The prehistory of the area that is now the Netherlands was largely shaped by the sea and the rivers that constantly shifted the low-lying geography. The oldest human Neanderthal traces were found in higher soils, near Maastricht , from what is believed to be about , years ago. From Mesolithic Maglemosian-like tribes c. There was a quick and smooth transition from the Funnelbeaker farming culture to the pan-European Corded Ware pastoralist culture c.
Although in the southwest, the Seine-Oise-Marne culture related Vlaardingen culture c. Of the subsequent Bell Beaker culture — BC several regions of origin have been postulated, notably the Iberian peninsula, the Netherlands and Central Europe.
The many finds in Drenthe of rare bronze objects, suggest that it was even a trading centre in the Bronze Age — BC. The initial phase of the Elp culture was characterised by tumuli — BC that were strongly tied to contemporary tumuli in northern Germany and Scandinavia, and were apparently related to the Tumulus culture in central Europe. The subsequent phase was that of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields, following the customs of the Urnfield culture — BC.
The southern region became dominated by the related Hilversum culture — BC , which apparently inherited cultural ties with Britain of the previous Barbed-Wire Beaker culture. Iron ore brought a measure of prosperity, and was available throughout the country, including bog iron. Smiths travelled from settlement to settlement with bronze and iron, fabricating tools on demand. The deteriorating climate in Scandinavia around BC, that further deteriorated around BC, might have triggered migration of Germanic tribes from the North.
By the time this migration was complete, around BC, a few general cultural and linguistic groups had emerged. They would later develop into the Frisii and the early Saxons. This group consisted of tribes that would eventually develop into the Salian Franks. Some scholars have speculated that even a third ethnic identity and language, neither Germanic nor Celtic, survived in the Netherlands until the Roman period, the Iron Age Nordwestblock culture,   that eventually was being absorbed by the Celts to the south and the Germanic peoples from the east.
Notable towns would arise along the Limes Germanicus: The area to the north of the Rhine, inhabited by the Frisii, remained outside Roman rule but not its presence and control , while the Germanic border tribes of the Batavi and Cananefates served in the Roman cavalry.
The Batavi later merged with other tribes into the confederation of the Salian Franks, whose identity emerged at the first half of the third century. They were forced by the confederation of the Saxons from the east to move over the Rhine into Roman territory in the fourth century. Roman forces pacified the region, but did not expel the Franks, who continued to be feared at least until the time of Julian the Apostate , when Salian Franks were allowed to settle as foederati in Toxandria.
Coastal lands remained largely unpopulated for the next two centuries. After Roman government in the area collapsed, the Franks expanded their territories in numerous kingdoms.
By the s, Clovis I had conquered and united all these territories in the southern Netherlands in one Frankish kingdom , and from there continued his conquests into Gaul. During this expansion, Franks migrating to the south eventually adopted the Vulgar Latin of the local population. To the north of the Franks, climatic conditions on the coast improved, and during the Migration Period the abandoned land was resettled again, mostly by Saxons , but also by the closely related Angles , Jutes and ancient Frisii.
By the seventh century a Frisian Kingdom — under King Aldegisel and King Redbad emerged with Utrecht as its centre of power,   while Dorestad was a flourishing trading place. In , at the Battle of the Boarn , the Frisians were defeated after a series of wars. He established the Archdiocese of Utrecht and became bishop of the Frisians. However, his successor Boniface was murdered by the Frisians in Dokkum , in However, as of , it was divided into three parts— East , Middle , and West Francia.
Most of present-day Netherlands became part of Middle Francia , which was a weak kingdom and subject of numerous partitions and annexation attempts by its stronger neighbours. It comprised territories from Frisia in the north to the Kingdom of Italy in the south. After he died in , Lotharingia was partitioned, into Upper and Lower Lotharingia , the latter part comprising the Low Countries that technically became part of East Francia in , although it was effectively under the control of Vikings, who raided the largely defenceless Frisian and Frankish towns lying on the Frisian coast and along the rivers.
The Viking raids made the sway of French and German lords in the area weak. Resistance to the Vikings, if any, came from local nobles, who gained in stature as a result, and that lay the basis for the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia into semi-independent states.
