Foreign relations of the Netherlands
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The foreign policy of the Netherlands is based on four basic commitments: to the atlantic cooperation, to European integration, to international development and to international law. While historically the Netherlands was a neutral state, since the second World War the Netherlands became a member of a large number of international organisations. The Dutch economy is very open and relies on international trade. One of the more controversial international issues surrounding the Netherlands is its liberal policy towards soft drugs and position of the Netherlands one of the major exporters of hard drugs. Since the golden age, the Dutch built up a colonial empire, which fell apart after the second World War.
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.
 Atlantic Cooperation
Dutch security policy is based primarily on membership in NATO, which the Netherlands joined in 1949. Because of Dutch participation in NATO nuclear weapons are stationed in the Netherlands.
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.
 European Integration
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. Until the year 2003, a Dutchman headed the European Central Bank, and the Dutch will continue to play an important role in further economic and monetary integration in the EU.
 Third World Development
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 Programme, 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 Law
A centuries-old tradition of legal scholarship has made the Netherlands the home of the International Court of Justice; the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal; the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and the International Criminal Court (ICC). In addition it hosts the European police organization, Europol; and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
 International Organisations
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, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), and International Monetary Fund.
The Netherlands is one of the founding members of what today is the European Union. It was one of the first countries to start European integration, through the Benelux in 1944 and the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. Being a small country with a history of neutrality it was the host country for the important Maastricht Treaty and Amsterdam Treaty and is the seat of the International Court of Justice.
 United Nations
 Trade and Monetary
 Science and Technology
 International issues
The liberal drug policy of the Netherlands has made the country one of a major producer and trading port of drugs. Major European producer of illicit amphetamines and other synthetic drugs; important gateway for cocaine, heroin, and hashish entering Europe. For example, a large portion of the world's XTC consumption is supplied by illegal laboratories from The Netherlands.
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 Curaçao and Aruba. 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.
Since 26 June 2006, two children, Ammar (then 12, now 13) and Sara (10), live in the Dutch embassy in Damascus because of a child custody dispute between the Dutch mother, supported by Dutch law and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and the Syrian father, supported by Syrian law (Syria is no participant of this convention). The children have been living in Syria since 2004, after an alleged international child abduction by the father from the Netherlands to Syria, during a family contact in which he supposedly would visit Paris with them. Reportedly the children fled to the embassy because they would like to live with their mother in the Netherlands. Compare Yasmine and Sara Pourhashemi.
 Former colonies
The Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius are dependencies of the Netherlands. The latter five form the Netherlands Antilles. Surinam and Indonesia became independent of the Netherlands in the period of decolonization: Surinam in 1975 and Indonesia in 1945 (it was not until 16 August 2005 that the Dutch government recognized 1945 - and not 1949 - as the country's year of independence).