Netherlands (08/03)

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Kingdom of the Netherlands

Area: 41,526 sq. km. (16,485 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Amsterdam (pop. 736,000). Other cities--The Hague, seat of government (458,000); Rotterdam, the world's largest port (599,000); Utrecht (261,000).
Terrain: Coastal lowland.
Climate: Northern maritime.

Population: 16.2 million.
Nationality: Noun--Dutchmen and Dutchwomen. Adjective--Dutch.
Ethnic groups: Predominantly Dutch; largest minority communities are Moroccans, Turks, Surinamese.
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, other.
Language: Dutch.
Education: Years compulsory--10. Attendance--nearly 100%. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5.4/1,000. Life expectancy--78 yrs.
Work force (7.3 million): Services--53.2%; commerce--16.3%; industry--15.4%; public sector--11.5%; agriculture--3.5%.

Type: Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.
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), Liberal Party (VVD), other minor parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Flag: flag of netherlands

GDP (2002 est.): $473 billion.
GDP real growth rate (2002 est.): 0.2%.
GDP per capita (2002 est.): $29,436.
Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, fertile soil.
Agriculture (2.4% of GDP): Products--dairy, poultry, meat, flower bulbs, cut flowers, vegetables and fruits, sugarbeets, potatoes, wheat, barley.
Industry (13.9% of GDP): Types--agroindustries, steel and aluminum, metal and engineering products, electric machinery and equipment, bulk chemicals, natural gas, petroleum products, transport equipment, microelectronics.
Services (54.4% of GDP): Types--trade, hotels, restaurants, transport, storage and communication, financial (banking and insurance) and business services, general government, care and other.
Trade (2002): Exports--$238 billion (f.o.b): mineral fuels, chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, processed food and tobacco, agricultural products. Imports--$221 billion (c.i.f): mineral fuels and crude petroleum, machinery, transportation equipment, consumer goods, foodstuffs. Major trading partners--EU (77.7%), Germany (25.6%), Belgium/Luxembourg (12.2%), France (10.3%), U.K. (11.2%), U.S. (6.7%).

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 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 1813, 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. 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.

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 is protected.

Government Structure
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 been chosen; the personal qualities of the Queen; and her power to appoint the formateur, who forms the Council of Ministers following elections.

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 which 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 decisions.

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 state secretaries.

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 January 2003.

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 May 2003.

Courts. The judiciary comprises 62 cantonal courts, 19 district courts, five courts of appeal, and a Supreme Court which 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.

The current government, formed in May 2003, is a coalition of the center-right Christian Democratic (CDA), conservative Liberal (VVD) and left-of-center Democrats 66 (D66) parties headed by CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The coalition parties hold 78 of the 150 seats in the Second Chamber of Parliament. The opposition includes the Labor (PvdA) party with 42 seats and 5 other parties, each with less than 10 seats. Given the consensus-based nature of the Dutch Government, elections do not result in any drastic change in foreign or domestic policy. Descriptions of the four main parties follow.

The Christian Democratic Appeal 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 44 seats in the current Second Chamber, which makes it the largest party.

The Labor Party (PvdA), a classic European Social Democratic party, is left of center. It currently has 42 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 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 28 seats in the Second Chamber. The VVD has previously been the junior partner in two governing coalitions with the CDA from 1982-89.

The Democrats 66 (D66) party was founded in 1966 primarily for the purpose of promoting a drastic reform of the rigid, antiquated Dutch political system. Political reform still is its principal driving force. The party's electoral fortunes have fluctuated widely. For a long time, its success was closely tied to the popularity of D66 founder, leader and former Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo, who retired in 1998. Since then, the party steadily lost electoral support. In January 2003 elections, it only won six seats. Despite its relatively small size, D66 has invariably been a reliable, intellectually sound partner in successive coalition governments. D66 is a staunch advocate of a strong European Union, although it also fully subscribes to the importance of NATO and the transatlantic relationship in Dutch foreign policy.

Domestic Drug Policy
Despite intensified efforts by the Dutch Government to combat production of and trafficking in narcotic drugs, the Netherlands continues to be a major transit point for drugs entering Europe, an important producer and exporter of amphetamines and synthetic drugs, notably MDMA (Ecstasy), and an important consumer of most illicit drugs. In 2001, the interagency law enforcement Unit Synthetic Drugs (USD) listed a total of 678 seizures of Dutch-related synthetic drugs, of which 20% took place in the Netherlands and 80% in other countries. The volume of MDMA exported to the United States during 2002 continued to be alarmingly high. In 2002, the government announced a 5-year strategy against production, trade, and consumption of synthetic drugs.

