Centre d'Information sur les Institutions Européennes

Centre d'Information sur les Institutions Européennes (CIIE)


  • Accession to the EU: 1957, founding member
  • Accession to the Council of Europe: 1949
  • Surface area: 41 528 km2
  • Population: 16,83 million inhabitants (2014)
  • Capital city: Amsterdam (1,1 million inhabitants)
  • Official languages: Dutch
  • Listen to Dutch
  • Main religions: Catholic, Protestant
  • Currency: Euro
  • Political system: Constitutional Monarchy
  • Head of state: King Willem-Alexander, since April 30, 2013
  • Head of government: Mark Rutte, since 14th October 2010
  • International code: + 31
  • National holidays: April 27, May 4-5
  • The Dutch members of the European Parliament


The history of the Netherlands has been closely linked to that of Belgium and Luxembourg, which were grouped together as the “United Provinces”. Long dominated by the Dukes of Burgundy and subsequently by the Spaniards, William of Orange achieved recognition for the sovereignty of the United Provinces in 1648 after numerous conflicts . This marked the beginning of a long period of prosperity, which saw the rise of Dutch hegemony on the oceans during the 17th century. However, conflicts between the provinces eventually led to their decline. France occupied the Netherlands in 1795, and in 1810 the country was annexed by Napoleon’s Empire.
Amsterdam © Dutch tourist office
  • 1815 Fall of Napoleon. At the Congress of Vienna, the Netherlands obtains independence, with the Northern Netherlands and the Southern Netherlands being grouped together.
  • 1815 Willem Frederik becomes King under the name William I. The House of Orange has remained in power up to the present day.
  • 1830 The Southern Netherlands breaks away to form a new State: Belgium.
  • 1914-1918 Neutrality during the First World War.
  • 1940-1945 German occupation: the Queen and the government move to England.
  • 1948 After a 50-year reign, Queen Wilhelmina abdicates in favor of her daughter Juliana.
  • 1949 Creation of the Benelux economic union, including the scrapping of customs barriers between the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
  • 1949 The Netherlands abandons its policy of neutrality and becomes a founding member of NATO.
  • 1949 Start of the period of decolonisation: Indonesia is granted independence, followed by Surinam in 1975. The Netherlands’ Antilles (off the coast of Venezuela), remains a colony, but gains autonomous powers.
  • 1960s-1970s Growth of protest movements. The country becomes a pioneer where social issues are concerned
  • 1980 Queen Juliana abdicates in favour of her daughter Beatrix.
  • 1992 Signing of the Maastricht treaty, which sets up the European Union.
  • 1997 Signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam.
  • 2000 The lower chamber votes for a law authorising homosexuals to marry and to adopt children. Euthanasia is legalised.
  • 2002 Pim Fortuyn, the leader of the far right, is assassinated just before the parliamentary elections, resulting in a wave of tension and agitation throughout the country. His party comes in second in the elections.
  • 2005 The Dutch parliament declines the constitutional treaty after the negative referendum in the Netherlands.
  • 2007 Coalition between the Christian-Democrats (CDA), the Social-Democrats (PvdA), and the Christ-Unity (CU), with Jan Peter Balkenende as Prime Minister.
  • 2010 Rupture of the coalition. During the reelections in June, Mark Rutte becomes Head of government of a minority coalition between the VVD and the CDA. 
Amsterdam is the political capital of the Netherlands. The city is built around a major canal network, and includes no less than 90 islands and 1,281 bridges, earning it the nickname “Venice of the North”. Amsterdam expanded rapidly during the 17th century, contributing to a period of prosperity for its country. As a major center for international trade, Amsterdam grew wealthy thanks to trade with the Netherlands and the Indies, and benefited from a wide range of influences, making it an impressive city where the arts are concerned. Here, visitors can find the Rijksmuseum, which exhibits some of the Netherlands’ finest collections of paintings. Amsterdam is today at something of a crossroads, midway between this past which gave it some of Europe’s finest buildings, and the future. The capital is a modern, thriving city, the cradle and meeting place of various avant-garde movements, which offer the world their creativeness and fresh ideas. This combination of the town’s past and of its forward-looking spirit makes Amsterdam a truly unique city, and one very much at the cutting edge of social and cultural change.
Historical centre, Amsterdam © Dutch tourist office

The Netherlands is very proud of its flowers! You will find them wherever you go: in the markets, in the fields, on the store shelves, and also, of course, in Dutch homes. From growing flowers from bulbs, to exporting them by air, flowers receive minute attention every step of the way. No country in the world grows as many flowers as the Netherlands. Horticulture is the leading agricultural sector here. The Netherlands accounts for approximately 70% of the world production of flower bulbs, equal to some 10 billion units! The wide diversity of the species grown in the Netherlands has made the country world famous. In less than half a century, up to 600 new varieties have been identified. The tulip, however, remains the most symbolic for the Dutch. This characteristic flower, whose name comes from the Turkish word “tülbend” which means turban, owes its origin to a Flemish ambassador during the 16th century who discovered the seed for the flower in Turkey. Grown between April and May, the tulip delights flower lovers everywhere. Whether in bouquets or gardens, the tulip has become the national flower of the Netherlands.

© Dutch tourist office

The son of a Protestant pastor, Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30,1853, in Groot-Zundert, a small village of the northern Brabant region. After taking a break from his studies, in 1869 he became an assistant at Goupil & Cie, a picture vendor founded by his uncle, working in the Brussels, London and Paris branches. Not particularly interested in trading works of art, Van Gogh finally resigned from Goupil & Cie in 1876. He went on to work as a teacher, a curate, and a salesperson in a bookshop. In 1878, Van Gogh set up home in Belgium’s Borinage mining region. It was during this period of his life that Van Gogh produced his first paintings and started his brief but prolific career as an artist. In 1886 he moved to Paris and lived with his brother Theo. It was here that the painter met Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Pissaro, Signac, Gauguin and others. Two years later, the artist headed for the South of France and set up home in Arles. During his stay in Arles, Van Gogh created some of his best-known work, including Vase with Twelve SunflowersThe Café Terrace in the EveningThe Café Terrace on the Place du Forum at Night, and Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. He died on July 27, 1890, after shooting himself in the chest at Auvers-sur-Oise. He was just 37 years old.
©Dutch tourist office
Around a quarter of Dutch territory is located below sea level. The “lowlands” are chiefly comprised of polders, which are plots of land surrounded by dykes, in which the underground water level is artificially controlled.
© Dutch tourist office
When talking about the Netherlands, people often use the term “Holland.” In fact, this term only covers the two coastal provinces on the west of the country, Zuid-Holland and Noord-Holland. These two regions, however, have played a major role in the country’s history.


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