Kingdom of the Netherlands
Area: 41,526 sq. km. (16,485 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Amsterdam (pop. 761,262). Other cities--The
Hague, seat of government (482,742); Rotterdam (582,949);
Terrain: Coastal lowland.
Climate: Northern maritime.
Population: 16.4 million.
Nationality: Noun--Dutchmen and Dutchwomen.
Ethnic groups: Predominantly Dutch; largest minority
communities are Moroccans, Turks, Surinamese.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, other.
Education: Years compulsory--13. Attendance--nearly 100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--4.1/1,000. Life
Civilian employment (first quarter 2009, 7.9 million):
industry--19.6%; manufacturing--13.2%; services--77.3%;
Type: Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional
Constitution: 1814 and 1848.
Branches: Executive--monarch (chief of state), prime
minister (head of government), cabinet.
Legislative--bicameral parliament (First and Second
Chambers). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Subdivisions: 12 provinces.
Political parties: Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Labor
Party (PvdA), Socialist Party (SP), Liberal Party (VVD),
other minor parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2008): $827 billion.
GDP growth (2009 est.): - 4.75%.
GDP per capita (2008): $50,150.
Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, fertile soil.
Agriculture (2% of GDP): Products--dairy, poultry, meat,
livestock, flower bulbs, cut flowers, vegetables and fruits,
sugar beets, potatoes, wheat, barley.
Industry (24.4% of GDP): Types--agro-industries, steel and
aluminum, metal and engineering products, electric machinery
and equipment, bulk chemicals, natural gas, petroleum
products, construction, transport equipment,
Services (73.6% of GDP): Types--trade, hotels, restaurants,
transport, storage and communication, financial (banking and
insurance) and business services, care and other.
Trade (2008): Exports--$537.5 billion f.o.b.: mineral fuels,
chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, processed food
and tobacco, agricultural products. Imports $485.3 billion
f.o.b.: mineral fuels and crude petroleum, machinery,
transportation equipment, consumer goods, foodstuffs. Major
trading partners (exports/imports)--EU (76%/56%), Germany
(24.2%/19.7%), Belgium (12.6%/10.5%), China (1%/7.6%),
United Kingdom (9.2%/6.3%), and U.S. (4.5%/8.2%).
*Figures are based on a July 2009 exchange rate of 0.72 euro
to the dollar.
The Dutch are primarily of Germanic stock with some
Gallo-Celtic mixture. Their small homeland frequently has
been threatened with destruction by the North Sea and has
often been invaded by the great European powers.
Julius Caesar found the region which is now the Netherlands
inhabited by Germanic tribes in the first century B.C. The
western portion was inhabited by the Batavians and became
part of a Roman province; the eastern portion was inhabited
by the Frisians. Between the fourth and eighth centuries
A.D., most of both portions were conquered by the Franks.
The area later passed into the hands of the House of
Burgundy and the Austrian Habsburgs. Falling under harsh
Spanish rule in the 16th century, the Dutch revolted in 1558
under the leadership of Willem of Orange. By virtue of the
Union of Utrecht in 1579, the seven northern Dutch provinces
became the Republic of the United Netherlands.
During the 17th century, considered its "golden era," the
Netherlands became a great sea and colonial power. Among
other achievements, this period saw the emergence of some of
painting's "Old Masters," including Rembrandt and Hals,
whose works--along with those of later artists such as
Mondriaan and Van Gogh--are today on display in museums
throughout the Netherlands and the world.
The country's importance declined, however, with the gradual
loss of Dutch technological superiority and after wars with
Spain, France, and England in the 17th and 18th century. The
Dutch United Provinces supported the Americans in the
Revolutionary War. In 1795, French troops ousted Willem V of
Orange, the Stadhouder under the Dutch Republic and head of
the House of Orange.
Following Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the Netherlands and
Belgium became the "Kingdom of the United Netherlands" under
King Willem I, son of Willem V of Orange. The Belgians
withdrew from the union in 1830 to form their own kingdom.
