General background: The Kingdom of the Netherlands
was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed
a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral
in World War I but suffered a brutal invasion and
occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized
nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of
agricultural products. The country was a founding
member of NATO and the EC, and participated in the
introduction of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)
Area comparative: Slightly less than twice
the size of New Jersey.
Climate: Temperate; marine; cool summers and
Terrain: Mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed
land (polders); some hills in southeast .
Population: 16,067,754 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Dutch 83%, other 17% (of which
9% are non-western origin mainly Turks, Moroccans,
Antilleans, Surinamese and Indonesians) (1999 est.)
Religions: Roman Catholic 31%, Protestant
21%, Muslim 4.4%, other 3.6%, unaffiliated 40% (1998)
Government type: Constitutional monarchy
Capital: Amsterdam; The Hague is the seat
Legal system: Civil law system incorporating
French penal theory; constitution does not permit
judicial review of acts of the States General; accepts
compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: The Netherlands is a prosperous
and open economy depending heavily on foreign trade.
The economy is noted for stable industrial relations,
moderate inflation, a sizable current account surplus,
and an important role as a European transportation
hub. Industrial activity is predominantly in food
processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical
machinery. A highly mechanized agricultural sector
employs no more than 4% of the labor force but provides
large surpluses for the food-processing industry and
for exports. The Netherlands, along with 11 of its
EU partners, began circulating the euro currency on
1 January 2002. The country continues to be one of
the leading European nations for attracting foreign
direct investment. Economic growth slowed considerably
in 2001, as part of the global economic slowdown,
but for the four years before that, annual growth
averaged nearly 4%, well above the EU average.
Communication/Telephone system: Highly developed
and well maintained.
Places of interest: The Netherlands is easy
to travel in and the locals are friendly and speak
excellent English, but towns are still surrounded
by canals and castle walls, the endlessly flat landscape
which inspired the nation's early artists still stretches
unbroken to the horizons, and the dykes still occasionally
threaten to give way.