The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy headed by King Willem-Alexander. The country has 1037 km’s of the border with Germany and Belgium, and around 27% lies below sea level. Topographically it falls into three divisions, namely the dunes, the higher eastern section and the lowlands or “polders” which is low-lying land protected by dikes and reclaimed from the sea and lakes.
The Netherlands has a population of 17,091,306. It was a founding member of the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is part of the Schengen zone and, together with Belgium and Luxembourg, is a member of the Benelux Economic Union.
The country’s capital city is in Amsterdam, and the Dutch Government and Parliament are located in The Hague. It is also host to seven international legal organisations including the International Criminal Court, six of which are in The Hague along with the EU’s criminal intelligence agency, Europol, and the EU’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust.
The Netherlands is very much dependent on foreign trade which means it has a great interest in promoting a stable international rules-based order. It also has a long history of promoting human rights. The Dutch social security system is one of the most comprehensive in Europe and has recently become more restrictive. Benefits are paid out based on the value of assets and savings. All foreigners residing or working in the country must pay into the social security system and are entitled to benefits.
These include family and unemployment benefits, maternity and paternity leave, long-term care, sick leave and disability benefits. Healthcare is not covered, and residents typically have private health insurance. School is free up to the age of 16 while those aged 16 to 18 pay annual tuition fees. Private primary and secondary schools are not government funded or subsidised. Tertiary education is not free.
Netherland’s economy is open and highly-developed, focusing on food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, electrical machinery and financial services. It also serves an important role as a European transportation hub and trade is important, particularly with EU countries but mainly Germany and Belgium It was the world’s second largest agricultural exporter and fifth largest exporter generally.
Its main industries are agribusiness, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, construction, and microelectronics. Construction amounts to about 6% of GDP and agriculture and fishing account for just 2%.
The Netherlands offers varied and diverse attractions including museums, amusement parks, water parks, ski resorts, zoos, and miniature cities. The natural scenery is extraordinary, and the manner in which the nation has reclaimed land is interesting to look into. Twelve theme parks range in attraction from daredevils to small children, some are historically themed, and others cater to family enjoyment.
Winter sports can be enjoyed whether or not it is in fact winter since indoor facilities are available year-round for skiing and ice skating. As a world leader in culture and arts, museums are to be expected and in plentiful supply. Cycling is a cultural activity and cycling holidays are offered throughout the scenic country.
Europe has suffered unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees crossing their borders of late. This has prompted the European Commission to propose The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Travellers from the 62 nations presently benefitting from the visa liberation policy will have to apply for authorisation online and pay the fee applicable to over 18s, before departing for Europe.
The ETIAS system is similar to Australia’s and the United States’ ESTA and ETA. The authorisation is granted within minutes and is electronically attached to the passport; it will be valid for 3 years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
Australia and the Netherlands have a bilateral social security agreement for those living and/or working in both countries. The Netherlands is a significant investment and trading partner and is Australia’s third largest export market within the EU, in both goods and services. Australian exports include coal, other ores and concentrates, medical instruments, beef, and oil seeds and oleaginous fruits.
Significant imports from the Netherlands include medicaments, pharmaceutical products and coffee. Australian services exports amounted to about a third of those imported and were mostly personal travel and professional, technical and other business services.
The Dutch were the first Europeans to visit Australian soil way back in 1606 and again in 1618. The 1950s saw of 30% of all Dutch emigrants arriving in Australia, making them the second largest non-British group in Australia. Dutch emigration increased sharply after the Second World War when poor economic prospects post-war became a powerful incentive to start a life elsewhere.
Agricultural problems and increasing demographic pressures in the Netherlands encouraged the Dutch government to actively promote emigration as a solution.
More than 76,000 Australian residents were born in the Netherlands, and approximately 335,000 have Dutch ancestry. Approximately 15,000 first or second-generation Australians live in the Netherlands.
Australians wanting to travel to the Netherlands once ETIAS is in force in 2021 will need to get authorisation accordingly. ETIAS is similar to Australia’s own ETA, and application is as quick and cost-effective.