King Willem II was largely responsible for the liberalizing
revision of the constitution in 1848.
The Netherlands prospered during the long reign of Willem
III (1849-90). At the time of his death, his daughter
Wilhelmina was 10 years old. Her mother, Queen Emma, reigned
as regent until 1898, when Wilhelmina reached the age of 18
and became the monarch.
The Netherlands proclaimed neutrality at the start of both
world wars. Although it escaped occupation in World War I,
German troops overran the country in May 1940. Queen
Wilhelmina fled to London and established a
government-in-exile. During the war, the Nazis rounded up
the Jewish population before deporting them to camps in the
East. Over 75% of the Netherlands' 140,000 Jews died at the
hands of the Nazis. Shortly after the Netherlands was
liberated in May 1945, the Queen returned. Crown Princess
Juliana acceded to the throne in 1948 upon her mother's
abdication. In April 1980, Queen Juliana abdicated in favor
of her daughter, now Queen Beatrix. Crown Prince
Willem-Alexander was born in 1967.
Elements of the Netherlands' once far-flung empire were
granted either full independence or nearly complete autonomy
after World War II. Indonesia formally gained its
independence in 1949, and Suriname became independent in
1975. The five islands of the Netherlands Antilles (Curacao,
Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius, and a part of St. Maarten) and
Aruba are integral parts of the Netherlands realm but enjoy
a large degree of autonomy.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The present constitution--which dates from 1848 and has
been amended several times, most recently in 1983--protects
individual and political freedoms, including freedom of
religion. Although church and state are separate, a few
historical ties remain; the royal family belongs to the
Dutch Reformed Church (Protestant). Freedom of speech also
The country's government is based on the principles of
ministerial responsibility and parliamentary government. The
national government comprises three main institutions: the
Monarch, the Council of Ministers, and the States General.
There also are local governments.
The Monarch. The monarch is the titular head of state. The
Queen's function is largely ceremonial, but she does have
some influence deriving from the traditional veneration of
the House of Orange, from which Dutch monarchs for more than
three centuries have descended. Her influence also derives
from her personal qualities as Queen and her power to
appoint the "formateur," who forms the Council of Ministers
Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers plans and
implements government policy. The Monarch and the Council of
Ministers together are called the Crown. Most ministers also
head government ministries, although
ministers-without-portfolio exist. The ministers,
collectively and individually, are responsible to the States
General (parliament). Unlike the British system, Dutch
ministers cannot simultaneously be members of parliament.
The Council of State is a constitutionally established
advisory body to the government that consists of members of
the royal family and Crown-appointed members generally
having political, commercial, diplomatic, or military
experience. The Council of State must be consulted by the
cabinet on proposed legislation before a law is submitted to
the parliament. The Council of State also serves as a
channel of appeal for citizens against executive branch
States General (parliament). The Dutch parliament consists
of two houses, the First Chamber and the Second Chamber.
Historically, Dutch governments have been based on the
support of a majority in both houses of parliament. The
Second Chamber is by far the more important of the two
houses. It alone has the right to initiate legislation and
amend bills submitted by the Council of Ministers. It shares
with the First Chamber the right to question ministers and
The Second Chamber consists of 150 members, elected directly
for a 4-year term--unless the government falls
prematurely--on the basis of a nationwide system of
proportional representation. This system means that members
represent the whole country--rather than individual
districts as in the United States--and are normally elected
on a party slate, not on a personal basis. There is no
threshold for small-party representation. Campaigns are
relatively short, lasting usually about a month, and the
election budgets of each party tend to be less than $1
million. The electoral system makes a coalition government
almost inevitable. The last election of the Second Chamber
was in November 2006.
