Netherlands

In 2017, the Dutch government plans to increase defence spending by 300 million Euros, as was officially announced at the opening of the Dutch parliament, on 20 September. The Ministry of Defence will have almost 8.7 billion Euros available in support of its efforts. The bulk amount of these funds will be allocated to the stockpiling of spare parts and ammunition and to the recruitment of extra personnel. In 2016, the defence budget was also increased, in that case by 220 million Euros. This amount of money was used in part to further improve the armed forces’ operational deployability. Additionally, extra funding was made available on a structural basis, for Dutch participation in peace keeping missions.   

The Netherlands are situated in the west of Europe and border Germany to the east and Belgium to the south, while the country is wet by the North Sea to the north-west. The geography of the Netherlands is rather unusual. The reason is that much of the land that constitutes its national territory, is below sea level. The capital and largest city of the country, is Amsterdam.

In October 2010, the former Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and the three smallest islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba), became special municipalities in the Netherlands’ administrative structure. The larger islands of Sint Maarten and Curacao joined the Netherlands and Aruba, as constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Despite the fact that the Netherlands are a relatively small country in terms of land mass, it has diachronically played an important role in the political and economic status quo of the European continent. The Netherlands were from the very beginning a supporter of the European Union initiative. In 1952, together with Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and West Germany, they established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Five years later, the same six countries signed the Treaty of Rome, the founding treaty of the European Economic Community (ECC), the predecessor of the European Union (EU). Since then, several Dutch officials have played instrumental roles in the formation of key EU policies. It was the former Dutch Agriculture minister Mr. Sicco Mansholt that was on the forefront of the development of a common European agricultural policy and the former Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Mr. Frits Bolkestein, that was highly involved in the creation of a single internal market, as the European Commissioner responsible for the Internal Market, Taxation and the Customs Union, between 1999 and 2004.

Additionally, the Netherlands are one of the founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). On the 4th of April 1949, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, Dr D.U. Stikker, signed together with 12 foreign ministers from other countries, the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty), at the Departmental Auditorium in Washington, D.C., establishing NATO.

The Netherlands are further a member of several other international organisations, including the United Nations (UN), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The country exhibits a prosperous and open economy, which depends heavily on foreign trade. Its favourable location in relation to the European hinterland, and its advanced trade infrastructure (such as the Port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport), have transformed the Netherlands into one of the most important logistics centres in Europe. According to a research conducted by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, the country earns approximately 33% of its income from the export of goods and services. In 2015, the value of exports accounted for 81.8% of the Netherlands’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

One of the most important economic sectors of the Netherlands, is that of agriculture and food, as it contributes approximately 10% of the country’s GDP. Additionally, the Netherlands, is the second largest exporter of agricultural products, only behind the US, and the third largest producer of vegetable and fruits, behind only the US and Spain. The total value of Dutch agricultural exports, reached 82.4 billion Euros, in 2015. 

The chemical industry is another important economic sector of the country, as in 2014 its turnover reached 56 billion Euros. More on that, the country hosts 16 of the world’s 25 leading chemical companies, including BASF, AkzoNobel, Dow Chemical, SABIC and Shell. Finally, the Netherlands is one of the major global natural gas producers and the leading European gas broker. The country produced 2481 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2014, while gas exports amounted to 2094 bcm.  

On the international front, historical, economic, political and cultural ties with the other two BENELUX Union countries (namely Belgium and Luxembourg), are exceptionally strong, delineating a common “BENELUX identity”.