The EU three known as EU big three, EU triumvirate or EU trio, refers to France and Italy, a group that consists of the three large founding members of the European Union. In 2003, France and the UK launched negotiations attempting to limit the Iranian nuclear program, which led to the Tehran Declaration of 21 October 2003 and the voluntary Paris Agreement of 15 November 2004. Following the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, the EU-3 group had a declining influence in the European Union other than in negotiations with Iran, has acted more within the G6. EU 3 + 3, more referred to as the E3+3, refers to a grouping which includes the EU-3 and China and the United States, it was coined when these states joined the EU diplomatic efforts with Iran in 2006. In the United States and Russia, it is more known as P5+1, which refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Italy was expected to be part of the group, but Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declined the offer due to the country's economic links with Iran.
The following Government led by Romano Prodi changed the position of the previous administration and the Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema took part in the meetings between 2006 and 2007, when the group was known as P5+2. Berlusconi came back to power in 2008 and Italy left the group for a second time. In 2014, under the request of the Italian PM Matteo Renzi, Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini was named High Representative of the EU in order to have an informal return of Italy in the group as the negotiations approached a conclusion and the elaboration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Determined to keep the European project intact in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the European Union in 2016, France and Italy re-emerged as the "Big Three" and called for greater integration in various trilateral summits in Berlin and Ventotene. More the union of this new group formed by France and Italy have agreed a common position about the Paris climate agreement they have led a draft EU law to restrain Chinese acquisitions of European firms and technologies and they lead the EU sanctions on North Korea.
Big Four EU-15 European balance of power Inner Six Iran–European Union relations Visegrád Group EU calls for UN action over Iran, BBC News, 12 January 2006 Kaveh L Afrasiabi. "Iran: Options for a face-saving solution". Asia Times. Retrieved 2009-06-17
Cyprus the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean and the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt, southeast of Greece. The earliest known human activity on the island dates to around the 10th millennium BC. Archaeological remains from this period include the well-preserved Neolithic village of Khirokitia, Cyprus is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in two waves in the 2nd millennium BC; as a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians and Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Classical and Eastern Roman Empire, Arab caliphates for a short period, the French Lusignan dynasty and the Venetians, was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman rule between 1571 and 1878.
Cyprus was placed under the UK's administration based on the Cyprus Convention in 1878 and was formally annexed by Britain in 1914. While Turkish Cypriots made up 18% of the population, the partition of Cyprus and creation of a Turkish state in the north became a policy of Turkish Cypriot leaders and Turkey in the 1950s. Turkish leaders for a period advocated the annexation of Cyprus to Turkey as Cyprus was considered an "extension of Anatolia" by them. Following nationalist violence in the 1950s, Cyprus was granted independence in 1960; the crisis of 1963–64 brought further intercommunal violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which displaced more than 25,000 Turkish Cypriots into enclaves and brought the end of Turkish Cypriot representation in the republic. On 15 July 1974, a coup d'état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta in an attempt at enosis, the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece; this action precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 20 July, which led to the capture of the present-day territory of Northern Cyprus in the following month, after a ceasefire collapsed, the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots.
A separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established by unilateral declaration in 1983. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute; the Republic of Cyprus has de jure sovereignty over the entire island, including its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, with the exception of the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which remain under the UK's control according to the London and Zürich Agreements. However, the Republic of Cyprus is de facto partitioned into two main parts: the area under the effective control of the Republic, located in the south and west, comprising about 59% of the island's area. Another nearly 4% of the island's area is covered by the UN buffer zone; the international community considers the northern part of the island as territory of the Republic of Cyprus occupied by Turkish forces. The occupation is viewed as illegal under international law, amounting to illegal occupation of EU territory since Cyprus became a member of the European Union.
Cyprus is a major tourist destination in the Mediterranean. With an advanced, high-income economy and a high Human Development Index, the Republic of Cyprus has been a member of the Commonwealth since 1961 and was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement until it joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. On 1 January 2008, the Republic of Cyprus joined the eurozone; the earliest attested reference to Cyprus is the 15th century BC Mycenaean Greek, ku-pi-ri-jo, meaning "Cypriot", written in Linear B syllabic script. The classical Greek form of the name is Κύπρος; the etymology of the name is unknown. Suggestions include: the Greek word for the Mediterranean cypress tree, κυπάρισσος the Greek name of the henna tree, κύπρος an Eteocypriot word for copper, it has been suggested, for example, that it has roots in the Sumerian word for copper or for bronze, from the large deposits of copper ore found on the island. Through overseas trade, the island has given its name to the Classical Latin word for copper through the phrase aes Cyprium, "metal of Cyprus" shortened to Cuprum.
