The Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999.
Government type: constitutional monarchy.
Capital: Amsterdam; The Hague is the seat of government.
GDP (purchasing power parity): US$ 461.4 billion (2003 est.).
GDP per capita (purchasing power parity): US$ 28,600 (2003 est.).
Total area: 41,526 km˛.
Coastline: 451 km.
Highest point: Vaalserberg 322 m.
Population: 16,318,199 (July 2004 est.).
Religions: Roman Catholic 31%, Protestant 21%, Muslim 4.4%, other 3.6%, unaffiliated 40% (1998).
Ethnic groups: Dutch 83%, other 17% (of which 9% are non-Western origin mainly Turks, Moroccans, Antilleans, Surinamese and Indonesians) (1999 est.).
Languages: Dutch (official language), Frisian (official language).
Climate: Temperate; marine; cool summers and mild winters.
12 provinces (provincies, singular - provincie); Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, Zuid-Holland.
Terrain: Mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders); some hills in southeast.
Dependent areas: Aruba, Netherlands Antilles.
Economy - overview
The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy, which depends heavily on foreign trade. The economy is noted for stable industrial relations, moderate unemployment and 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 2001-03, as part of the global economic slowdown, but for the four years before that, annual growth averaged nearly 4%, well above the EU average. The government is wrestling with a deteriorating budget position, and is moving toward the EU 3% of GDP budget deficit limit.
(Source: CIA - The World Factbook 2004)
The Gothic Town Hall in Gouda, western Netherlands.
Copyright © Geographic Guide Travel