After the Second World War, the Netherlands
developed into a welfare society where various religious
groups had a great influence. Most of the country's
colonies gained their independence during the same
period. The Netherlands joined the Western Defense
Alliance NATO in 1949 and three years later joined the
Coal and Steel Community, which became the seed of
today's EU. During the post-war period, the country was
ruled by a number of coalition governments, mainly
consisting of Christian Democrats, Right Liberals and
At the end of the Second World War, Dutch society was
still colored by the historical pillar system, which, on
the basis of religious beliefs or political views,
divided the population into separate groups. Not least
the Calvinist and Catholic churches had great influence.
The welfare state that was built up during the 1950s and
1960s was characterized by this. Schools and social
systems were largely based on non-profit or religious
associations and voluntary work.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Netherlands. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Most of the country's colonies eventually gained full
independence, although the process was slow. In
Indonesia, the liberation struggle continued until 1949,
when the colony became independent following pressure
from the UN Security Council. The Netherlands retained
the western part of the island of New Guinea (Irian Jaya,
today Papua) until 1962 before being transferred to
Indonesia. Surinam in northern South America first
became independent in 1975.
During the greater part of the 20th century, the
Netherlands was ruled by various coalition governments,
where three Christian parties - one Catholic and two
Protestant - were at the center. These parties, as well
as the Social Democratic Labor Party (PvdA) and the
right-wing Liberal People's Party for Freedom and
Democracy (VVD), took turns in forming coalitions.
During the 1960s, the importance of religion in
society diminished and the debate became increasingly
open on issues such as abortion, the environment and
aid. The three Christian parties lost parts of their
electoral support. As a counterpart, at the 1972
elections, they presented a joint manifesto and, prior
to the 1977 election, a joint candidate list under the
name Christian Democratic Call (CDA). In 1980, the
merger of a new party was complete.
In connection with the oil crisis in the early 1970s,
natural gas prices rose, giving the natural gas-rich
Netherlands large export revenues. Production increased
and gas revenues had to pay for the continued expansion
of the welfare system. But already at the end of the
decade, the Netherlands went into a recession and
unemployment rose rapidly. Several large companies had
grown into collaborative giant groups, which reduced
efficiency and damaged their competitiveness. High wage
increases contributed to an inflation spiral. The
government launched new and expensive welfare programs
and foreign investors withdrew from the country. Budget
deficits and government debt grew.
During much of the 1970s and early 1980s, the country
was ruled by fragile coalitions between the Catholic
People's Party (later CDA) and the Labor Party or the
VVD. The difficult economic situation put the
governments on a hard test. During the 1980s, the
Netherlands benefited from increased world trade while
the government began to reduce public spending. An
important element was that the parties in the labor
market began to enter into agreements on low wage
increases in exchange for shorter working hours and new
jobs and, with the help of the state, tax cuts. This
collaborative spirit, which came to be called the
"polder model" (and reminiscent of the Swedish
Saltsj÷badsand), contributed to steady economic growth.
The 1994 parliamentary elections saw a sharp decline
for the parties in the sitting government coalition, the
CDA and the Labor Party. The result was that Christian
Democrats leader Ruud Lubbers resigned after twelve
years as prime minister. The Labor Party, which, despite
the decline, became the largest party, after several
months of negotiations succeeded in forming government
with the VVD and the Left Liberal Democrats 66 (D66),
which both made strong progress in the election. For the
first time since 1917, the Netherlands gained a
government without the participation of any Christian
party. New head of government became Labor leader Wim
Kok, finance minister of the former government.
The ideological differences between the three
government parties created tensions. One of the major
issues of concern was how the Netherlands would meet the
conditions for participation in the European Economic
and Monetary Union (EMU), including the requirement for
a budget deficit of no more than 3% of gross domestic
product (GDP). The CEO pleaded for further savings while
the Labor Party would rather raise taxes. Often, D66 was
given the role of mediator in the government.