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. The sale of a small quantity (under five grams) of soft drugs in "coffeeshops" is tolerated, albeit under strict conditions and controls. The United States continues to disagree with this aspect of Dutch drug policy. Overall, drug policy is coordinated by the Health Ministry, while the Ministry of Justice is responsible for law enforcement. Matters relating to local government and the police are the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. 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 26,000-30,000 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.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Beatrix
Prime Minister--Jan Peter Balkenende
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance--Gerrit Zalm
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations--Thom de Graaf Ambassador to the United States--Boudewijn Johannes van Eenennaam
Ambassador to the United Nations--Dirk Jan van den Berg

The Netherlands' embassy in the U.S. is at 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016; tel: 202-244-5300; fax: 202-362-3430.

Dutch economic policy is geared chiefly toward sustained and environmentally sustainable economic growth and development by way of fiscal consolidation, labor and product market reforms, economic restructuring, energy conservation, environmental protection, regional development, and other national goals. Successive governments have combined rigorous and stable macroeconomic policy, with wideranging structural and regulatory reforms. Sharp cuts in subsidy and social security spending combined with consistent wage moderation, deregulation and privatization of former state-owned companies, and increased competition have helped the Dutch economy to achieve sustained economic and employment growth.

After the center-right previous cabinet fell in October 2002, general elections in May 2003 resulted in a new coalition government consisting of Christian Democrats (CDA), liberals (VVD), and left of center Democrats D66. The government policy program for its 4-year term in office stresses the need for reforms and more spending on security, healthcare, education, and transport infrastructure, while maintaining budget discipline and expanding the labor market. The government recognizes the need for further structural reforms emphasizing product market flexibility and the creation of more dynamic and deregulated capital and financial services markets. This will help boost seriously eroded Dutch competitive position on European Union (EU) and world markets.

After several years of sustained noninflationary growth and low unemployment, the macroeconomic performance of the Dutch economy has deteriorated markedly. A slowdown in the global economy and erosion of the Dutch competitive position dampened foreign demand and investment, while a slumping stock market and a growing number of layoffs announced by many multinationals resulted in a sharp drop in household and business confidence. The global growth slowdown affected all effective demand components, and led GDP growth in 2002 to decelerate to 0.2%, after slumping to just 1.3% in 2001.

Despite an expected recovery of world trade growth in the latter part of 2003, the outlook for the Dutch economy has deteriorated. Further loss of Dutch competitive position resulting from appreciation of the euro vis-�-vis the dollar is expected to dampen exports and reduce output. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OECD) optimistically predicts Dutch GDP growth to slow to less than 1% in 2003 and to recover to 2.6% growth in 2004. The official (Netherlands Central Bank NB) growth forecast is more pessimistic and expects economic growth in 2003 to fall by 0.4%, followed by 0.8% GDP growth recovery in 2004. The NB expects a sharp drop of consumer confidence (down to the lowest level since the 1980s), and erosion of real disposable incomes to choke consumer spending as major growth engine. Poor macroeconomic demand and worsening price competitiveness are at the root of deteriorating profit margins and an expected sharp drop in nonresidential investment. A gradual recovery of foreign demand (up 0.5% in 2003 and up 5% in 2004) will have to compensate for sluggish domestic demand and pull the economy out of current recession in the latter part of 2004.

Reflecting the economic downturn employment growth has come to a grinding standstill, while the number of redundancies is growing by the day. These unfavorable labor market developments are expected to raise the level of unemployment to well over 6% of the labor force in 2004. After peaking at close to 5% in 2001, inflation eased to 3.4% in 2002, and is expected to soften further to 2.5% in 2003 and 1.25% in 2004. Current price and wage developments show no indications of an imminent deflation risk.

