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Foreign relations of the Netherlands

The Netherlands abandoned its traditional policy of neutrality after World War II. The Dutch have since become engaged participants in international affairs. Dutch foreign policy is geared to promoting a variety of goals: transatlanticism[?]; European integration[?]; Third World development[?]; and respect for international law, human rights, and democracy. The Dutch Government conducted a review of foreign policy main themes, organization, and funding in 1995. The document "The Foreign Policy of the Netherlands: A Review" outlined the new direction of Dutch foreign policy. The Netherlands prioritizes enhancing European integration, maintaining relations with neighboring states, ensuring European security and stability (mainly through the mechanism of NATO and emphasizing the important role the United States plays in the security of Europe), and participating in conflict management and peacekeeping missions. The foreign policy review also resulted in the reorganization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs[?]. Through the creation of regional departments, the Ministry coordinates tasks previously divided among the international cooperation, foreign affairs, and economic affairs sections.

As a relatively small country, 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 system as well as other multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), and International Monetary Fund. A centuries-old tradition of legal scholarship has made the Netherlands the home of the International Court of Justice; the Iran Claims Tribunal[?]; the Yugoslavia and Rwanda War Crime Tribunals[?]; the European police organization, Europol[?]; and the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons[?].

Dutch security policy is based primarily on membership in NATO, which the Netherlands joined in 1949. The Dutch also pursue defense cooperation within Europe, both multilaterally--in the context of the Western European Union -- and bilaterally, as in the German-Netherlands Corps. In recent years, the Dutch have become significant contributors to UN peacekeeping efforts around the world as well as to the Stabililzation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) in Bosnia.

The Dutch have been strong advocates of European integration, and most aspects of their foreign, economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the European Union (EU). The Netherlands' postwar customs union with Belgium and Luxembourg[?] (the Benelux group) paved the way for the formation of the European Community (precursor to the EU), of which the Netherlands was a founding member. Likewise, the Benelux abolition of internal border controls was a model for the wider Schengen Accord, which today has 10 European signatories--including the Netherlands--pledged to common visa policies and free movement of people across common borders.

The Dutch stood at the cradle of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and have been the architects of the Treaty of Amsterdam[?] concluded in 1998. The Dutch thus have been playing an important role in European political and monetary integration. A Dutchman currently heads the European Central Bank, and the Dutch will continue to play an important role in further economic and monetary integration in the EU.

Foreign Aid
The Netherlands is among the world's leading aid donors, giving about 1% of its gross national product in development assistance. The country consistently contributes large amounts of aid through multilateral channels, especially the UN Development Program, the international financial institutions, and EU programs. A large portion of Dutch aid funds also are channeled through private ("co-financing") organizations that have almost total autonomy in choice of projects.

In 1998, Dutch development assistance--as defined by the OECD--was about $3 billion. The policy priorities of Dutch aid for 1998 are basic social facilities, reproductive health care, the environment, and aid to least developed countries. Dutch aid also is targeted on emergency aid, programs for the private sector, and international education.

The Netherlands is a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which recently initiated economic reforms in central Europe. The Dutch strongly support the Middle East Peace Process[?] and in 1998 earmarked $29 million in contributions to international donor-coordinated activities for the occupied territories and also for projects in which they worked directly with Palestinian authorities. These projects included improving environmental conditions and support for multilateral programs in cooperation with local non-governmental organizations. In 1998, the Dutch provided significant amounts of aid to the former Yugoslavia and Africa. The Dutch also provided significant amounts of relief aid to victims of Hurricane Mitch[?] in Central America.

International Drug-Trafficking Control
The Dutch also work closely with the U.S. and other countries on international programs against drug trafficking and organized crime. The Dutch-U.S. cooperation on joint anti-drug operations in the Caribbean is excellent, including an agreement establishing Forward Operating Locations[?] on the Dutch Kingdom islands of Aruba and Curacao. The Netherlands is a signatory to international counter-narcotics[?] agreements, a member of the UN International Drug Control Program[?], the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs[?], and is a leading contributor to international counter-narcotics projects.

Disputes - international: none

Illicit drugs: major European producer of illicit amphetamines and other synthetic drugs; important gateway for cocaine, heroin, and hashish entering Europe

See also Netherlands, Drugs policy of the Netherlands.

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