The government chose to limit government spending in
various ways. Among other things, parts of the health
insurance system were privatized. The result was that
the budget deficit decreased while tax cuts could be
implemented. Wim Kok became increasingly popular as
prime minister as the country's economy strengthened and
The 1998 parliamentary election was a great success
for the Labor Party and the VP, which together obtained
a clear majority in Parliament. However, D66 went back
strongly, as did the Christian Democrats. The three
former government parties nevertheless agreed to form a
new ministry under the leadership of Wim Kok.
In time for the parliamentary elections in May 2002,
Prime Minister Kok announced that he was not running for
re-election. His government resigned a month before the
election after an official inquiry criticized the
actions of the Dutch UN troops in connection with the
1995 massacre in Bosnian Srebrenica (see Foreign Policy
The election came to be characterized by drama. A new
populist and anti-immigrant party had been formed, Lista
Pim Fortuyn (LPF). It was led by sociology professor Pim
Fortuyn, who ran a successful election campaign against
crime and immigration. He warned of an "Islamization" of
the Netherlands. Just over a week before the election,
Fortuyn was shot dead in the open street. The council
shocked the nation, where no political murders had taken
place in modern times. An animal rights activist was
later convicted of the murder.
When the election was held, the newly formed LPF
became the second largest party. The biggest was CDA,
which went strong again. The result was miserable for
the three government parties: the Labor Party and the
D66 lost half of their mandate and the VP about a third.
The Christian Democrats now formed a bourgeois
government together with the LPF and the VDD. The head
of government became CDA leader Peter Balkenende.
After only three months, the new government burst
into power because of a power struggle between two LPF
ministers. When the new elections were held in January
2003, LPF suffered a major defeat, while the Labor Party
won back most of the mandates it lost in the election
the year before. The Christian Democrats remained the
The government negotiations now took a record time.
Only after four months could Prime Minister Balkenende
form a new bourgeois coalition between CDA, VVD and D66.
The downturn in the world economy in the early 2000s
hit the Netherlands harder than any other Western
European country. In 2003, GDP shrank and the budget
deficit increased. The result was further cuts in public
The country was shaken by a new assassination with
political forests in November 2004, when filmmaker Theo
van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death. Two months
earlier, Dutch television had shown his film Submission,
which is about violence against women in Islamic
societies. A radical Islamist with both Dutch and
Moroccan citizenship was convicted of the murder. In the
days following the act, several Muslim schools and
mosques - and even Christian churches - were subjected
to vandalism and attempted assaults.
The previously mentioned tolerance of immigrants
seemed to many of the Dutch to have now been turned into
suspicion, especially to Muslims. Immigration policy was
tightened, leading to more than halving the number of
asylum seekers between 2000 and 2002. Misstron also
targeted the major changes within the EU, which gained
ten new member states in 2004 (see Foreign Policy and
In the summer of 2006, the D66 left the government in
protest against the handling of a controversial
Somali-born MP, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, after it was discovered
that she had provided false information when seeking
asylum in 1992. Prime Minister Balkenende continued to
rule at the head of a minority government made up of the
CDA and the VVD.
When elections were held in November 2006, the
government parties backed up somewhat, but still managed
relatively well, mainly due to the upside economy. The
Socialist Party (SP) advanced sharply and received
almost three times more seats than before. LPF was now
out of the game, but the newly formed right-wing
populist Freedom Party (PVV) instead joined Parliament.
For the first time, a party for animal rights also
joined a European parliament.
After three months of negotiations, the CDA and the
Labor Party, together with the small Protestant Party
Christian Union (CU), could form a coalition government.
Towards the end of 2008, the global financial crisis
also affected the Netherlands. The government was forced
to step in and wholly or partly take over ownership and
pump money into three of the country's four largest
banks. From the beginning of 2009, the country was in a
deep recession. After negotiations with the business
community and the trade union movement, the government
decided on stimulus packages with, among other things,
reduced health care expenses, investments in
infrastructure projects and an increase in the
retirement age to 67 years.
After three years, in February 2010, the coalition
government fell. A triggering cause was disagreement
over the country's military operation in Afghanistan.
