Year of EU entry: Founding member / Capital city: Amsterdam / Population: 16.3 million
The Netherlands, as the name indicates, is low-lying territory, with one third of the country at or below sea level. Many areas are protected from flooding by dykes and sea walls.
Industrial activity lies predominantly in food processing, chemicals, electrical and electronic machinery. It has a dynamic agricultural sector. The port of Rotterdam is the busiest in Europe. The Netherlands has a history of great painters - the 17th century was the age of the Dutch Masters - such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen. The 19th and 20th centuries are no less remarkable boasting artists like Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondrian.
Well-known Dutch specialities include raw herring, smoked eel and pea soup, and of course Dutch cheeses such as Edam or Gouda.