The First Chamber is composed of 75 members elected for
4-year terms by the 12 provincial legislatures. It cannot
initiate or amend legislation, but its approval of bills
passed by the Second Chamber is required before bills become
law. The First Chamber generally meets only once a week, and
its members usually have other full-time jobs. The current
First Chamber was elected following provincial elections in
Courts. The judiciary comprises 62 cantonal courts, 19
district courts, five courts of appeal, and a Supreme Court
that has 24 justices. All judicial appointments are made by
the Crown. Judges nominally are appointed for life but
actually are retired at age 70.
Local Government. The first-level administrative divisions
are the 12 provinces, each governed by a locally elected
provincial council and a provincial executive appointed by
members of the provincial council. The province is formally
headed by a queen's commissioner appointed by the Crown.
Current Government. General elections were held in November
2006. On February 22, 2007, a new center-left coalition
government was sworn in, composed of the center-right
Christian Democrats (CDA), Social Democrats (PvdA), and
left-of-center orthodox Protestant Christian Union (CU)
under CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. Given the
consensus-based nature of Dutch politics, a change of
government does not usually result in any drastic change in
foreign or domestic policy. Descriptions of the four main
The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) was formed from the
merger of the Catholic People's Party and two Protestant
parties, the Anti-Revolutionary Party and the
Christian-Historical Union. The merger process, begun in the
early 1970s to try to stem the tide of losses suffered by
religiously based parties, was completed in 1980. The CDA
supports free enterprise and holds to the principle that
government activity should supplement but not supplant
communal action by citizens. On the political spectrum, the
CDA sees its philosophy as standing between the
"individualism" of the Liberals and the "statism" of the
Labor Party. CDA has 41 seats in the current Second Chamber,
more than any other party.
The Labor Party (PvdA), a classic European social democratic
party, is left of center. It currently has 33 seats in the
Second Chamber. Labor's program is based on greater social,
political, and economic equality for all citizens, although
in recent years the party has begun to debate the role of
central government in that process. Although called the
Labor Party, it has no formal links to the trade unions.
The Liberal (VVD) Party is "liberal" in the European, rather
than American, sense of the word. It thus attaches great
importance to private enterprise and the freedom of the
individual in political, social, and economic affairs. The
VVD is generally seen as the most conservative of the major
parties. It currently has 22 seats in the Second Chamber.
The Socialist Party (SP) was founded as a grass root
Marxist-Leninist movement in 1972. This working-class
leftist alternative to the Labor Party succeeded at being
elected to parliament in 1994. At every subsequent election
the party grew, and in November 2006 it obtained 25 seats,
which made it the third-largest party. The party is
fundamentally nationalistic and opposes globalization, the
European Union, and Dutch participation in international
peacekeeping. It also favors cutting defense spending by
Domestic Drug Policy
Despite the government’s long-term efforts to combat
production of and trafficking in narcotic drugs, the
Netherlands continues to be a significant transit point for
drugs entering Europe (especially cocaine), and an important
producer and exporter of synthetic drugs, particularly
Ecstasy (MDMA), although MDMA production appears to have
declined significantly in recent years. Dutch authorities
received no reports of Ecstasy tablet seizures in the United
States linked to the Netherlands in 2007, though this may be
due to incomplete data. In July 2008, the Justice and
Interior Ministers established a task force to combat the
criminal organizations behind cannabis plantations. The
“100% controls” at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on inbound
flights from the Caribbean and some South American countries
have resulted in a sharp decline in the number of drug
couriers from those countries.
The Dutch Opium Act punishes possession, commercial
distribution, production, import, and export of all illicit
drugs. Drug use, however, is not an offense. The act
distinguishes between "hard" drugs that have "unacceptable"
risks (e.g., heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy) and "soft" drugs
(cannabis products). One of the main aims of this policy is
to separate the markets for soft and hard drugs so that soft
drug users are less likely to come into contact with hard
drugs. Sales of small quantities (under five grams) of
cannabis products are tolerated in "coffeeshops" operating
under strict conditions and controls. The United States
continues to disagree with this aspect of Dutch drug policy.
