Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a small, densely populated country, lying in Western Europe.The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament. The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe – as large as the next three largest combined.
The Netherlands' name literally means "Low Country", influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and from lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass.
With a population density of 406 people per km² – 497 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is a very densely populated country for its size. Only Bangladesh, South Korea and Taiwan have both a larger population and a higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of food and agriculture products, after the United States. This is due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate.
The Netherlands was one of the first countries in the world to have an elected parliament, and since 1848 it has been governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drugs policy. In 2001 it became the world's first country to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G-10, NATO, OECD, WTO and a part of the trilateral Beneluxeconomic union. The country is host to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: thePermanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague, as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being dubbed "the world's legal capital". The Netherlands is also a part of the Schengen Area.
The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the thirteenth-highest per capita income in the world in 2013 according to the International Monetary Fund. In 2013, the United Nations World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the fourth happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life.
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 (3rd in 2014).
As of 2013, the key trading partners of the Netherlands were Germany, Belgium, UK, United States, France, Italy, China and Russia. The Netherlands is one of the world's 10 leading exporting countries. Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector. Other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical goods, and tourism (in 2012 the Netherlands welcomed 11.7 million international tourists). Examples of international companies operating in Netherlands include Randstad, Unilever, Heineken, financial services (ING,ABN AMRO, Rabobank), chemicals (DSM, AKZO), petroleum refining (Shell), electronical machinery (Philips, ASML), and car navigation (TomTom).
Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX), part of Euronext, is the world's oldest stock exchange and is one of Europe's largest bourses. It is situated near Dam Square in the city's centre. As a founding member of the euro, the Netherlands replaced (for accounting purposes) its former currency, the "gulden" (guilder), on 1 January 1999, along with 15 other adopters of the euro. Actual euro coins and banknotes followed on 1 January 2002. One euro was equivalent to 2.20371 Dutch guilders. 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 VOC), 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 4.2 million international visitors. Since the enlargement of the EU large numbers ofmigrant workers have arrived in the Netherlands from central and eastern Europe.
Of economic importance is BrabantStad, a partnership between the municipalities of Breda,Eindhoven, Helmond, 's-Hertogenbosch and Tilburg and the province of North Brabant. BrabantStad is the fastest growing economic region in the Netherlands, with Brainport as one of the three national top regions and as a top region in the world. The region lies within the Eindhoven-Leuven-AachenTriangle (ELAT).The partnership aims to form an urban network and to make North Brabant explicitly known as a leading knowledge region within Europe. With a total of 1.5 million people and 20% of the industrial production in the Netherlands is BrabantStad one of the major economical important, metropolitan regions of the Netherlands. 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. In the extended region, BrabantStad is part of the Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (ELAT). 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 economic success of this region is important for the international competitiveness of the Netherlands; Together Amsterdam (airport), Rotterdam (seaport), and Eindhoven(Brainport) form the foundation of the Dutch 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 Netherlands is the fifth-most competitive economy in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report.
Apart from coal and gas, the country has no mining resources. The last coal mine has been closed in 1974. The Groningen gas field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, is situated near Slochteren. Exploitation of this field has resulted in €159 billion in revenue since the mid-1970s. The field is operated by government-owned Gasunie and output is jointly exploited by the government, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil through NAM (Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij).