The Netherlands

Historical Picture of Amsterdam

About The Netherlands

The Netherlands is the main "constituent country" of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a small, densely populated country located in Western Europe with three island territories in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament. The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe ñ as large as the next three largest combined.

The Netherlands' name literally means "Lower Countries", influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass.

With a population density of 408 people per km2 the Netherlands is a very densely populated country for its size. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and a higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, after the United States. This is partly due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate.

The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have an elected parliament, and since 1848 it has been governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drugs policy. In 2001 it became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage.

The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G-10, NATO, OECD and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union. The country is host to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague, as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being dubbed "the world's legal capital". The Netherlands is also a part of the Schengen Area.

The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the thirteenth-highest per capita income in the world in 2013 according to the International Monetary Fund. In 2013, the United Nations World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the fourth happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life.

Provinces of The Netherlands

Province Capital Largest City King's Commissioner Population Area Population Density
North Brabant 's-Hertogenbosch Eindhoven Wim van de Donk 2,479,045 5,082 km2 (1,962 sq mi) 488/km2 (1,260/sq mi)
Utrecht Utrecht Utrecht Willibrord van Beek 1,252,233 1,449 km2 (559 sq mi) 864/km2 (2,240/sq mi)
Limburg Maastricht Maastricht Theo Bovens 1,121,021 2,209 km2 (853 sq mi) 508/km2 (1,320/sq mi)
Groningen Groningen Groningen Max van den Berg 582,846 2,960 km2 (1,140 sq mi) 197/km2 (510/sq mi)
Flevoland Lelystad Almere Leen Verbeek 399,673 2,412 km2 (931 sq mi) 166/km2 (430/sq mi)
Fryslân Leeuwarden Leeuwarden John Jorritsma 646,354 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi) 112/km2 (290/sq mi)
North Holland Haarlem Amsterdam Johan Remkes 2,739,032 4,091 km2 (1,580 sq mi) 670/km2 (1,700/sq mi)
Drenthe Assen Assen Jacques Tichelaar 489,077 2,680 km2 (1,030 sq mi) 182/km2 (470/sq mi)
South Holland The Hague Rotterdam Jaap Smit 3,575,451 3,419 km2 (1,320 sq mi) 1,046/km2 (2,710/sq mi)
Zeeland Middelburg Middelburg Han Polman 380,783 2,933 km2 (1,132 sq mi) 130/km2 (340/sq mi)
Gelderland Arnhem Nijmegen Clemens Cornielje 2,019,296 5,136 km2 (1,983 sq mi) 393/km2 (1,020/sq mi)
Overijssel Zwolle Enschede Ank Bijleveld 1,139,635 3,421 km2 (1,321 sq mi) 333/km2 (860/sq mi)