Netherlands flag 10 x 15 cm
The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland) is a country that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy. The Netherlands is located in Northwestern Europe, and bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government is The Hague.
The Netherlands is often called Holland, which is formally incorrect as North and South Holland are merely two of its twelve provinces (see terminology of "the Netherlands"). The word Dutch is used to refer to the people, the language, and anything appertaining to the Netherlands.
Being one of the first parliamentary democracies, the Netherlands was a modern country at the moment of its very foundation, and it has always been open to the world. Today, the country has an international outlook. Among other affiliations the country is a founding member of the European Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, and has signed the Kyoto protocol. With Belgium and Luxembourg it forms the Benelux economic union. The country is host to five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The former four are situated in The Hague as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol. This has led to the city being dubbed "the world's legal capital."
The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 27% of its area and 60% of its population located below sea level. Significant areas have been gained through land reclamation and preserved through an elaborate system of polders and dikes. Much of the Netherlands is formed by the estuary of three important European rivers, which together with their distributaries form the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta. Most of the country is very flat, with the exception of foothills of the Ardennes in the far south–east and several low-hill ranges in the central parts created by ice-age glaciers.
The Netherlands is a densely populated country. It is known for its traditional windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), delftware and gouda pottery, for its bicycles, and in addition, traditional values and civil virtues such as its classic social tolerance. The country is more recently known for its rather modern, liberal policies toward drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, and euthanasia. It also has one of the most free market capitalist economies in the world, ranking 13th of 157 countries on one index.
The flag of the Netherlands is a horizontal tricolour of red, white, and blue. Introduced in 1572, it is one of the first tricolours and the oldest tricolour still in use today. Since 1937, the flag has officially been the national flag of the Netherlands and of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The national flag of the Netherlands is a tricolour flag. The horizontal fesses are bands of equal size in the colours, from top to bottom, red (bright vermilion), white (silver), and blue (cobalt blue). The flag proportions (width:length) are 2:3. The first Stadtholder, or ruler, of the Dutch Republic was William of Orange, who joined with Dutch nationalists and led the struggle for independence from Spain. Partly out of respect for him, the first flag adopted by the Dutch was a horizontal tricolor of orange, white, and blue. It became known as the Prinsvlag and was based on the livery of William of Orange. The orange dye was particularly unstable and tended to turn red after a while, so in the mid-17th century, red was made the official color. The flag has flown since then, but was confirmed by Royal Decree only in 1937. As the first revolutionary flag, it has had a seminal influence throughout the world, particularly on the Pan-Slavic colors of Russia. Until about 1800, in the case of both the orange- and the red-striped versions, the number of stripes and their order frequently varied.