One of these local nobles was Gerolf of Holland , who assumed lordship in Frisia after he helped to assassinate Godfrid, and Viking rule came to an end. The Holy Roman Empire the successor state of East Francia and then Lotharingia ruled much of the Low Countries in the 10th and 11th century, but was not able to maintain political unity.
Powerful local nobles turned their cities, counties and duchies into private kingdoms, that felt little sense of obligation to the emperor. Holland , Hainaut , Flanders , Gelre , Brabant , and Utrecht were in a state of almost continual war or paradoxically formed personal unions.
The language and culture of most of the people who lived in the County of Holland were originally Frisian. The rest of Frisia in the north now Friesland and Groningen continued to maintain its independence and had its own institutions collectively called the " Frisian freedom " and resented the imposition of the feudal system.
Around AD, due to several agricultural developments, the economy started to develop at a fast pace, and the higher productivity allowed workers to farm more land or to become tradesmen. Towns grew around monasteries and castles , and a mercantile middle class began to develop in these urban areas, especially in Flanders and later also Brabant.
Wealthy cities started to buy certain privileges for themselves from the sovereign. In practice, this meant that Brugge and Antwerp became quasi-independent republics in their own right and would later develop into some of the most important cities and ports in Europe.
Around AD, farmers from Flanders and Utrecht began draining and cultivating uninhabited swampy land in the western Netherlands, and made the emergence of the County of Holland as centre of power possible.
Hoekse en Kabeljauwse twisten between and The Cod faction consisted of the more progressive cities, while the Hook faction consisted of the conservative noblemen. Most of the Imperial and French fiefs in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium were united in a personal union by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy in Before the Burgundian union, the Dutch identified themselves by the town they lived in or their local duchy or county.
The Burgundian period is when the road to nationhood began. The new rulers defended Dutch trading interests, which then developed rapidly.
The fleets of the County of Holland defeated the fleets of the Hanseatic League several times. Amsterdam grew and in the 15th century became the primary trading port in Europe for grain from the Baltic region. Amsterdam distributed grain to the major cities of Belgium, Northern France and England.
This trade was vital, because Holland could no longer produce enough grain to feed itself. Land drainage had caused the peat of the former wetlands to reduce to a level that was too low for drainage to be maintained. Under Habsburg Charles V , ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain , all fiefs in the current Netherlands region were united into the Seventeen Provinces , which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some adjacent land in what is now France and Germany.
A Spaniard had ceased to be human in their eyes. It dragged on from December to the next summer, when Haarlemers finally surrendered on July 13 upon promise that the city would be sparred a sack. It was a stipulation Don Fadrique was unable to honor, when his soldiers mutinied, angered over pay owed and the miserable conditions they endured during the long, cold months of the campaign.
The citizens resisted, but were overcome; seven thousand of them were mowed down; a thousand buildings were torched; men, women, and children were slaughtered in a delirium of blood by soldiers crying, "Santiago! A sangre, a carne, a fuego, a sacco!
To blood, to flesh, to fire, to sack! In , the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces forged the Union of Utrecht in which they committed to support each other in their defence against the Spanish army.
In , the northern provinces adopted the Act of Abjuration , the declaration of independence in which the provinces officially deposed Philip II of Spain as reigning monarch in the northern provinces.
The Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England sympathised with the Dutch struggle against the Spanish, and sent an army of 7, soldiers to aid the Dutch in their war with the Catholic Spanish. Parts of the southern provinces became de facto colonies of the new republican-mercantile empire. After declaring their independence, the provinces of Holland , Zeeland , Groningen , Friesland , Utrecht , Overijssel , and Gelderland formed a confederation. All these duchies, lordships and counties were autonomous and had their own government, the States-Provincial.
The States General , the confederal government, were seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives from each of the seven provinces. The sparsely populated region of Drenthe was part of the republic too, although it was not considered one of the provinces. Their population was mainly Roman Catholic, and these areas did not have a governmental structure of their own, and were used as a buffer zone between the Republic and the Spanish-controlled Southern Netherlands.
In the Dutch Golden Age , spanning much of the 17th century, the Dutch Empire grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers, alongside Portugal, Spain, France and England. Science, military, and art especially painting were among the most acclaimed in the world.
By , the Dutch owned 16, merchant ships. The Dutch settlement in North America began with the founding of New Amsterdam on the southern part of Manhattan in Dutch colonies in South America were established along the many rivers in the fertile Guyana plains, among them Colony of Surinam now Suriname. Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world.
In early modern Europe it had the wealthiest trading city Amsterdam and the first full-time stock exchange. At sea it could successfully prevent the English and French navy entering the western shores. On land, however, it was almost taken over internally by the advancing French and German armies coming from the east. It managed to turn the tide by inundating parts of Holland , but could never recover to its former glory again and went into a state of general decline in the 18th century, with economic competition from England and long-standing rivalries between the two main factions in Dutch society, the republican Staatsgezinden and the supporters of the stadtholder the Prinsgezinden , as main political factions.
With the armed support of revolutionary France , Dutch republicans proclaimed the Batavian Republic , modelled after the French Republic and rendering the Netherlands a unitary state on 19 January The stadtholder William V of Orange had fled to England. But from to , the Kingdom of Holland was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte as a puppet kingdom governed by his brother Louis Bonaparte to control the Netherlands more effectively.
The Emperor sent in an army and the Netherlands became part of the French Empire until the autumn of , when Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig. William Frederick , son of the last stadtholder, returned to the Netherlands in and proclaimed himself Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands. Two years later, the Congress of Vienna added the southern Netherlands to the north to create a strong country on the northern border of France. In addition, William became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg in exchange for his German possessions.
However, the Southern Netherlands had been culturally separate from the north since , and rebelled. The south gained independence in as Belgium recognised by the Northern Netherlands in as the Kingdom of the Netherlands was created by decree , while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in , when William III died with no surviving male heirs.
Ascendancy laws prevented his daughter Queen Wilhelmina from becoming the next Grand Duchess. The policy brought the Dutch enormous wealth and made the colony self-sufficient. The Netherlands abolished slavery in The Netherlands were able to remain neutral during World War I , in part because the import of goods through the Netherlands proved essential to German survival, until the blockade by the British Royal Navy in The Rotterdam Blitz forced the main element of the Dutch army to surrender four days later.
During the occupation, over , Dutch Jews  were rounded up and transported to Nazi extermination camps ; only a few of them survived. Dutch workers were conscripted for forced labour in Germany, civilians who resisted were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food.
Although there were thousands of Dutch who risked their lives by hiding Jews from the Germans, over 20, Dutch fascists joined the Waffen SS ,  fighting on the Eastern Front.
On 8 December , the Dutch government-in-exile in London declared war on Japan,  but could not prevent the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies Indonesia.
In , the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands reformed the political structure of the Netherlands, which was a result of international pressure to carry out decolonisation. Indonesia had declared its independence in August recognised in , and thus was never part of the reformed Kingdom.
Suriname followed in After the war the Netherlands left behind an era of neutrality and gained closer ties with neighboring states. Government-encouraged emigration efforts to reduce population density prompted some , Dutch people to leave the country after the war. In , the euro was introduced as fiat money and in , the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved.
Referendums were held on each island to determine their future status. This led to the incorporation of these three islands into the country of the Netherlands as special municipalities upon the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles. The special municipalities are collectively known as the Caribbean Netherlands. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made, caused by peat extraction or achieved through land reclamation. Since the late 16th century, large polder areas are preserved through elaborate drainage systems that include dikes , canals and pumping stations.
Much of the country was originally formed by the estuaries of three large European rivers: The south-western part of the Netherlands is to this day a river delta of these three rivers, the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta.
The European Netherlands is divided into north and south parts by the Rhine, the Waal , its main tributary branch, and the Meuse. In the past these rivers functioned as a natural barrier between fiefdoms and hence historically created a cultural divide, as is evident in some phonetic traits that are recognisable on either side of what the Dutch call their "Great Rivers" de Grote Rivieren. Just like the previous, this river forms a linguistic divide: Over the centuries, the Dutch coastline has changed considerably as a result of natural disasters and human intervention.
Most notable in terms of land loss was the storm of [ citation needed ] , which created the archipelago of Zeeland in the south-west. On 14 December , St. The huge North Sea flood of early February caused the collapse of several dikes in the south-west of the Netherlands; more than 1, people drowned in the flood.
