Foreign policy and defense
Netherlands is a nation in Western Europe. Its capital city is Amsterdam. The Netherlands’ relations with the outside world are characterized by EU membership and the NATO military alliance. A central theme of foreign policy is also the work of supporting economic development and strengthening human rights in the world.
As one of the six original founders of the EU’s forerunners (see Modern History), the Netherlands has traditionally advocated widening and deepening cooperation between Member States. The country has been among those who have wanted to go the most to give the EU institutions a greater role at the expense of Member States’ influence. At the same time, the Netherlands is protecting the interests of the smaller EU states and counteracting tendencies from the Union’s major powers to want to control more and more. In addition, citizens have become increasingly negative towards the EU, following the introduction of the euro in 2002, the EU’s enlargement to the east in 2004, the membership negotiations with Turkey and increased costs for contributions to indebted EU countries such as Greece in the wake of the euro crisis.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Netherlands for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The new skepticism became evident when a referendum was first held in the country in 2005, regarding a proposal for a new EU treaty. Opponents claimed that the Netherlands would lose its identity in an ever-larger EU and that the country paid too much for the EU budget. Nejsidan won by 62 percent of the vote (however, the draft treaty had already been put off by a corresponding vote in France three days earlier).
In a new referendum in 2016, 61 percent of the Dutch said no to a cooperation agreement that the EU concluded with Ukraine in 2014. All other EU states had already ratified the disputed trade and association agreement, which triggered riots and domestic strife in Ukraine. The referendum was not binding, but it put the government in a difficult situation.
As a NATO member, the Netherlands has emphasized the importance of the US role in the defense of Europe. The country is positive about the expanded foreign and security policy cooperation within the EU and keeps soldiers in readiness for the EU’s rapid response forces.
Together with the Nordic countries, the Netherlands provides the most assistance of all countries in relation to the size of the economy. The Netherlands has participated in a number of peacekeeping efforts, although the scale has decreased during the 2000s. One reason for the decline is a growing distrust of UN efforts and, not least, the national trauma that resulted from the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995.
Participation in the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan also became politically controversial as the government parties could not agree on how long the Dutch soldiers would remain. The disagreement led to re-election in 2010 and in August of that year most of the Dutch soldiers were taken home from Afghanistan.
In October 2014, the Netherlands launched air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, with four fighter aircraft. Two years later, the effort was extended to include IS positions in Syria. The operation ceased in January 2019. Subsequently, the Netherlands has only a few dozen soldiers in Iraq who contribute to strengthening security and training the Iraqi military.
From 2014, the Netherlands participates with a few hundred people in the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. In addition, participation in peacekeeping operations is limited.
After the end of the Cold War, an extensive disarmament of the defense was carried out. The military duty was abolished in 1996 and instead a professional army was introduced with regular employees and soldiers on fixed-term contracts. After 20 years of reductions, decisions were made on increased defense appropriations in 2014 and it is possible to re-conscience conscripts if necessary. The Dutch Navy works jointly with the Belgian and there is a joint German-Dutch army force.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 18 860 men (2017)
The air Force: 8 050 men (2017)
The fleet: 8,500 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.2 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 2.8 percent (2017)
Afghanistan’s efforts must end
Parliament is voting for the release of almost 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan by August 2010 at the latest.
Success for xenophobic PVV
In the Dutch elections to the European Parliament, the immigrant-critical party PVV becomes second largest with 17 percent of the vote. Christian Democratic CDA is the largest with 20 percent.
Attempted attempt against the royal family
Seven people are killed in connection with a car driver trying to carry out an attack on the royal family during a parade.
Prosecution against PVV leader Wilders
The leader of the xenophobic PVV party, Geert Wilders, is charged with incitement against ethnic groups, for example, by equating Islam with Nazism and saying that the Qur’an should be banned.