Trafficking in “hard” drugs is prosecuted vigorously.
Overall, the Health Ministry coordinates drug policy, while
the Ministry of Justice is responsible for law enforcement.
At the municipal level, policy is coordinated in tripartite
consultations among the mayor, the chief public prosecutor,
and the police.
The Netherlands has a wide variety of demand-reduction and
harm-reduction programs reaching about 80% of the country's
24,000-46,000 opiate addicts. The number of opiate addicts
has stabilized over the past few years, with the average age
rising to 40, and the number of overdose deaths related to
opiates stabilizing at between 30 and 50 per year.
The Netherlands supports counterterrorism efforts with
leadership, personnel, and material, including the
deployment of troops to Afghanistan as part of the
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The
Netherlands is a party to all 12 UN counterterrorism
In August 2004, the Act on Terrorist Crimes, implementing
the 2002 European Union (EU) framework decision on combating
terrorism, became effective. The act makes recruitment for
the Jihad and conspiracy with the aim of committing a
serious terrorist crime separate criminal offenses. In July
2009, the Dutch Government decided to initiate an external
investigation into the legitimacy and effectiveness of Dutch
counterterrorism laws and regulations. In January 2008, the
appeals court in The Hague acquitted the seven members of
the “Hofstad” terror group of participating in a criminal
and terrorist organization, finding that “there was no
question of a lasting and structured form of cooperation,
nor of a commonly shared ideology.” The appeals court upheld
the convictions of two “Hofstad” group members for having
thrown a hand grenade at police officers in November 2004.
In October 2008, the appeals court in The Hague upheld the
guilty verdicts of four members of the “Piranha” terror
group for participating in a terrorist organization. Defense
attorneys appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court; the
case is pending. In June 2009, the National Counterterrorism
Coordinator's Office (NCTb) maintained the terror threat
level at "substantial" (the Netherlands has four threat
levels: minimum, limited, substantial, and critical).
According to the NCTb, the Netherlands and its foreign
interests may be among priority targets for international
jihad networks, primarily due to the March 2008 release of
the film “Fitna” by Geert Wilders, a member of parliament
and leader of the political party PVV. The film was highly
critical of Islam and was offensive to many Muslims.
The Dutch have taken a leading role in the European Union,
the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and other bodies to
establish financial protocols to combat terrorism. They have
assisted countries that lack the capacity to implement
measures to combat terrorist financing. The Dutch Government
takes steps to freeze the assets of individuals and entities
included on the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1267
Sanctions Committee's consolidated list. In August 2008, the
Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism
Act (WWFT) became effective. The act incorporated the EU’s
third Money Laundering Directive into Dutch national law.
The Netherlands is an active participant in the Container
Security Initiative at Rotterdam, one of Europe's busiest
ports. The Dutch Government also permitted U.S. CBP
Immigration Liaison Officers to return to Schiphol airport
to assist with U.S.-bound passenger screening (the program
is now known as the Immigration Advisory Program). In May
2008, the United States and the Netherlands signed a joint
statement enabling the start of the International Expedited
Traveler Initiative (IET) between Schiphol airport and
certain U.S. airports. In July 2008, the Dutch parliament
ratified the U.S.-EU extradition and mutual legal assistance
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Beatrix
Prime Minister--Jan Peter Balkenende
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance--Wouter Bos
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Youth and Family
Foreign Minister--Maxime Verhagen
Defense Minister--Eimert van Middelkoop
Ambassador to the United States--Renee Jones-Bos
Ambassador to the United Nations--Herman Schaper
The Netherlands' embassy in the U.S. is at 4200 Linnean
Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: 877-388-2443; fax:
After a strong performance in the 1990s, which brought
unemployment to below 3%, the Dutch economy struggled
through 2002 and 2003, plagued by relatively high costs and
weak domestic demand. GDP growth recovered in 2006 and
peaked at 3.5% in 2007. The global financial crisis has hit
the Netherlands hard since fall 2008; the Dutch economy
entered recession in the fourth quarter of 2008, but annual
GDP growth that year was still 2.1%. In contrast, GDP was
expected to shrink by 4.75% in 2009 and is expected to
shrink by 0.5% in 2010 due to slowing international
trade--exports were expected to drop by 16.25% in 2009--and
decreasing private consumption. In 2010, the increasing
budget deficit (expected to be 6.7% of GDP) and unemployment
(expected to be 9.5%) are causes for serious concern.
