Netherlands: The Postwar Years
The Postwar Years
The German collapse in May, 1945, was followed by the immediate return of the queen and the cabinet. The Netherlands became a charter member of the United Nations (1945) and in 1947 joined in a close alliance with Belgium and Luxembourg, which became (1958) the Benelux Economic Union. The country also participated actively in the development of the organizations that came to be the European Union, and in 1949 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Queen Wilhelmina abdicated (1948) in favor of her daughter, Juliana, who continued to rule with a coalition cabinet dominated by the Catholic and Labor parties. In 1959 a new coalition excluding the Labor party was formed, and similar coalitions primarily held power into the 1970s.
The Netherlands gave Indonesia independence in 1949, and in 1962 relinquished Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua) to Indonesia. Despite the loss of the eastern empire and the catastrophic floodings in the North Sea storms of 1953, the Dutch economy expanded in the 1950s and 60s. Industry was enlarged significantly. After the 1953 floods, the 25-year Delta Project was begun. As a result of the project, Walcheren and North and South Beveland were joined to the mainland and ceased to be islands.
Considerable controversy surrounded the marriage (1966) of Crown Princess Beatrix to Claus von Amsberg, a former German diplomat who had served in the German army in World War II. In 1967, Princess Beatrix gave birth to a son, Willem-Alexander, the first male heir in line of succession since 1884.
In the early 1970s the Netherlands enjoyed material prosperity and considerable influence in European affairs. The country suffered, however, from a ban on the sale of petroleum imposed by Arab nations in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War of Oct., 1973, in retaliation for the Netherlands' traditional friendship with Israel. The embargo was lifted in mid-1974. Suriname was granted independence in 1975.
In 1980, Queen Juliana was succeeded by Queen Beatrix. In 1981, Prime Minister Van Agt's support for deploying U.S. cruise missiles on Dutch territory caused an intense public outcry. He was defeated in the 1982 elections, and Ruud Lubbers became the next prime minister, primarily through a coalition of Christian Democrats and People's party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). The Netherlands population increasingly protested against the presence of foreign armaments on their soil, and in the late 1980s nearly 4 million Dutch citizens signed an antimissile petition.
Lubbers formed his third government in Nov., 1989. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War the Netherlands sent two marine frigates to aid the anti-Iraq coalition forces. In the 1994 elections the Christian Democrats and their coalition partner, the Labor party, lost seats. With some difficulty a new coalition government of left- and right-wing parties was formed and Labor party leader Wim Kok became prime minister. In early 1995 unusually heavy flooding along major rivers necessitated massive evacuations in the country.
Also in 1995, Dutch peacekeepers under UN auspices were overwhelmed by Serb forces in the Bosniak-held town of Srebrenica; the Serbs subsequently massacred Bosnia civilians. Several investigations were launched into the role played by the peacekeepers. An independent investigation that released its report in 2002 said that UN and Dutch political and military officials shared some of the blame for placing peacekeeping forces in an untenable position, and Prime Minister Kok's government resigned to accept responsibility.
In the subsequent election campaign (May, 2002), the right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn, who ran on an anti-immigrant platform, was assassinated, stunning the nation. Voters subsequently veered to the right, giving conservative and rightist parties a majority of the seats in the new parliament. A center-right government, headed by Christian Democrat Jan Peter Balkenende and including Fortuyn's party, was formed in July, but the coalition collapsed in October.
Elections in Jan., 2003, gave the Christian Democrats and Labor nearly the same number of seats (44 and 42, respectively) and resulted in significant losses for the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF). Balkenende remained prime minister, but the new center-right government excluded the LPF. Dutch voters strongly rejected a proposed new constitution for the European Union in 2005; voters appeared to resent a likely loss of Dutch influence under the new charter despite their country's sizable contributions to the EU.
Balkenende's government fell in June, 2006, when one of the member parties withdrew over a government minister's tough handling of a Somali-born Dutch politician's citizenship case. In November, the parliamentary elections resulted in some lost seats for the Christian Democrats as both far-right and far-left parties increased their seats. Although the Christian Democrats nonetheless remained the largest party, neither the governing coalition nor that aligned with Labor secured a majority in parliament. In Feb., 2007, Balkenende formed a new, centrist coalition government that included Labor.
Disagreement over whether to further extend the deployment of Dutch troops with NATO forces in Afghanistan led to the collapse of the government in Feb., 2010, and elections were scheduled for June. The elections were a major defeat for the Christian Democrats, who lost half their seats; the anti-Islamic and Euroskeptic Freedom party won more seats and placed third. The VVD won, but secured only one more seat than Labor, and politically the new parliament was very fragmented. In October the VVD and Christian Democrats agreed to form a minority conservative coalition government with the support of the Freedom party. The VVD's Mark Rutte became prime minister. In Apr., 2012, the government collapsed after it could not get Freedom party support to pass an austerity budget; the budget ultimately was passed with the support of other parties.
In the Sept., 2012, elections, the VVD and Labor won the largest blocs of seats, and subsequently formed a coalition government with Rutte as prime minister. Queen Beatrix abdicated in Mar., 2013; King
Sections in this article:
- The Postwar Years
- The Kingdom of the Netherlands
- A Succession of Wars
- The United Provinces
- Revolt in the Netherlands
- The Rise of the Netherlands
- Land and People
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