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Netherlands - Foreign Relations (Notes)

The Netherlands abandoned a long-standing policy of neutrality after World War II. The Dutch are engaged participants in international affairs. Dutch foreign policy is geared to promoting a wide variety of goals: the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. Priority is given to enhancing European integration, ensuring European security and stability (mainly through the mechanism of NATO and by emphasizing the important role the United States plays in the security of Europe), and participating in conflict management and peacekeeping missions.

The Netherlands generally pursues its foreign policy interests within the framework of multilateral organizations. The Netherlands is an active and responsible participant in the United Nations as well as other multilateral organizations such as NATO, the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe (CoE), the OECD, the WTO, and the International Monetary Fund. A centuries-old tradition of legal scholarship has made the Netherlands the home of the International Court of Justice; the Yugoslavia and Rwanda War Crimes Tribunals; the European judicial and police organizations Eurojust and Europol; the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; and International Criminal Court. Dutch security policy is based primarily on membership in NATO, which the Netherlands joined as a charter member in 1949.

The Dutch have traditionally been strong advocates of European integration, and most aspects of their foreign, economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the European Union. However, Dutch voters rejected the EU constitutional treaty in June 2005. Along with other EU members, the Netherlands is debating the future role of the EU.

The Netherlands' post-war Customs Union with Belgium and Luxembourg (the Benelux group) paved the way for the formation of the European Community (precursor to the EU). Likewise, the Benelux abolition of internal border controls was a model for the wider Schengen accord, which today has 15 European signatories, including the Netherlands, pledged to common visa policies and free movement of people and goods across common borders.

The Dutch were key proponents of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and were the architects of the 1998 Treaty of Amsterdam. They have embraced the introduction of new member states and the common currency (euro). In recent years, however, the Dutch have become increasingly skeptical of the way the EU is run and of any further enlargements.

Foreign Aid
The Netherlands is among the world's leading aid donors, giving about 0.8% of its gross national product (about $5.6 billion in 2005) annually in development assistance, a ratio maintained as a firm policy target. The Dutch thus rank as the sixth largest donor nation in dollar terms and the fifth most generous relative to GNP. The country consistently contributes large amounts of aid through multilateral channels, especially the UN Development Program, the international financial institutions, and EU programs. A portion of Dutch aid funds also are channeled through private ('cofinancing') organizations that have almost total autonomy in choice of projects. Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne oversees the aid portfolio.

Dutch development strategy is anchored in the Millennium Development Goals and as such focuses on poverty reduction. The priority programmatic areas for Dutch assistance are education, the environment and water, AIDS, and reproductive health care.

In 2004, the Netherlands introduced a new, more focused development aid strategy, under which a number of smaller aid programs in wealthier developing countries were phased out. The number of countries in which the Dutch operate bilateral assistance programs was thus cut from 49 to 36, and the number of sectors in which the Dutch will be active in each country was limited to two to three. Roughly half of Dutch aid is earmarked for Africa. In addition, the Dutch introduced a new policy instrument, the Stability Fund, which pushes the bounds of traditional development assistance by funding programs and activities, such as police training, that aim to create a security environment in which development can proceed. The Stability Fund, managed jointly by the Minister for Development Cooperation and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, spent $109 million in 2005.

The Dutch are the top donor of unearmarked assistance to UN humanitarian programs. For Afghanistan, the Netherlands spent $66 million on reconstruction in 2005, of which $33 million went to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), $10 million was spent on the elections, almost $7 million on the fight against drugs, and an additional $8 million on humanitarian relief. The Dutch contribution to the ARTF alone totaled $50.8 million in 2006. For 2007-2009, the Dutch have pledged $132 million. For Iraq, the Dutch have pledged $36 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance since March of 2003. In January 2006, the Netherlands signed a bilateral agreement with the Government of Iraq, canceling an amount of over $300 million in Iraqi debt, as part of an effort by the Paris Club to provide debt relief to Iraq.

In response to the Asian tsunami, the Dutch contributed $53 million in humanitarian relief and have promised $264 million over the next five years for reconstruction efforts in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In 2006, they pledged an additional $86 million for the reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, of which $77 million to the Multi Donor Fund (MDF). The Netherlands has traditionally been a strong supporter of programs to help Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The Balkans are another major recipient of Dutch assistance. The Dutch fund programs in Bosnia and Macedonia in the areas of education, good governance, and economic reform.

Despite their commitment to ODA, the Dutch also champion the role of trade and private enterprise for their contributions to development. In recent years, the government has devised new programs to support private sector development in developing countries.

In August 2006, the Center for Global Development, in conjunction with Foreign Policy magazine and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, ranked the Netherlands number two in the world for its government's policies in support of development.

International Drug-Trafficking Control
The Dutch work closely with the United States and other countries on international programs against drug trafficking and organized crime. In July 2005, the two nations signed an agreement to expand information sharing and cooperative research on demand reduction. There is close Dutch-U.S. cooperation on joint counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean. The Netherlands actively participates in the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). The 10-year Forward Operation Locations agreement between the U.S. and the Kingdom for the establishment of forward operating locations on Aruba and Curacao became effective in October 2001. The Netherlands is a signatory to international counternarcotics agreements, a member of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the 1990 Strasbourg Convention on Money Laundering and Confiscation, and is a major contributor to international counternarcotics projects.

Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Euro Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.

Facts at a Glance
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Euro Exchange Rates

Notes and Commentary
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.

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