Portal:Netherlands

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Introduction

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The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərlɑnt] (About this sound listen)), often referred to as Holland, is a country located mostly in Western Europe with a population of 17.2 million. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba), it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces and borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The five largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht (forming the Randstad megalopolis) and Eindhoven (leading the Brabantse Stedenrij). 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 world's largest outside Asia.

"Netherlands" literally means "lower countries", influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are artificial. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass. With a population density of 414 people per km2 – 510 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is classified as a very densely populated country. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, after the United States. This is partly due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate as well as its highly developed intensive agriculture. The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have elected representatives controlling the government's actions; it has been administered as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy since 1848, organised as a unitary state. From the 19th century the country installed a system of pillarisation where societies and institutions were segragated between Catholics, Calvinists and socialists - most of this system no longer exists, but some traces remain. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870 and had women's suffrage introduced in 1917. Regarding the LGBT community, it became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.

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The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights (or The Millennium) is a triptych painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516), housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Dating from 1503 and 1504, when Bosch was about 50 years old, it is his best-known and most ambitious work. Bosch's masterpiece reveals the artist at the height of his powers; in no other painting does he achieve such complexity of meaning or such vivid imagery. The triptych depicts several biblical and heretical scenes on a grand scale and as a "true triptych", as defined by Hans Belting, was probably intended to illustrate the history of mankind according to medieval Christian doctrine.

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Selected biography

Jan Peter Balkenende
Jan Pieter "Jan Peter" Balkenende, Jr. (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈjɑn ˈpeːtər ˈbɑlkənˌɛndə]; born 7 May 1956) is a Dutch politician of the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). He served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 22 July 2002 until 14 October 2010. Balkenende, a jurist by occupation, worked for the Academic Council and the Christian Democratic Appeal Think tank from 1982 until 1998. Balkenende became a professor of Christian theology at the VU University Amsterdam in 1993. He was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives after the Dutch general election of 1998, serving from 19 May 1998 until 22 July 2002. After the then Leader of the CDA and Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stepped down, Balkenende was selected to succeed him in both positions, and became the top candidate for the Dutch general election of 2002. The CDA became the surprising winner of the election, gaining 14 seats becoming the largest party in the House of Representatives.

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