The standard demonym relating to Cyprus or its people or culture is Cypriot. The terms Cypriote and Cyprian are used, though less frequently; the earliest confirmed site of human activity on Cyprus is Aetokremnos, situated on the south coast, indicating that hunter-gatherers were active on the island from around 10,000 BC, with settled village communities dating from 8200 BC. The arrival of the first humans correlates with the extinction of the dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants. Water wells discovered by archaeologists in western Cyprus are believed to be among the oldest in the world, dated at 9,000 to 10,500 years old. Remains of an 8-month-old cat were discovered buried with a human body at a separate Neolithic site in Cyprus; the grave is estimated to be 9,500 years old, predating ancient Egyptian civilisation and pushing back the ear
Malta known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Italy, 284 km east of Tunisia, 333 km north of Libya. With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 316 km2, Malta is the world's tenth smallest and fifth most densely populated country, its capital is Valletta, the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km.2 The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese recognised as the national language and the only Semitic language in the European Union. Malta has been inhabited since 5900 BC, its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Greeks, Normans, Knights of St. John and British. Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country's ancient culture. Malta became a British colony in 1815, serving as a way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet.
It played an important role in the Allied war effort during the Second World War, was subsequently awarded the George Cross for its bravery in the face of an Axis siege, the George Cross appears on Malta's national flag. The British Parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen; the country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, joined the European Union in 2004. Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese is claimed to be an apostolic see because Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on "Melita", according to Acts of the Apostles, now taken to be Malta. While Catholicism is the official religion in Malta, Article 40 of the Constitution states that "all persons in Malta shall have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship."Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni and seven megalithic temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
The origin of the name Malta is uncertain, the modern-day variation is derived from the Maltese language. The most common etymology is that the word Malta is derived from the Greek word μέλι, meli, "honey"; the ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη meaning "honey-sweet" for Malta's unique production of honey. The Romans called the island Melita, which can be considered either a latinisation of the Greek Μελίτη or the adaptation of the Doric Greek pronunciation of the same word Μελίτα; this spelling is found in the New Testament. Another conjecture suggests that the word Malta comes from the Phoenician word Maleth, "a haven", or'port' in reference to Malta's many bays and coves. Few other etymological mentions appear in classical literature, with the term Malta appearing in its present form in the Antonine Itinerary. Malta has been inhabited from around 5900 BC, since the arrival of settlers from the island of Sicily. A significant prehistoric Neolithic culture marked by Megalithic structures, which date back to c. 3600 BC, existed on the islands, as evidenced by the temples of Mnajdra and others.
The Phoenicians colonised Malta between 800 -- 700 BC, bringing their Semitic culture. They used the islands as an outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean until their successors, the Carthaginians, were ousted by the Romans in 216 BC with the help of the Maltese inhabitants, under whom Malta became a municipium. After a period of Byzantine rule and a probable sack by the Vandals, the islands were invaded by the Aghlabids in AD 870; the fate of the population after the Arab invasion is unclear but it seems the islands may have been depopulated and were to have been repopulated in the beginning of the second millennium by settlers from Arab-ruled Sicily who spoke Siculo-Arabic. The Muslim rule was ended by the Normans who conquered the island in 1091; the islands were re-Christianised by 1249. The islands were part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530, were controlled by the Capetian House of Anjou. In 1530 Charles I of Spain gave the Maltese islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease.
The French under Napoleon took hold of the Maltese islands in 1798, although with the aid of the British the Maltese were able to oust French control two years later. The inhabitants subsequently asked Britain to assume sovereignty over the islands under the conditions laid out in a Declaration of Rights, stating that "his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power...if he chooses to withdraw his protection, abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, without control." As part of the Treaty of Paris in 1814, Malta became a British colony rejecting an attempted integration with the United Kingdom in 1956. Malta became independent on 21 September 1964. Under its 1964 constitution
Slovenia the Republic of Slovenia, is a sovereign state located in southern Central Europe at a crossroads of important European cultural and trade routes. It is bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Croatia to the southeast, the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, it has a population of 2.07 million. One of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is a parliamentary republic and a member of the United Nations, of the European Union, of NATO; the capital and largest city is Ljubljana. Slovenia has a mountainous terrain with a continental climate, with the exception of the Slovene Littoral, which has a sub-Mediterranean climate, of the northwest, which has an Alpine climate. Additionally, the Dinaric Alps and the Pannonian Plain meet on the territory of Slovenia; the country, marked by a significant biological diversity, is one of the most water-rich in Europe, with a dense river network, a rich aquifer system, significant karst underground watercourses.
Over half of the territory is covered by forest. The human settlement of Slovenia is uneven. Slovenia has been the crossroads of Slavic and Romance languages and cultures. Although the population is not homogeneous, Slovenes comprise the majority; the South Slavic language Slovene is the official language throughout the country. Slovenia is a secularized country, but Catholicism and Lutheranism have influenced its culture and identity; the economy of Slovenia is small and export-oriented and has been influenced by international conditions. It has been hurt by the Eurozone crisis which started in 2009; the main economic field is services, followed by construction. The current territory of Slovenia has formed part of many different states, including the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Republic of Venice, the French-administered Illyrian Provinces of Napoleon I, the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary. In October 1918 the Slovenes exercised self-determination for the first time by co-founding the State of Slovenes and Serbs.