The Dutch government subsequently instituted a large-scale programme, the " Delta Works ", to protect the country against future flooding, which was completed over a period of more than thirty years. The impact of disasters was to an extent increased through human activity.
Relatively high-lying swampland was drained to be used as farmland. The drainage caused the fertile peat to contract and ground levels to drop, upon which groundwater levels were lowered to compensate for the drop in ground level, causing the underlying peat to contract further.
Additionally, until the 19th century peat was mined, dried, and used for fuel, further exacerbating the problem. Centuries of extensive and poorly controlled peat extraction lowered an already low land surface by several metres. Even in flooded areas, peat extraction continued through turf dredging.
To guard against floods, a series of defences against the water were contrived. In the first millennium AD , villages and farmhouses were built on man-made hills called terps. Later, these terps were connected by dikes. In the 12th century, local government agencies called " waterschappen " "water boards" or " hoogheemraadschappen " "high home councils" started to appear, whose job it was to maintain the water level and to protect a region from floods; these agencies continue to exist.
As the ground level dropped, the dikes by necessity grew and merged into an integrated system. By the 13th century windmills had come into use to pump water out of areas below sea level. The windmills were later used to drain lakes, creating the famous polders. The Netherlands is one of the countries that may suffer most from climate change. Not only is the rising sea a problem, but erratic weather patterns may cause the rivers to overflow.
After the disaster , the Delta Works were constructed, a comprehensive set of civil works throughout the Dutch coast. The project started in and was largely completed in with the completion of the Maeslantkering. New projects have been periodically started since to renovate and renew the Delta Works. A main goal of the Delta project was to reduce the risk of flooding in South Holland and Zeeland to once per 10, years compared to 1 per years for the rest of the country. New risk assessments occasionally show problems requiring additional Delta project dike reinforcements.
The Delta project is considered by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It is anticipated that global warming in the 21st century will result in a rise in sea level. The Netherlands is actively preparing for a sea level rise. A politically neutral Delta Commission has formulated an action plan to cope with a sea level rise of 1.
The plan encompasses the reinforcement of the existing coastal defences like dikes and dunes with 1. Climate change will not only threaten the Netherlands from the sea side, but could also alter rainfall patterns and river run-off.
To protect the country from river flooding, another program is already being executed. The Room for the River plan grants more flow space to rivers, protects the major populated areas and allows for periodic flooding of indefensible lands.
The few residents who lived in these so-called "overflow areas" have been moved to higher ground, with some of that ground having been raised above anticipated flood levels. The predominant wind direction in the European Netherlands is southwest, which causes a moderate maritime climate , with warm summers and cool winters, and typically high humidity. This is especially true close to the Dutch coastline, where the difference in temperature between summer and winter, as well as between day and night is noticeably smaller than it is in the southeast of the country.
On average, snow can occur from November to April, but sometimes occurs in May or October too. Precipitation throughout the year is distributed relatively equally each month. Summer and autumn months tend to gather a little more precipitation than the other months, mainly because of the intensity of the rainfall rather than the frequency of rain days this is especially the case in summer, when lightning is also much more frequent.
The number of sunshine hours is affected by the fact that because of the geographical latitude, the length of the days varies between barely eight hours in December and nearly 17 hours in June. The Netherlands has 20 national parks and hundreds of other nature reserves, that include lakes , heathland , woods , dunes and other habitats. It consists primarily of the salt waters of the Oosterschelde, but also includes mud flats, meadows, and shoals.
Because of the large variety of sea life, including unique regional species, the park is popular with Scuba divers. Other activities include sailing, fishing, cycling, and bird watching. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature , the European territory of the Netherlands belongs to the ecoregion of Atlantic mixed forests.
In , the last old original natural woods were cut down, and most woods today are planted monocultures of trees like Scots pine and trees that are not native to the Netherlands. The islands of the Caribbean Netherlands enjoy a tropical climate with warm weather all year round. The Leeward Antilles are warmer and drier than the Windward islands.