The government has launched three economic stimulus packages
since November 2008. The first package was worth about $8.3
billion, the second consisted mainly of government
guarantees to stimulate lending and exports, and the third
was worth $9 billion, bringing the total value of the
stimulus measures to $17.3 billion, or approximately 2% of
GDP. A key element of the packages is an agreement among
stakeholders that the Dutch Government will not cut its
stimulus spending before 2011, and then only “if the economy
has recovered sufficiently.” The state finances have further
deteriorated due to government interventions in the
financial sector, including the nationalization of the Dutch
activities of ABN Amro/Fortis Bank, and capital injections
to ING and other financial institutions whose balance sheets
were compromised by U.S. mortgage-backed securities and
other toxic assets.
Private consumption in the Netherlands, which had grown by
2.1% in 2007, continued to increase by 1.8% in 2008. The
unemployment rate, which had previously dropped from 4.5% in
2007 to 3.9% in 2008, was projected to increase to 5.5% in
2009 and is projected to increase to 9.5% in 2010 as a
result of the global economic downturn. After a drop in the
early 2000s, business investment (excluding the housing
sector) staged a recovery in 2005-2006. This upward trend
peaked in 2008 with an increase of 10.4% but is expected to
reverse course in the following two years, with investment
forecast to decline by 14.75% in 2009 and by 13.0% in 2010.
Before the onset of the financial crisis, many firms in the
Netherlands cited a loss of competitiveness as a major
impediment to growth as unit labor costs outpaced those of
their major competitors, including within the euro area.
Smaller wage increases codified in collective bargaining
agreements before growth accelerated in 2006 helped Dutch
firms stay competitive during this period. However, an
increasing labor shortage resulted in higher wage demands in
the second half of 2007 and into 2008, with the average wage
increasing by 3.3%. The pace of job growth reached 10-year
highs in 2007, but it fell sharply in late 2008 as fallout
from the financial crisis constricted demand. Inflation
ranged from 1.1% to 1.7% between 2004 and 2007, reaching its
peak in 2008 at 2.5%. The projected inflation rate for 2009
The Netherlands was one of the first EU member states to
qualify for the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
Traditionally, Dutch fiscal policy sought to strike a
balance between further reductions in public spending and
lower tax and social security contributions. During the
first half of the current decade, the government struggled
to keep the budget deficit within the limit of 3% of GDP set
by the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact. The government
achieved a budget surplus of 0.6% in 2006 and 0.7% in 2007.
Despite the financial crisis, it managed to create a budget
surplus of 0.9% in 2008, but this was expected to change
dramatically in 2009 as a result of increased government
spending on stimulus packages, unemployment benefits, and
financial sector bailouts. The government was expecting a
budget deficit of 4.1% of GDP in 2009 and is expecting a
budget deficit of 6.7% of GDP in 2010, thus exceeding the
Although the private sector is the cornerstone of the
economy, the Netherlands has an important and vibrant public
sector. The government plays a significant role through
permit requirements and regulations pertaining to almost
every aspect of economic activity; however, the current
cabinet aims to reduce some of the administrative burden.
For example, as part of the economic stimulus measures, some
environmental regulations have been temporarily relaxed to
speed up certain infrastructure projects. The government had
gradually reduced its role in the economy since the 1980s,
but it has been forced to become more active again as the
recent economic downturn has necessitated its intervention.
Unabated privatization came to a halt in December 2007, when
the government approved a policy that "the State will not
pursue selling its interest in approximately 30 companies of
Trade and Investment
The Netherlands, which derives more than two-thirds of
GDP from merchandise and services trade, had a record trade
surplus of approximately $56 billion in 2007. In 2008, this
surplus decreased to approximately $50 billion. With no
significant trade or investment barriers, the Netherlands
remains a receptive market for U.S. exports and an important
investment partner. The Netherlands is the eighth-largest
destination for U.S. exports ($40.2 billion in 2008), as
well as the fourth-largest direct investor in the United
States. Dutch accumulated direct investment in the United
States in 2007 was $209 billion. The United States is the
second-largest investor in the Netherlands, with $370
billion direct investment as of 2007. There are more than
1,600 U.S. companies with subsidiaries or offices in the
Netherlands. The Dutch are strong proponents of free trade
and staunch allies of the U.S. in international fora such as
the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Sectors of the Economy
Services account for about three-quarters of the
national income and are primarily in transportation,
distribution, logistics, and financial areas such as banking
and insurance. Industrial activity generates about a fourth
of the national product and is dominated by the
metalworking, oil refining, chemical, and food processing
industries. The agriculture and fisheries sector account for
some 2% of GDP.
Although Dutch crude oil production is small, the
Netherlands is the third-largest producer and the
second-largest net exporter of natural gas in Europe (after
Norway). At year-end 2006, the country had 1.4 trillion
cubic feet of natural gas reserves valued at over $166
billion. The port city of Rotterdam is one of the world's
major centers for crude oil imports, trading, refining, and
petrochemical production. Key import sources include Russia,
Saudi Arabia, and Norway. Domestic gas resources are
forecast to run out by 2030. To remain an energy player
after its own resources are depleted, the Netherlands is
cultivating energy relationships with potential long-term
supplier countries such as Algeria, Kazakhstan, Libya,
Qatar, and--most importantly--Russia. For example, Dutch gas
pipeline company Gasunie, wholly owned by the Dutch
Government, holds a 9% stake in Gazprom’s Nord Stream
pipeline, which will transport gas from Russia to Germany
under the Baltic Sea. The Netherlands’s goal is to become a
gas “roundabout” for the Western Europe, meaning a hub that
gathers natural gas from various sources (including the
North Sea, Algerian and Qatari liquefied natural gas (LNG),
and Russia), and then distributes it via pipeline to
The Netherlands is a small and densely populated
country. Its economy depends on industry (particularly
chemicals and metal processing), intensive agriculture and
horticulture, and its infrastructure, which takes advantage
of the country's geographical position at the heart of
Europe's transportation network. These factors have led to
major pressure on the environment. The government works
closely with industry and nongovernmental organizations to
reach environmental targets. The Dutch welcomed the EU's
2008 directive to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 20%
from 1990 levels and increase power derived from renewable
sources to 20% by 2020. In its national “Clean and
Efficient” climate plan published in September 2007, the
government unilaterally promised to go even further by 2020:
reducing GHG emissions by 30% and cutting its overall energy
use by 2% per year. The Environment Ministry recently
unveiled its plan requiring the entire Dutch Government to
procure only sustainable, “green” goods and services as of
2010. The government acknowledges it will need to rely
heavily on fledgling clean energy technologies in order to
reach its GHG reduction goals. For example, Prime Minister
Balkenende wants the Netherlands to become a global leader
in the development of carbon capture and sequestration
(CCS). Many independent energy experts, however, consider
the government’s aggressive climate change targets to be
The Netherlands abandoned a longstanding policy of
neutrality after World War II. The Dutch are engaged
participants in international affairs. Dutch foreign policy
is geared to promoting a wide variety of goals: the rule of
law, human rights, and democracy. Priority is given to
enhancing European integration, ensuring European security
and stability (mainly through the mechanism of NATO and by
emphasizing the important role the United States plays in
the security of Europe), and participating in conflict
management and peacekeeping missions.
