Netherlands Overview

With a small territory, a large part of which was torn from the sea or defended by massive artificial works, the Netherlands represent in the European context one of the most unique countries for its natural environment, culture and social organization. The very name of the Netherlands (although commonly replaced by that of Holland, which however corresponds to the most important and extensive region of the country) provides the first indication, of a physical nature, of their peculiarity: they are in fact the most depressed lands on the continent, where the great rivers of Central Europe, in particular the Rhine, flow. The attraction exercised by the terminal stretch of the largest navigable artery in Europe has meant that in this strip of land, perennially threatened by the sea, the highest human concentration in Europe was formed (with the exception of Malta and small states such as Monaco).: hence that uninterrupted challenge between man and nature, in which the Dutch have found one of their deepest national matrices, also maturing a strong desire for independence from the foreign powers that have tried several times over the centuries to subject this strategic European area. Passed from the Carolingian to the Habsburg domination, the territories of the Netherlands gained independence in 1648 with the proclamation of the Republic of the united provinces. For the country it was the beginning of a real golden age, characterized by a splendid cultural and economic flowering and by the establishment of a thriving colonial empire that made the country the largest maritime and commercial power on the continent. The moment of decline came in the 18th century, following the growth of the British rival and French expansionism. A new flowering, between 1880 and 1914, was interrupted by the world conflicts which the country was deeply affected by despite the choice of neutrality. Particularly bitter was the experience of the Nazi invasion and occupation from which the Netherlands came out with the firm determination to support international cooperation, becoming one of the most decisive promoters of European Union. In fact, European integration is considered by the Netherlands to be the primary condition on which to make its prosperity depend as well as the realization of a stable political reality which, in recent times, despite the unfavorable international circumstances, the government has ensured by managing to combine economic reform with safeguarding the social system. In the international field, the Netherlands were among the main promoters of the formation of the Benelux and joined the Atlantic Alliance in 1949; members of the EU and, from 1 January 1999, of the EMU, as from 1 January 2002 adopted the euro.


The first Constitution of the Netherlands, promulgated in 1814, after the liberation of the country from France, was subsequently modified, even substantially, for 15 times, up to 1983. The Netherlands (including the Netherlands proper plus the Territories Overseas of Aruba, formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles), are a constitutional monarchy, hereditary in both male and female lines. The sovereign exercises executive power through the prime minister and a government which must however obtain the vote of confidence from the Parliament (States General). The legislative power it belongs to the Crown together with a bicameral Parliament constituted by the First Chamber (composed of 75 members elected for 4 years by the Provincial Councils) and by the Second Chamber (formed by 150 members elected for 4 years with the proportional system). The judicial system of the Netherlands, which is essentially based on French law, is composed of a High Court whose judges are appointed for life by the sovereign. Administratively the country is divided into 12 provinces (provincies) chaired by a commissioner appointed by the sovereign and by a council elected by universal suffrage. Military service is compulsory for all able-bodied male citizens from 20 years of age. Sector reform projects envisage the establishment of an army of volunteers only and the reorganization of the armed forces into battalions, most of which are prepared to participate in peace operations abroad.

The school organization has a liberal character as it is characterized by absolute freedom of choice of school and textbooks, equal rights between public and private schools, tendency towards equalization in state subsidies between public and private institutions, freedom from of religious denominations or private entities to establish schools. L’ Compulsory education includes a full-time cycle (ages 5 to 16) and a part-time cycle of an additional two years. Among the oldest and most prestigious cultural institutions are the universities of Amsterdam (founded in 1632), Groningen (1614), Leiden (1575) and Utrecht (1636). Also of note are the Free University of Amsterdam (1880) and the technical universities of Delft (1842), Eindhoven (1956) and Enschede (1961). Visit anycountyprivateschools for vocational training in the Netherlands.

Overseas Territories: in 2010 Curaçao and Sint Maarten became autonomous states under the sovereignty of the Netherlands, while Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius became Dutch municipalities. of Leiden (1575) and of Utrecht (1636). Also of note are the Free University of Amsterdam (1880) and the technical universities of Delft (1842), Eindhoven (1956) and Enschede (1961).

Netherlands Overview

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