In summer, the Windward Islands can be subject to hurricanes. The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since , and due to the efforts of Johan Rudolph Thorbecke , a parliamentary democracy since The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterised by an effort to achieve broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole.
In , The Economist ranked the Netherlands as the 11th most democratic country in the world. The monarch is the head of state , at present King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Constitutionally, the position is equipped with limited powers. By law, the King has the right to be periodically briefed and consulted on government affairs. Depending on the personalities and relationships of the King and the ministers, the monarch might have influence beyond the power granted by the Constitution of the Netherlands.
The executive power is formed by the Council of Ministers , the deliberative organ of the Dutch cabinet. The cabinet usually consists of 13 to 16 ministers and a varying number of state secretaries. One to three ministers are ministers without portfolio.
The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands , who often is the leader of the largest party of the coalition. The Prime Minister is a primus inter pares , with no explicit powers beyond those of the other ministers. Mark Rutte has been Prime Minister since October ; the Prime Minister had been the leader of the largest party continuously since The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament , the States General , which also has legislative powers.
The members of the House of Representatives , the lower house , are elected in direct elections on the basis of party-list proportional representation. These are held every four years, or sooner in case the cabinet falls for example: The States-Provincial are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the Senate , the upper house , which has the power to reject laws, but not propose or amend them.
Both houses send members to the Benelux Parliament , a consultative council. Both trade unions and employers organisations are consulted beforehand in policymaking in the financial, economic and social areas. They meet regularly with the government in the Social-Economic Council.
This body advises government and its advice cannot be put aside easily. The Netherlands has a long tradition of social tolerance. In the late 19th century this Dutch tradition of religious tolerance transformed into a system of pillarisation , in which religious groups coexisted separately and only interacted at the level of government. This tradition of tolerance influences Dutch criminal justice policies on recreational drugs , prostitution , LGBT rights , euthanasia , and abortion , which are among the most liberal in the world.
Because of the multi-party system , no single party has held a majority in parliament since the 19th century, and coalition cabinets had to be formed. Since suffrage became universal in , the Dutch political system has been dominated by three families of political parties: These parties co-operated in coalition cabinets in which the Christian Democrats had always been a partner: In the s, the party system became more volatile: In the election , the CDA lost its dominant position.
In the elections , this cabinet lost its majority, because of an increased support for the CDA and the rise of the right LPF , a new political party, around Pim Fortuyn , who was assassinated a week before the elections.
The cabinet initiated an ambitious programme of reforming the welfare state , the healthcare system , and immigration policy. In these elections, the CDA remained the largest party and the Socialist Party made the largest gains.
The big winner of the elections was Geert Wilders , whose right wing PVV ,   the ideological successor to the LPF , more than doubled its number of seats. On 5 November they formed the second Rutte cabinet. All provinces are divided into municipalities gemeenten , of which there are The country is also subdivided into 24 water districts, governed by a water board waterschap or hoogheemraadschap , each having authority in matters concerning water management.
The Dutch water boards are among the oldest democratic entities in the world still in existence. Direct elections of the water boards take place every 4 years.
The administrative structure on the 3 BES islands, collectively known as the Caribbean Netherlands , is different. These islands have the status of openbare lichamen public bodies rather than municipalities and as administrative units are generally referred to as special municipalities.
They are not part of a province. The Netherlands has several Belgian exclaves  and within those even several enclaves which are still part of the province of North Brabant.
Because the Netherlands and Belgium are both in the Schengen Area , citizens of respective countries can travel through these enclaves. The history of Dutch foreign policy has been characterised by its neutrality. The Dutch economy is very open and relies strongly on international trade. The foreign policy of the Netherlands is based on four basic commitments: One of the more controversial international issues surrounding the Netherlands is its liberal policy towards soft drugs.
During and after the Dutch Golden Age , the Dutch people built up a commercial and colonial empire. The most important colonies were present-day Suriname and Indonesia. Indonesia became independent after the Indonesian National Revolution in the s following a war of independence, international pressure and several United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Suriname became independent in The historical ties inherited from its colonial past still influence the foreign relations of the Netherlands.
In addition, many people from these countries are living permanently in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has one of the oldest standing armies in Europe; it was first established as such by Maurice of Nassau in the late s.