The Netherlands generally pursues its foreign policy
interests within the framework of multilateral
organizations. The Netherlands is an active and responsible
participant in the United Nations as well as other
multilateral organizations such as NATO, the EU, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),
the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), the WTO, and the
International Monetary Fund. A centuries-old tradition of
legal scholarship has made the Netherlands the home of the
International Court of Justice; the Permanent Court of
Arbitration; the Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal; the Special
Tribunal for Lebanon; the European judicial and police
organizations Eurojust and Europol; the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); and the
International Criminal Court. Dutch security policy is based
primarily on membership in NATO, which the Netherlands
joined as a charter member in 1949.
The Dutch have traditionally been strong advocates of
European integration, and most aspects of their foreign,
economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the
European Union. However, Dutch voters rejected the EU
constitutional treaty in June 2005. Parliament approved the
Lisbon Treaty in September 2008.
The Netherlands' post-war customs union with Belgium and
Luxembourg (the Benelux group) paved the way for the
formation of the European Community (precursor to the EU).
Likewise, the Benelux abolition of internal border controls
was a model for the wider Schengen accord, which today has
15 European signatories, including the Netherlands, pledged
to common visa policies and free movement of people and
goods across common borders.
The Dutch were key proponents of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty
and were the architects of the 1998 Treaty of Amsterdam.
They have embraced the introduction of new member states and
the common currency (euro). In recent years, however, the
Dutch have become increasingly skeptical of the way the EU
is run and of any further enlargements.
The Netherlands has traditionally been one of the
world's most generous aid donors. The Dutch provide a fixed
0.8% of GDP--approximately $7 billion--in overseas
development assistance (ODA) annually. This makes the Dutch
the world’s fourth-largest aid donor as a percentage of GDP
and the sixth-largest in absolute terms. However, because
GDP was expected to shrink by 4.75% in 2009 as a result of
the global economic downturn, the development budget, which
is tied to GDP, was to shrink accordingly. The Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (which administers all ODA programs) was
likely to cut about $555 million from the ODA budget in
2009. Funding levels are expected to return to normal as GDP
begins to recover in 2010.
Despite the difficult economic situation, Development
Minister Koenders is working to sustain Dutch leadership in
international development. Koenders released a new foreign
assistance strategy in October 2007 based on the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). The strategy identifies safety and
development, human rights, opportunities for women and
girls, and sustainable energy as the priority areas for
Dutch ODA. These thematic issues receive the largest share
of the ODA budget--about $4.2 billion in 2009. The
government consistently contributes large amounts of aid
through multilateral channels, especially the UN Development
Program, international financial institutions such as the
World Bank, and EU programs. Dutch ODA through these
multilateral channels totaled almost $1 billion in 2009.
The Netherlands also provides direct bilateral ODA to select
partner countries. In 2008, this ODA totaled about $1.8
billion for 33 partner countries, with the largest share
going to Indonesia, Sudan, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Another
highlight is Afghanistan, where the Netherlands donated
almost $116 million in 2008 through bilateral and
multilateral channels; this is part of the Dutch commitment
to provide a total of $311 million to Afghanistan from
International Drug-Trafficking Control
The Dutch work closely with the United States and other
countries on international programs against drug trafficking
and organized crime. There is close Dutch-U.S. cooperation
on joint counternarcotics operations in the Caribbean. The
Netherlands actively participates in the Drug Enforcement
Administration's (DEA) El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC).
In May 2007, the Netherlands became a full member of DEA’s
International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC). The
10-year Forward Operation Locations agreement between the
U.S. and the Netherlands for the establishment of forward
operating locations on Aruba and Curacao became effective in
October 2001. The Netherlands is a signatory to
international counter narcotics agreements, a member of the
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN Commission on
Narcotic Drugs, and the 1990 Strasbourg Convention on Money
Laundering and Confiscation, and is a major contributor to
international counter narcotics projects.
