The Netherlands is located in North-West Europe, sharing borders with Belgium and Germany
. The country is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with the beautiful city of Amsterdam as its capital. For its size, the Netherlands is quite densely populated with an average of 492 inhabitants per square kilometer
. This is reflected in the population and in 2012, statistics show that the country’s population has reached 16.77 million.
An extremely low lying nation, 20 percent of the Netherlands, along with 21 percent of its population, lie below sea level. With 50 percent of its land lying less than one meter above sea level, flooding presents a serious risk to the population resulting in a series of projects known as the Delta works.
Even though it suffered extensive devastation during the Second World War, the Netherlands started to prosper soon after, forging a close relationship with its neighbors, as well as the United States
. As a result, the country was at the forefront of several major initiatives including the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949, the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community in 1958, which eventually evolved into the European Union
In 2012, the Netherlands is recognized as one of the world’s most liberal nations. A relaxed drug policy, legal euthanasia and an allowance for same-sex marriage have all become notable features of Dutch culture.
The Netherlands has a modern, developed economy with an educated workforce, focused primarily on the chemical industry, metallurgy, and electrical goods. Its location ensures easy access to key markets in the UK and Germany, as well as the rest of continental Europe. Well known Dutch companies include Heineken, Shell and Philips
A knowledge-based economy with significant English language skills has proven attractive to foreign investors, and none more so than the United States. Statistics show that the United States has invested heavily in the Netherlands over the last decade
, contributing billions to the economy. Ripples from the worldwide financial crisis have been felt in the Netherlands, but it has not suffered as badly as neighboring countries. Over the past four years, unemployment has risen slightly with figures showing that the official level now stands at 5.5 percent.
A 2011 WTO ranking of the largest exporting countries
listed the Netherlands as the fifth-largest merchandise exporter worldwide, and the country has a GDP per capita of 47,841.92 U.S. dollars in 2012.
Photo: istockphoto.com / scibak