The Dutch army was used throughout the Dutch Empire. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Dutch army was transformed into a conscription army.
The army was unsuccessfully deployed during the Belgian Revolution in After , it was deployed mainly in the Dutch colonies, as the Netherlands remained neutral in European wars including the First World War , until the Netherlands was invaded in World War II and quickly defeated by the Wehrmacht in May In conscription was suspended, and the Dutch army was once again transformed into a professional army.
Since the s the Dutch army has been involved in the Bosnian War and the Kosovo War , it held a province in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein , and it was engaged in Afghanistan. The military is composed of four branches, all of which carry the prefix Koninklijke Royal:. The submarine service are open to women as of 1 January The Korps Commandotroepen , the Special Operations Force of the Netherlands Army, is open to women, but because of the extremely high physical demands for initial training, it is almost impossible for women to become a commando.
The Netherlands has a developed economy and has been playing a special role in the European economy for many centuries. Since the 16th century, shipping, fishing, agriculture, trade, and banking have been leading sectors of the Dutch economy. The Netherlands has a high level of economic freedom. The Netherlands is one of the top countries in the Global Enabling Trade Report 2nd in , and was ranked the fifth most competitive economy in the world by the Swiss International Institute for Management Development in Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector.
Other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical goods, trade, services and tourism. The Netherlands has the 17th-largest economy in the world , and ranks 10th in GDP nominal per capita. Growth slowed considerably from to with the global economic slowdown, but accelerated to 4. In May , inflation was at 2. In Q3 and Q4 , the Dutch economy contracted by 0.
Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. As a founding member of the euro , the Netherlands replaced for accounting purposes its former currency, the "gulden" guilder , on 1 January , along with 15 other adopters of the euro.
Actual euro coins and banknotes followed on 1 January One euro was equivalent to 2. In the Caribbean Netherlands , the United States dollar is used instead of the euro.
The Dutch location gives it prime access to markets in the UK and Germany, with the Port of Rotterdam being the largest port in Europe. Other important parts of the economy are international trade Dutch colonialism started with co-operative private enterprises such as the Dutch East India Company , banking and transport.
The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners. Amsterdam is the 5th-busiest tourist destination in Europe with more than 4. BrabantStad is the fastest growing economic region in the Netherlands, with the Brabantse Stedenrij polycentric city region as one of the national top regions, behind the Randstad megalopolis Amsterdam , Rotterdam , The Hague and Utrecht. With a total of 1.
Of all the money that goes to research and development in the Netherlands, one third is spent in Eindhoven. A quarter of the jobs in the region are in technology and ICT. Of all European patent applications in the field of physics and electronics about eight per cent is from North Brabant. This economic cooperation agreement between three cities in three countries has created one of the most innovative regions in the European Union measured in terms of money invested in technology and knowledge economy.
The Netherlands continues to be one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment and is one of the five largest investors in the United States. The economy experienced a slowdown in , but in recovered to the fastest pace in six years on the back of increased exports and strong investment.
The pace of job growth reached year highs in Beginning in the s, the Netherlands discovered huge natural gas resources. Apart from coal and gas, the country has no mining resources. The last coal mine was closed in The Groningen gas field , one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, is situated near Slochteren.
The cost of damage repairs, structural improvements to buildings, and compensation for home value decreases has been estimated at 6. Around 35, homes are said to be affected. The Dutch agricultural sector is highly mechanised, and has a strong focus on international exports. Mobility on Dutch roads has grown continuously since the s and now exceeds billion km travelled per year,  three quarters of which are done by car. Trains are frequent, with one or two trains per hour on lesser lines, two to four trains per hour on average, and up to eight trains an hour on the busiest lines.
Cycling is a ubiquitous mode of transport in the Netherlands. Almost as many kilometres are covered by bicycle as by train. There are large bicycle parking facilities, particularly in city centres and at train stations. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, with the rivers Meuse and Rhine providing excellent access to the hinterland upstream reaching to Basel , Switzerland, and into France. The harbour functions as an important transit point for bulk materials and between the European continent and overseas.
