The Netherlands (pronounced /ˈnɛðərləndz/ ( listen); Dutch: Nederland, pronounced [ˈneːdərlɑnt] ( listen)) is a country in Northwestern Europe, constituting the major portion of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy. The Netherlands borders 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, a pars pro toto, as North and South Holland are actually two of its twelve provinces (seeterminology of "the Netherlands"). The word Dutch is used to refer to the people, the language, and anything pertaining to the Netherlands. This lexical difference between the noun and the adjective is a peculiarity of the English language and does not exist in theDutch language. The adjective 'Dutch' is derived from the language that was spoken in the area, called 'Diets', which equals Middle Dutch.
Being one of the first parliamentary democracies, the Netherlands was a modern country from its inception. Among other affiliations the country is a founding member of the European Union (EU), NATO, OECD, WTO, and has signed the Kyoto protocol. With Belgium andLuxembourg it forms the Benelux economic union. The country is host to five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, theInternational Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and theSpecial Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. 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 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 windmills, tulips, clogs, delftware, Gouda cheese, visual artists,bicycles, and in addition, traditional values and civil virtues such as its social tolerance. The country has more recently become known for its liberal policies toward drugs, prostitution, immigration, homosexuality, euthanasia and abortion.The Netherlands has a very capitalist market-based economy, ranking 12th of 157 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom.