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Netherlands

The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland, [ˈneːdərlɑnt] (listen)) is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Including three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

The five largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven. Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, and the largest in any country outside Asia. The country is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD and WTO, as well as a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union. It hosts several intergovernmental organisations and international courts, many of which are centered in The Hague, which is consequently dubbed 'the world's legal capital'.

Netherlands literally means 'lower countries' in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level, and nearly 17% falling below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as polders, are the result of land reclamation that began in the 16th century. With a population of 17.25 million people, all living within a total area of roughly 41,500 square kilometres (16,000 sq mi)—of which the land area is 33,700 square kilometres (13,000 sq mi)—the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Nevertheless, it is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products (after the United States), owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, and intensive agriculture.

The Netherlands was, historically, the third country in the world to have representative government, and it has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848. The country has a tradition of pillarisation and a long record of social tolerance, having legalised abortion, prostitution and human euthanasia, along with maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870, allowed women's suffrage in 1917, and became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Its mixed-market advanced economy had the thirteenth-highest per capita income globally. The Netherlands ranks among the highest in international indexes of press freedom, economic freedom, human development, and quality of life, as well as happiness. Its strong performance on these indexes is owed in large part to a generous welfare state that provides universal healthcare, public education and infrastructure, in addition to social benefits. The country is also known for its "polder model", a leading socioeconomic model based on consensus decision-making.



Source: Netherlands
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