Head of State Queen Beatrix
Head of Government Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende
Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Area 41,500 km2
Population 16 million
Language Dutch (also Frisian in the province of Friesland)
Per capita GDP € 25,300 (estimate for 2001)
GDP growth 1% (2001)
Constitution - Domestic politics
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. Although the role of the monarch is largely ceremonial, the titular head of state does have some influence, especially regarding the formation of coalition governments and the power to appoint the formateur, who forms the Council of Ministers following elections.
Legislative and administrative power lies chiefly with the Dutch Parliament which is composed of two chambers. The First Chamber (also called the Senate) consists of 75 members and is elected by the provincial council every four years with powers to accept or reject legislation. The more important Second Chamber, or Assembly, consists of 150 members elected by proportional representation. The Constitution stipulates that elections for each of the two chambers must be held at least every four years.
The murder of Pim Fortuyn, a populist right-wing politician, overshadowed the most recent general election (2001). His party, the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) gained significant support and joined the government coalition comprising also the centrist Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the right-of-centre Liberals (VVD). However, this coalition government collapsed in October 2002 after less than 100 days in office amid disagreements in the three-party coalition and feuding within the party of murdered maverick Pim Fortuyn. New elections are planned for January 2003.
The country’s considerable economic success in recent years has been based, inter alia, on consensus between the social partners on moderate wage increases, the so-called Polder Model. The Dutch economy enjoyed an unusually long period of expansion up to 2001, combining strong GDP growth with sharply falling unemployment and modest inflation. However, the growth rate fell to 1.3% in 2001.
The Netherlands has an advanced economy in which exports and imports of goods and services together account for more than 100% of nominal GDP. Services account for more than half of the national income, while industry (including mining) generates about 20% of the national product. Construction accounts for about 6% of GDP and agriculture and fishing just 4%. The Netherlands is one of the largest producers and distributors of natural gas.
While political instability has led to a delay in the adoption of the 2003 state budget, the next government is expected to stick to the budget presented in September.
The Netherlands is one of the six founding members of the European Community. For years there has been general political agreement in the country on fundamental policy relating to the EU. The Netherlands has supported the enlargement of the EU, the development of the CFSP and has been at the forefront of efforts to tackle the EU’s democratic deficit.
The foreign policy of the Netherlands is characterised by a strong commitment to NATO and the UN. The Netherlands is among the world's leading aid donors, the size of its assistance having been fixed at 0.8 per cent of GDP. The country consistently contributes large amounts of aid through the UN Development Program, international financial institutions and EU programmes.