From Rotterdam goods are transported by ship, river barge, train or road. In , the Betuweroute , a new fast freight railway from Rotterdam to Germany, was completed. Schiphol Airport , just southwest of Amsterdam, is the main international airport in the Netherlands, and the third busiest airport in Europe in terms of passengers. In , the Royal Schiphol Group airports handled 70 million passengers. The rollout will be undertaken by Switzerland-based power and automation company ABB and Dutch startup Fastned, and will aim to provide at least one station within a kilometre radius 30 miles from every home in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands had an estimated population of 17,, as of January It is the 63rd most populous country in the world. From to , the population further increased, to The fertility rate in the Netherlands is 1. Life expectancy is high in the Netherlands: According to a estimate, the population was The Dutch are the tallest people in the world,  with an average height of 1.
According to Eurostat , in there were 1. The Netherlands is the 24th most densely populated country in the world, with According to Dutch Central Statistics Bureau, in , 28 percent of Dutch population had a spendable income above 40, euros which does not include spendings on health care or education.
The official language is Dutch , which is spoken by the vast majority of the inhabitants. In the European part of the kingdom two other regional languages are recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The first of these recognised regional languages is Low Saxon Nedersaksisch in Dutch.
Low Saxon consists of several dialects spoken in the north and east, like Twents in the region of Twente , and Drents in the province of Drenthe. Secondly, Limburgish is also recognised as a regional language.
It consists of Dutch varieties of Meuse-Rhenish Franconian languages and is spoken in the south-eastern province of Limburg. Ripuarian language , which is spoken in Kerkrade and Vaals in the form of, respectively, the Kerkrade dialect and the Vaals dialect   is not recognised as a regional language of the Netherlands.
These dialects are however sometimes considered to be a part of or related to Limburgish. English has a formal status in the special municipalities of Saba and Sint Eustatius. It is widely spoken on these islands. Papiamento has a formal status in the special municipality of Bonaire.
Yiddish and the Romani language were recognised in as non-territorial languages. Only during the last three years in VWO one foreign language is mandatory. Besides English, the standard modern languages are French and German , although schools can replace one of these modern languages with Spanish , Turkish , Arabic , or Russian.
Religious identification in the Netherlands . Religion in the Netherlands was predominantly Christianity until late into the 20th century. Although religious diversity remains, there has been a decline of religious adherence. In , Statistics Netherlands , the Dutch governmental institution that gathers statistical information about the Netherlands, found that Christians comprised the Islam comprised the 4.
The Constitution of the Netherlands guarantees freedom of education, which means that all schools that adhere to general quality criteria receive the same government funding.
This includes schools based on religious principles by religious groups especially Roman Catholic and various Protestant.
By , Protestantism shrunk demographically to equal Roman Catholicism, and going onwards, both Christian branches began to decline. There is one major exception: Islam which grew considerably as the result of immigration.
Since the year there has been raised awareness of religion, mainly due to Muslim extremism. The Dutch royal family has been traditionally associated with Calvinism , specifically the disestablished and now non-existent Dutch Reformed Church. The Dutch Reformed Church has been the only major Protestant church in the Netherlands from the Protestant Reformation up until the 19th century.
It encompassed the vast majority of Protestants in the Reformed tradition until a series of splits in and in diversified Dutch Calvinism. In , a Roman Catholic became Queen consort. Christianity is currently the largest religion in the Netherlands. The provinces of North Brabant and Limburg have historically been strongly Roman Catholic, and some of their people might still consider the Catholic Church as a base for their cultural identity.
Protestantism in the Netherlands consists of a number of churches within various traditions. Several orthodox Reformed and liberal churches did not merge into the PKN. Although in the Netherlands as a whole Christianity has become a minority, the Netherlands contains a Bible Belt from Zeeland to the northern parts of the province Overijssel , in which Protestant particularly Reformed beliefs remain strong, and even has majorities in municipal councils.
Islam is the second largest religion in the state. This included migrants from former Dutch colonies , such as Surinam and Indonesia , but mainly migrant workers from Turkey and Morocco. Most of these are Indo-Surinamese. There are also sizable populations of Hindu immigrants from India and Sri Lanka , and some Western adherents of Hinduism-oriented new religious movements such as Hare Krishnas.
