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The Netherlands is a low-lying country with around a quarter of its territory at or below sea level. Many parts of the Netherlands are protected from flooding by dykes and sea walls and much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea. The Netherlands has a long coastline with the North Sea and borders Belgium to the south and Germany to the east.
The most important sectors of the Netherlands’ economy in 2012 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (22.7 %), industry (19.4 %) and wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (18.6 %).
The Netherlands’ main export partners are Germany, Belgium and France, while its main import partners are Germany, China and Belgium.
Geographical size: 41 540.4 km²
Population: 16 730 348 (2012)
Population as % of total EU population: 3.3 % (2012)
GDP: € 599.338 billion (2012)
Official EU language(s): Dutch
Political system: parliamentary constitutional monarchy
EU member country since: 25 March 1957
Seats in the European Parliament: 26
Currency: Eurozone member since 1 January 1999
Passport-free travel? Yes, Schengen Area member since 14 June 1985
Presidency of the Council: the Netherlands has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 11 times between 1960 and 2004. The next time will be in 2016.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Dutch government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of Dutch presidencies:
Jul-Dec 1960 | Jul-Dec 1963 | Jul-Dec 1966 | Jul-Dec 1969 | Jul-Dec 1972 | Jul-Dec 1976 | Jan-Jun 1981 | Jan-Jun 1986 | Jul-Dec 1991 | Jan-Jun 1997 | Jul-Dec 2004 | Jan-Jun 2016
More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.
The Commissioner nominated by the Netherlands to the European Commission is Frans Timmermans, who is First Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
The Netherlands has 12 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
The Netherlands has 12 representatives on the Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
The Netherlands also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As the Netherlands' "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of the Netherlands’ finances with the EU in 2012:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by the Netherlands helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how the Netherlands benefits from EU funding.