Year of EU entry: Founding member

Political system: Constitutional monarchy
Capital city: Amsterdam

Total area: 41 526 km²

Population: 16.4 million

Currency: euro

The Netherlands are situated in the Northwest of Europe. It is a small country with 16 million inhabitants. Bordering the Netherlands are Germany in the East, Belgium in the South and the North Sea in the North and West. The United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and Denmark are also bordering the North Sea.

The Netherlands have a coastline that consists of dunes. The dunes protect the land against the sea. The Netherlands are partly below sea level. This means that a large part of the Netherlands would submerge if there were no dunes. There are only two places along the Dutch coastline where there are no dunes, and dykes protect these places.

The North Sea plays an important role for the Dutch. Fishermen catch all kinds of fish in the North Sea. They set out to sea in their fishing boats to catch cod, herring and shrimps for example. A well-known fishing town is Scheveningen. Breskens and Vlissingen (Flushing), in the Southwest of the Netherlands, are also fishing towns.

The North Sea also plays an important role for the industry. In the great seaport of Rotterdam, lots of freight ships arrive from all over the world to unload their goods. These goods are then transported further into Europe by car, train and riverboat. In Rotterdam and Vlissingen (Flushing) you find a lot of industry. Vlissingen (Flushing), in the Southwest of the Netherlands, borders the Westerschelde, a sea arm off the North Sea. Nieuwdorp is very close to Vlissingen (Flushing). The Westerschelde connects Antwerp with the sea. Antwerp is the biggest seaport in Belgium. Large sea ships sail in from the sea over the Westerschelde to Antwerp. The Netherlands is also extracting oil and natural gas from the North Sea. Large oil platforms are found in the North Sea, to get the oil and natural gas to the surface. It is then pumped to the main land through pipelines.

In February 1953 the Southwest of the country was hit by a severe storm and extreme high tide. A large part of the Southwest was flooded as a result of that. Lots of people and animals drowned. After this disaster, the Dutch government decided to protect the Dutch coastline and make it safe. The dykes were raised and the Delta Plan was drawn up. All the sea arms off the North Coast had to be closed as much as possible to protect the land against the sea. This plan was finalised in 1986.

The areas behind the dams are now protected nature reserves. Lots of birds have their breeding grounds there and seals can be seen swimming in the waters.