The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, a 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 EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
name: Amsterdam geographic coordinates: 52 23 N, 4 54 E time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time) daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October note: The Hague (seat of government)
23 January 1579 (the northern provinces of the Low Countries conclude the Union of Utrecht breaking with Spain; on 26 July 1581 they formally declared their independence with an Act of Abjuration; however, it was not until 30 January 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia that Spain recognized this independence)
chief of state: Queen BEATRIX (since 30 April 1980); Heir Apparent WILLEM-ALEXANDER (born 27 April 1967), son of the monarch head of government: Prime Minister Jan Peter BALKENENDE (since 22 July 2002); Deputy Prime Ministers Wouter BOS (since 22 February 2007) and Andre ROUVOET (since 22 February 2007) cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; following Second Chamber elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the monarch; deputy prime ministers appointed by the monarch note: there is also a Council of State composed of the monarch, heir apparent, and councilors that provides consultations to the cabinet on legislative and administrative policy
bicameral States General or Staten Generaal consists of the First Chamber or Eerste Kamer (75 seats; members indirectly elected by the country's 12 provincial councils to serve four-year terms) and the Second Chamber or Tweede Kamer (150 seats; members directly elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: First Chamber - last held 29 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2011); Second Chamber - last held 22 November 2006 (next to be held by early 2011) election results: First Chamber - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - CDA 21, PvdA 14, VVD 14, Socialist Party 11, Christian Union 4, Green Left Party 4, D66 2, other 5; Second Chamber - percent of vote by party - CDA 26.5%, PvdA 21.2%, Socialist Party 16.6%, VVD 14.6%, Party for Freedom 5.9%, Green Party 4.6%, Christian Union 4.0%, other 6.6%; seats by party - CDA 41, PvdA 33, Socialist Party 25, VVD 22, Party for Freedom 9, Green Party 7, Christian Union 6, other 7
Christian Democratic Appeal or CDA [Jan Peter BALKENENDE]; Christian Union Party [Andre ROUVOET]; Democrats 66 or D66 [Alexander PECHTOLD]; Green Left Party [Femke HALSEMA]; Labor Party or PvdA [Wouter BOS]; Party for Freedom or PVV [Geert WILDERS]; Party for the Animals or PvdD [Marianne THIEME]; People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Liberal) or VVD [Mark RUTTE]; Reformed Political Party of SGP [Bas VAN DER VLIES]; Socialist Party [Jan MARIJNISSEN]; plus a few minor parties
Christian Trade Union Federation or CNV [Rene PAAS]; Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers or VNO-NCW [Bernard WIENTJES]; Federation for Small and Medium-sized businesses or MBK [Loek HERMANS]; Netherlands Trade Union Federation or FNV [Agnes JONGERIUS]; Social Economic Council or SER [ Alexander RINNOOY Kan]; Trade Union Federation of Middle and High Personnel or MHP [Ad VERHOEVEN]
chief of mission: Ambassador Christiaan Mark Johan KROENER chancery: 4200 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone:  (202) 244-5300,  877-388-2443 FAX:  (202) 362-3430 consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and blue; similar to the flag of Luxembourg, which uses a lighter blue and is longer; one of the oldest flags in constant use, originating with WILLIAM I, Prince of Orange, in the latter half of the 16th century
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 3% 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 and is one of the five largest investors in the US. The economy experienced a slowdown in 2005 but in 2006 recovered to the fastest pace in six years on the back of increased exports and strong investment. The pace of job growth reached 10-year highs in 2007.
euro (EUR) note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
general assessment: highly developed and well maintained domestic: extensive fixed-line fiber-optic network; cellular telephone system is one of the largest in Europe with 5 major network operators utilizing the third generation of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) international: country code - 31; submarine cables provide links to the US and Europe; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean), 1 Eutelsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions) (2004)
total: 566 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,210,664 GRT/5,217,874 DWT by type: bulk carrier 9, cargo 346, carrier 19, chemical tanker 39, container 63, liquefied gas 13, passenger 14, passenger/cargo 16, petroleum tanker 12, refrigerated cargo 11, roll on/roll off 20, specialized tanker 4 foreign-owned: 172 (Belgium 2, Denmark 19, Finland 14, France 1, Germany 70, Ireland 9, South Korea 1, Norway 9, Sweden 27, UK 7, US 13) registered in other countries: 220 (Antigua and Barbuda 19, Australia 2, Austria 2, Bahamas 24, Canada 1, Cyprus 23, Gibraltar 11, Isle of Man 1, Liberia 28, Luxembourg 1, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 5, Netherlands Antilles 53, Norway 1, Panama 14, Paraguay 1, Philippines 22, Portugal 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 5, UK 2, US 1, unknown 1) (2007)
Royal Netherlands Army, Royal Netherlands Navy (includes Naval Air Service and Marine Corps), Royal Netherlands Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht, KLu), Royal Military Police, Defense Interservice Command (DICO) (2006)
major European producer of synthetic drugs, including ecstasy, and cannabis cultivator; important gateway for cocaine, heroin, and hashish entering Europe; major source of US-bound ecstasy; large financial sector vulnerable to money laundering; significant consumer of ecstasy