The Netherlands has an estimated , Buddhists or people strongly attracted to this religion, mainly ethnic Dutch people. There are about 45, Jews in the Netherlands. Education in the Netherlands is compulsory between the ages of 5 and All children in the Netherlands usually attend elementary school from on average ages 4 to It comprises eight grades, the first of which is facultative.
After completing a particular stream, a pupil may still continue in the penultimate year of the next stream.
The VMBO has 4 grades and is subdivided over several levels. Successfully completing the vmbo results in a low-level vocational degree that grants access to the MBO. The MBO middle-level applied education is a form of education primarily focuses on teaching a practical trade, or a vocational degree. A HBO degree gives access to the university system. The VWO comprising atheneum and gymnasium has 6 grades and prepares for studying at a research university.
Doctoral candidates in the Netherlands are generally non-tenured employees of a university. All Dutch schools and universities are publicly funded and managed with the exception of religious schools that are publicly funded but not managed by the state even though requirements are necessary for the funding to be authorised.
Dutch universities have a tuition fee of about 2, euros a year for students from the Netherlands and the European Union. The amount is about 10, euros for non-EU students. In , the Netherlands has maintained its number one position at the top of the annual Euro health consumer index EHCI , which compares healthcare systems in Europe, scoring of a maximum 1, points. The Netherlands has been in the top three countries in each report published since On 48 indicators such as patient rights and information, accessibility, prevention and outcomes, the Netherlands secured its top position among 37 European countries for the sixth year in a row.
Ever since a major reform of the health care system in , the Dutch system received more points in the Index each year. But the difference between the Netherlands and other countries is that the chaos is managed.
Healthcare decisions are being made in a dialogue between the patients and healthcare professionals. Health insurance in the Netherlands is mandatory. Healthcare in the Netherlands is covered by two statutory forms of insurance:. In contrast to many other European systems, the Dutch government is responsible for the accessibility and quality of the healthcare system in the Netherlands, but not in charge of its management.
Healthcare in the Netherlands can be divided in several ways: Home doctors huisartsen , comparable to general practitioners form the largest part of the first echelon. Being referenced by a member of the first echelon is mandatory for access to the second and third echelon. Healthcare in the Netherlands is financed by a dual system that came into effect in January Long-term treatments, especially those that involve semi-permanent hospitalisation, and also disability costs such as wheelchairs, are covered by a state-controlled mandatory insurance.
For all regular short-term medical treatment, there is a system of obligatory health insurance , with private health insurance companies. These insurance companies are obliged to provide a package with a defined set of insured treatments.
A key feature of the Dutch system is that premiums may not be related to health status or age. Risk variances between private health insurance companies due to the different risks presented by individual policy holders are compensated through risk equalisation and a common risk pool.
Children under 18 are covered for free. Those on low incomes receive compensation to help them pay their insurance. The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam , although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist. The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the poor treatment of the natives in the Dutch colony, the current Indonesia. The traditional Dutch architecture is especially valuated in Amsterdam , Delft and Leiden , with 17 and 18th century buildings along the canals.
Smaller village architecture with wooden houses is found in Zaandam and Marken. A similar Holland Village is being built in Shenyang , China. Windmills , tulips , wooden shoes , cheese, Delftware pottery, and cannabis are among the items associated with the Netherlands by tourists. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and today is regarded as a liberal country, considering its drug policy and its legalisation of euthanasia.
On 1 April , the Netherlands became the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage. Dutch society is egalitarian and modern. The Dutch have an aversion to the non-essential.
The Dutch are proud of their cultural heritage , rich history in art and involvement in international affairs. Dutch manners are open and direct with a no-nonsense attitude; informality combined with adherence to basic behaviour. According to a humorous source on Dutch culture, "Their directness gives many the impression that they are rude and crude — attributes they prefer to call openness. Asking about basic rules will not be considered impolite.
The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries of Europe, and religion is in the Netherlands generally considered as a personal matter which is not supposed to be propagated in public, although it often remains a discussion subject. The Netherlands has the reputation of the leader country in environmental and population management. Sustainability is a concept important for the Dutch. The goal of the Dutch Government is to have a sustainable , reliable and affordable energy system, by , in which CO 2 emissions have been halved and 40 percent of electricity is derived from sustainable sources.
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