The U.S. partnership with the Netherlands is one of its
oldest continuous relationships and dates back to the
American Revolution. The excellent bilateral relations are
based on close historical and cultural ties as well as a
common dedication to individual freedom and human rights.
The Netherlands shares with the United States a liberal
economic outlook and is firmly committed to free trade. The
United States attaches great value to its strong economic
and commercial ties with the Dutch. In 2007, the Netherlands
was the fourth-largest direct foreign investor in the United
States, and the United States was the second-largest direct
foreign investor in the Netherlands.
The United States and the Netherlands often have similar
positions on issues and work together both bilaterally and
multilaterally in such institutions as the United Nations
and NATO. The Dutch have worked with the United States at
the WTO and in the OECD, as well as within the EU to advance
the shared goal of a more open, market-led global economy.
The Dutch, like the United States, supported the accession
of 10 new members to the EU in 2004, and accession
negotiations for Turkey in 2005.
The United States and the Netherlands joined NATO as charter
members in 1949. The Dutch fought alongside the United
States in the Korean War and the first Gulf War and have
been active in global peacekeeping efforts in the former
Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The Netherlands played a
leading role in the 1999 Kosovo air campaign. They currently
are contributing to EU peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. In the
initial phase of the recent Iraq conflict, the Dutch
deployed Patriot missiles to protect NATO ally Turkey, and
sent a battalion of troops to Iraq to participate in
stabilization operations. The Dutch also support and
participate in NATO and EU training efforts in Iraq. They
are active participants in the International Security
Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Fay Hartog Levin
Deputy Chief of Mission--Edwin R. Nolan
Political-Economic Counselor--Andrew C. Mann
Global Affairs Officer--David E. Jaberg
Legal Counselor--John J. Kim
Public Affairs Counselor--James K. Foster
Management Counselor--Gregory S. Slotta
Regional Security Officer--John L. Bush
Defense Attache--Captain Daniel Braswell
Office of Defense Cooperation--Colonel Charles C. Mau
Commercial Counselor--Maria J. Andrews
Agriculture Counselor--Stephen M. Huete
Consul General, Amsterdam--Julie A. Ruterbories
The U.S. Embassy is located at Lange Voorhout 102, 2514 EJ
The Hague; tel: 31-70-310-2209; fax: 31-70-310-2307. The
Consulate General is at Museumplein 19, 1071 DJ Amsterdam;
tel: 31-20-575-5309; fax: 31-20-679-0321.
AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information
Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad
through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and
Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all
countries and includes information on entry and exit
requirements, currency regulations, health conditions,
safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the
addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly
about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term
conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the
security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued
when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid
travel to a certain country because the situation is
dangerous or unstable.
For the latest security information, Americans living and
traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's
Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at
http://www.travel.state.gov , where the current
Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be
found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain
information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip
abroad, are also available at
http://www.travel.state.gov . For additional information
on international travel, see
The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens
traveling or residing abroad to register via the State
Department's travel registration website or at the nearest
U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make
your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary
to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to
receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad
may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the
U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for
callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S.
Department of State's single, centralized public contact
center for U.S. passport information. Telephone:
1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793.
Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to
10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,
Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web
http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most
recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety
for regions and countries. The CDC publication "Health
Information for International Travel" can be found at
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at
http://www.state.gov , the Department of State web site
provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign
policy information, including Background Notes and daily
press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security
Advisory Council (OSAC) provides security information and
regional news that impact U.S. companies working abroad
through its website
Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related
assistance and market information offered by the federal
government and provides trade leads, free export counseling,
help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of
Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and
international trade information from the Federal government.
The site includes current and historical trade-related
releases, international market research, trade
opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to
the National Trade Data Bank.