The Netherlands was one of the first EU member states to qualify for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Fiscal policy aims to strike a balance between further reducing public spending and lowering taxes and social security contributions. The unexpected sharp economic downturn will tip the fiscal balance back into deficit and catapult the nominal deficit from 1.1% of GDP in 2002 to 1.9% in 2003 and to 2.6% in 2004. The structural deficit will come out at 0.7% of GDP in 2003 and to 1.1% in 2004. The stock of public debt is forecast to fall from a high of 63.1% of GDP in 1999, to 52.8% in 2004. While the level public debt has converged well below the debt criteria, the fiscal deficit is moving close to the deficit ceiling mandated by the EMU's Growth and Stability Pact.

The government's goal is to achieve a structural surplus of 1% on the fiscal balance by 2007 to reduce the stock of debt to zero by 2025. The resulting fall in debt servicing costs (equal roughly to 3.5% of GDP) would create the budgetary room needed to absorb an anticipated increase in spending on the public pension scheme (AOW), and on health care programs. To achieve its goals, the government will have to cut spending by at least another four billion euro on top of the 13.1 billion euro consolidation package already agreed in the coalition agreement.

Government Role
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 the permit requirements and regulations pertaining to almost every aspect of economic activity. The government combines a rigorous and stable microeconomic policy with wideranging structural and regulatory reforms. Public spending, including social security transfer payments, has fallen to 41% of GDP. The government has gradually reduced its role in the economy since the 1980s, and privatization and deregulation continue unabated.

Trade and Investment
The Netherlands, which derives more than two-thirds of GDP from merchandise and services trade, continued to have a strongly positive balance of trade for 2002 of $17.1 billion--close to 5.4% of GDP, the main contributor to a current account surplus of close to 3% of GDP. Since there are 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 U.S. export market, as well as the third-largest direct investor in the United States, behind the United Kingdom and Japan. Dutch accumulated direct investment in the United States in 2002 was $ 155 billion. The United States is the largest investor in the Netherlands with direct investment of $ 145 billion. 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 the staunchest allies of the U.S. in international fora such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the OECD.

Sectors of the Economy
Services account for more than half of the national income and are primarily in transportation, distribution, and logistics; and in financial areas, such as banking and insurance. Industrial activity generates about 14% of the national product (20%, including mining of gas and oil) and is dominated by the metalworking, oil refining, chemical, and food processing industries. Construction amounts to about 6% of GDP. The agriculture and fisheries sector, although very visible and traditional Dutch activities, account for less than 3% of GDP.

Although Dutch crude oil production is small, the Netherlands ranks among the largest producers and distributors of natural gas. The Slochteren gasfields in Groningen Province in the North are among the world's largest-producing natural gas fields. Total proven reserves of natural gas situated on the mainland--the remaining 20% accounted for by relatively small deposits on the North Sea's continental shelf--currently amount to about 2 trillion cubic meters. Roughly 80% is accounted for by reserves on the mainland, the remaining 20% accounted for by relatively small deposits on the North Sea Current gas production is running at an annual average of close to 80 billion cubic meters, roughly half of which is exported to EU member countries. General government revenues from royalties on the production of gas and oil totaled about $ 2.5 billion (0.5 % of GDP) in 2002.

Environmental Policy
The Netherlands is a small and densely populated country. Its economy depends on industry, particularly chemicals and metal processing, intensive agriculture and horticulture, and on 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 National Environmental Policy Plan (NMP) sets out Dutch environmental policy. The first version was published in 1989, followed by second and third versions in 1993 and 1998, respectively. NMP-4, laying out government environmental policy over the next few years, was published in 2001. Under the NMP, the government seeks to cut back on all forms of pollution by 80%-90% within one generation, meaning that by 2010, the present generation should be able to pass on a clean environment to the next one.

Although the environmental quality in the Netherlands has improved significantly, some important targets, particularly with respect to nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions, climate change, and noise reduction, will not be realized within the timeframe set in the NMPs. The main reason for this is the close relation between economic growth and its negative effects on the environment. The NMP-3, therefore, proposes drastic measures in order to be able to meet the targets.

The Dutch Government works closely with industry and nongovernmental organizations on implementation of environmental policy. To be able to reach environmental targets, the government has signed agreements with the private sector and other relevant organizations.

