Foreign policy and defense
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.
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
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
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
18 860 men (2017)
The air Force
8 050 men (2017)
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.