordewijk, and Vestdijk are the most important authors of the inter-war period. The principal post-World War II poets and writers are Lucebert, Kouwenaar, Vroman, Haasse, Mulisch, Hermans, Reve, Wolkers, Nooteboom, and Van der Heijden.

Graphic Arts. Contemporary Dutch graphic arts have been dominated by the legacy of the seventeenth century with its emphasis on painting, drawing, and etching. The masterpieces of Dutch painting are displayed at the Rijksmuseum (Rembrandt and Vermeer), the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum (contemporary art) in Amsterdam. In addition, there are important collections at the Kröller-Muller Museum (impressionism, expressionism) in Otterloo and the Haags Gemeentemuseum (Mondrian) and the Mauritshuis (Rembrandt and Vermeer) in the Hague. Museums are visited principally by the middle and upper classes, with the exception of major retrospectives of popular painters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh, which attract a wide audience.

Performance Arts. Classical music (notably the Concertgebouw Orchestra) and ballet (the National Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theater) are the principal performance arts with international appeal. Cabaret has a long-standing national tradition and is still popular. The Early Music Festival of Utrecht is known for its concerts featuring medieval and Renaissance music. The North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague is world-renowned. The Pinkpop and Low Lands festivals are two major events for popular music. The Holland Festival in Amsterdam is the most important annual presentation of the new programming season of contemporary Dutch performance arts. The performance arts attract mainly the middle and upper classes.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Most scientific research in the Netherlands is conducted at universities and corporate research laboratories. There are thirteen universities. Twenty-four lower, middle, and higher polytechnic schools train students exclusively in applied work. The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) is the principal funding agency for the physical and social sciences. This foundation is under the authority of Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OC&W) and finances seven areas of science (chemical sciences, earth and biological sciences, humanities, medical sciences, physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and technical sciences). The 1998 budget totaled 300 million euros ($345 million), of which 36 percent was allocated to the physical sciences and about 5.5 percent to the social and behavioral sciences. This amount is dwarfed by the 3.3 billion euros ($3.8 billion) spent in 1996 on research and development in corporate laboratories.


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Web Sites

Bureau for Long-Term Social and Cultural Prognosis:

Department of Justice:

Dutch Census Bureau:

Dutch newspapers:

Dutch search engine:

University of Amsterdam:

Utrecht University:

Dennis Mares and Antonius C. G. M. Robben

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The Netherlands

The Netherlands


The people of the Netherlands are called Netherlanders or Dutch. Ethnically, they are a unified people, but ethnic makeup changed slightly in the 1980s and 1990s when about 300,000 immigrants and returning Dutch arrived from from Indonesia, and more than 140,000 arrived from Suriname.

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Netherlands Grotesque

Netherlands Grotesque. C16 grotesque ornament combined with strapwork, entwined with human figures, invented by Flemish Mannerists such as de Vries, so should be termed Flemish Grotesque.


Lewis & and Darley (1986)

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Netherlandsbanns, glans, Prestonpans, sans •Octans •Benz, cleanse, Fens, gens, lens •Homo sapiens • impatiens • nolens volens • delirium tremens • Serpens •vas deferens • Cairns • Keynes •Jeans, means, Queens, smithereens •Owens • Robbins • Rubens • gubbins •Hitchens • O'Higgins •Huggins, juggins, muggins •imagines • Jenkins • Eakins • Dickens •Wilkins • Hopkins •Dawkins, Hawkins •Collins • Gobelins • widdershins •matins • Martens • Athens • avens •Heinz • confines • Apenninesbonze, bronze, Johns, mod cons, Mons, St John's •Downs, grounds, hash-browns, Townes •Jones, nones •lazybones • sawbones • fivestones •New Orleans, Orléans •Lions, Lyons •Gibbons • St Albans • Siddons •shenanigans • Huygens • vengeance •goujons • St Helens • Hollands •Newlands • Brooklands • Netherlands •Siemens • Symons • commons •summons • Lorenz • Parsons •Goossens •Lamentations, United Nations •Colossians • Sextans • Buttons •Evans • Stevens • Ovens • Onions •Lutyens •Cousins, Cozens •Burns

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