The Netherlands abandoned its traditional policy of neutrality after World War II. The Dutch have since become engaged participants in international affairs. Dutch foreign policy is geared to promoting a wide variety of goals: law, human rights, and democracy. The Dutch Government last conducted a review of its foreign policy organization, funding, and thematic purview in 1995. "The Foreign Policy of the Netherlands: A Review" outlined the new direction of Dutch foreign policy. Since its implementation in 1996, the Netherlands has prioritized 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 the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 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 Yugoslavia and Rwanda War Crimes Tribunals; the European police organization Europol; the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons; and 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 are strong advocates of European integration, and most aspects of their foreign, economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the European Union. 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 stood at the cradle of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and were the architects of the 1998 Treaty of Amsterdam. They have embraced the introduction of both new member nations and the common currency (euro). The Netherlands will hold the EU presidency in the fall of 2004, and they hope to use this--as well as their chairmanships of the Council of Europe (COE) and the OSCE--to pursue greater advancement on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Foreign Aid
The Netherlands is among the world's leading aid donors, giving about 0.8% of its gross national product (about $3.38 billion in 2003) to development assistance. This percentage puts them in third place behind Denmark and Norway. The country consistently contributes large amounts of aid through multilateral channels, especially the UN Development Program, the international financial institutions, and EU programs. A portion of Dutch aid funds also are channeled through private ("cofinancing") organizations that have almost total autonomy in choice of projects.

The Netherlands also has bilateral development relationships with 22 countries and operates small "thematic" programs in others. In 2003, the list of countries will be reevaluated. The aid portfolio is overseen by Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne.

Dutch development strategy is anchored in the Millennium Development Goals and as such focuses on poverty reduction. Special attention is paid to education, the environment, AIDS, and reproductive health care.

The Dutch are the top donor of unearmarked assistance to UN humanitarian programs. In Afghanistan, the Netherlands pledged EUR 40 million to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund and EUR 30 million to humanitarian relief. They also supported the police academy and gave funds to the new Afghan Army. In Iraq, Dutch humanitarian assistance totaled EUR 10 million. The Dutch maintain their close relationship with Indonesia, supporting good governance, environmental protection, and poverty reduction programs at EUR 70 million in 2002. The Netherlands has traditionally been a strong supporter of programs to help Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The Balkans are another major recipient of Dutch assistance. The Dutch fund programs in Bosnia and Macedonia in the areas of education, good governance, and economic reform.

Despite their commitment to ODA, the GONL also champions the role of trade and private enterprise for their contributions to development. In recent years, the government has devised new programs to support private sector development in developing countries.

In April 2003 Foreign Policy Magazine, in conjunction with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Center for Global Development ranked the Netherlands number one for the quality of their aid program.

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 counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean. The 10-year FOL agreement between the U.S. and the Kingdom for the establishment of forward operating locations on Aruba and Curacao became effective in October 2001. The Netherlands is signatory to international counternarcotic agreements, a member of the UN International Drug Control Program, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the 1990 Strasbourg Convention on Money Laundering and Confiscation, and is a major contributor to international counternarcotics 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. The Netherlands is the third-largest direct foreign investor in the United States, and the United States is the 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, in the OECD, and within the EU to advance the shared U.S. goal of a more open, honest, and market-led economy. The Dutch, like the United States, were firmly in favor of the recent EU eastward expansion.

The United States and the Netherlands joined NATO as charter members in 1949 and have been close allies ever since. 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. The Netherlands played a leading role in the 1999 Kosovo air campaign. They currently are contributing to NATO peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. They have been active participants in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and also have led peacekeeping efforts in that country. During the recent Iraq conflict, they deployed Patriot missiles to protect NATO ally, Turkey, and have since sent troops to Iraq to participate in stabilization operations.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Clifford M. Sobel
Deputy Chief of Mission--Daniel R. Russel
Political Counselor--Mary E. Daly
Economic Counselor--Richard Huff
Global Counselor--Andrew C. Mann
Commercial Counselor--August Maffry Jr.
Management Counselor--Clyde L. Jardine
Regional Security Officer--John Hucke
Agriculture Counselor--Roger Wentzel
Public Affairs Counselor (USIS)--Jess Baily
Consul General, Amsterdam--Michele T. Bond

The U.S. Embassy is located at Lange Voorhout 102, 2514 EJ The Hague; tel: 31-70-310-9209; fax: 31-70-361-4688. The Consulate General is at Museumplein 13, 1071 DJ Amsterdam; tel: 31-20-575-5309; fax: 31-20-575-5310.

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.