Netherlands Modern History

Netherlands is a country located in Western Europe. With the capital city of Amsterdam, Netherlands has a population of 17,134,883 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. 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 Social Democrats.

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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Netherlands.

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 Saltsjöbadsand), 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 unemployment fell.

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 and Defense).

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 largest party.

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 spending.

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 Defense).

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 transitional government.

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 application.

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 deficit down.

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

October 16

After three months, a power struggle between two LPF ministers causes the CDA and the VVD to withdraw from government cooperation.


New government

July 21st

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

May 6

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

April 16

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

January 1st

The old Dutch currency gold is replaced by the euro.

Netherlands Modern History