The Labor Party immediately wanted to withdraw the
almost 2,000 Dutch soldiers, while the other parties
wanted to leave a smaller force (see further Foreign
Policy and Defense). CDA and CU remained in a
When the new elections were held in June, PVV was
strongly ahead of a campaign filled with messages like
"stop Islamization of the Netherlands". PVV became the
third largest party, after the VVD and the Labor Party.
CDA made a nasty choice.
The government negotiations were drawn up as usual,
but in October a bourgeois minority government joined
the VVD and CDA. It was promised support in Parliament
by the anti-immigration PVV against a number of
concessions, including halved immigration rates from
non-European countries. Mark Rutte was appointed prime
minister and thus became the first head of government
from the VVD since 1948.
The new government cracked down after a year and a
half. An important reason was that PVV opposed the
government to implement further austerity measures to
address the growing budget deficit. In addition,
government cooperation was strained by PVV's opposition
to the eurozone's support package to Greece, among
others. PVV advocated that the Netherlands leave the
euro - and even the EU.
Without PVV's support, the government lost its
parliamentary majority and in April 2012 Prime Minister
Rutte submitted the government's resignation
While the 2010 election was largely about immigration
issues, which favored PVV, the 2012 election movement
came primarily to touch on the economic crisis in Europe
and the Netherlands' relations with the EU and euro
cooperation. Many Dutch people wondered why they would
suffer severe cuts while sending large sums to countries
such as Greece. But on election day, the Dutch
nevertheless distanced themselves from EU-critical
parties such as the Socialist Party (SP) and PVV and
instead turned to old tried-and-tested EU-friendly
middle parties. Most notably, Prime Minister Rutte's VP,
but also the Social Democratic Labor Party increased
sharply. After seven weeks of negotiations, they could
form a cross-border majority government without the
support of any other party. However, the settlement
received harsh internal criticism within the VVD,
However, the co-government was not frictionless.
Among other things, the parties had different views on
how to deal with the euro crisis, and they went in
different directions on social policy issues.
Following discussions with the social partners in the
spring of 2013, an agreement was entered into in which
the government promised to wait to postpone austerity
measures while making compromises on, among other
things, unemployment benefits and pensions. In June, it
was announced that the budget deficit was finally
squeezed below the EU's 3% limit, but that tax cuts and
budget cuts totaling € 6 billion were needed to keep the
Large disparities in the parties' social policies led
to a threatening government crisis at the end of 2014
that affected changes in the Social Security Act. Six
months later, a new crisis arose in connection with the
great wave of migration in 2015. The question was
whether asylum seekers who had been rejected but were
still in the country should be entitled to help with
housing and living. A compromise was reached which
reduced the number of reception centers and offered only
migrants who could show that they were actively trying
to leave the country.
The government is cracking down
After three months, a power struggle between two LPF ministers causes the CDA
and the VVD to withdraw from government cooperation.
A coalition is formed between CDA, LPF and the right-wing VVD. New Prime
Minister becomes CDA's Jan Peter Balkenende.
Christian Democratic victory in parliamentary elections
15th of May
Christian Democracy Call (CDA) wins big with 43 of the 150 seats in the
second chamber. The new LPF gets 26 seats, the People's Party for Freedom and
Democracy (VVD) 24, the Labor Party (Labor Party) 23, the Green Left (GL), the
Socialist Party (SP) 9 and the Democrats '66 (D66) 7 mandate.
Murder of right-wing party leader
The nation is shocked by the assassination of Islam-hostile Pim Fortuyn,
leader of the right-wing populist and immigration-critical party List Pim
Fortuyn (LPF). He is shot to death by an animal rights activist who is arrested
shortly thereafter. The murder will overshadow the electoral movement ahead of
the impending election.
The government is leaving
Prime Minister Wim Kok's government resigns a few weeks before the general
election, after being criticized in an official report for its role in the
Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995, when just over a hundred Dutch soldiers
in the international peace force failed to stop Bosnian Serb forces from
murdering thousands of Muslims. The government is criticized in the report for
not providing sufficient resources to the Dutch troops.
Euro new currency
The old Dutch currency gold is replaced by the euro.