In December 1918 they merged with the Kingdom of Serbia into the Kingdom of Serbs and Slovenes. During World War II Germany and Hungary occupied and annexed Slovenia, with a tiny area transferred to the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet state. In 1945 Slovenia became a founding member of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, renamed in 1963 as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the first years after World War II this state was allied with the Eastern Bloc, but it never subscribed to the Warsaw Pact and in 1961 became one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. In June 1991, after the introduction of multi-party representative democracy, Slovenia became the first republic that split from Yugoslavia and became an independent country. In 2004, it entered the European Union. Slovenia's name means the "Land of the Slavs" in Slovene and other South Slavic languages; the etymology of Slav itself remains uncertain. The reconstructed autonym *Slověninъ is derived from the word slovo denoting "people who speak," i. e. people who understand each other.
This is in contrast to the Slavic word denoting German people, namely *němьcь, meaning "silent, mute people". The word slovo and the related slava and slukh originate from the Proto-Indo-European root *ḱlew-, cognate with Ancient Greek κλέος, as in the name Pericles, Latin clueo, English loud; the modern Slovene state originates from the Slovene National Liberation Committee held on 19 February 1944. They named the state as Federal Slovenia, a unit within the Yugoslav federation. On 20 February 1946, Federal Slovenia was renamed the People's Republic of Slovenia, it retained this name until 9 April 1963, when its name was changed again, this time to Socialist Republic of Slovenia. On 8 March 1990, SR Slovenia removed the prefix "Socialist" from its name, becoming the Republic of Slovenia. Present-day Slovenia has been inhabited since prehistoric times. There is evidence of human habitation from around 250,000 years ago. A pierced cave bear bone, dating from 43100 ± 700 BP, found in 1995 in Divje Babe cave near Cerkno, is considered a kind of flute, the oldest musical instrument discovered in the world.
In the 1920s and 1930s, artifacts belonging to the Cro-Magnon, such as pierced bones, bone points, a needle were found by archaeologist Srečko Brodar in Potok Cave. In 2002, remains of pile dwellings over 4,500 years old were discovered in the Ljubljana Marshes, now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Ljubljana Marshes Wooden Wheel, the oldest wooden wheel in the world, it shows that wooden wheels appeared simultaneously in Mesopotamia and Europe. In the transition period between the Bronze age to the Iron age, the Urnfield culture flourished. Archaeological remains dating from the Hallstatt period have been found in southeastern Slovenia, among them a number of situl
Lithuania the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states, it is situated to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people; the official language, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, the King of Lithuania, the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state personal union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighbouring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory. As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. In the midst of the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and by Nazi Germany; as World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Baltic state to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania. Lithuania is a developed country, it is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, Schengen Agreement, NATO and OECD. It is a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries; the United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "very high human development" country.
The first known record of the name of Lithuania is in a 9 March 1009 story of Saint Bruno in the Quedlinburg Chronicle. The Chronicle recorded a Latinized form of the name Lietuva: Litua. Due to the lack of reliable evidence, the true meaning of the name is unknown. Nowadays, scholars still debate the meaning of the word and there are a few plausible versions. Since Lietuva has a suffix, the original word should have no suffix. A candidate is Lietā; because many Baltic ethnonyms originated from hydronyms, linguists have searched for its origin among local hydronyms. Such names evolved through the following process: hydronym → toponym → ethnonym. Lietava, a small river not far from Kernavė, the core area of the early Lithuanian state and a possible first capital of the eventual Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is credited as the source of the name. However, the river is small and some find it improbable that such a small and local object could have lent its name to an entire nation. On the other hand, such a naming is not unprecedented in world history.
Artūras Dubonis proposed another hypothesis. From the middle of the 13th century, leičiai were a distinct warrior social group of the Lithuanian society subordinate to the Lithuanian ruler or the state itself; the word leičiai is used in the 14–16th-century historical sources as an ethnonym for Lithuanians and is still used poetically or in historical contexts, in the Latvian language, related to Lithuanian. The first people settled in the territory of Lithuania after the last glacial period in the 10th millennium BC: Kunda and Narva cultures, they did not form stable settlements. In the 8th millennium BC, the climate became much warmer, forests developed; the inhabitants of what is now Lithuania traveled less and engaged in local hunting and fresh-water fishing. Agriculture did not emerge until the 3rd millennium BC due to a harsh climate and terrain and a lack of suitable tools to cultivate the land. Crafts and trade started to form at this time. Over a millennium, the Indo-Europeans, who arrived in the 3rd – 2nd millennium BC, mixed with the local population and formed various Baltic tribes.
The Baltic tribes did not maintain close cultural or political contacts with the Roman Empire, but they did maintain trade contacts. Tacitus, in his study Germania, described the Aesti people, inhabitants of the south-eastern Baltic Sea shores who were Balts, around the year 97 AD; the Western Balts became known to outside chroniclers first. Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD knew of the Galindians and Yotvingians, early medieval chroniclers mentioned Old Prussians and Semigallians; the Lithuanian language is considered to be conservative for its close connection to Indo-European roots. It is believed to have differentiated from the Latvian language, the most related existing language, around the 7th century. Traditional Lithuanian pagan customs and mythology, with many archaic elements, were long preserved. Rulers' bodies were cremated up until the conversion to Christianity: the descriptions of the cremation ceremonies of the grand d
Croatia the Republic of Croatia, is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east and Herzegovina, Montenegro to the southeast, sharing a maritime border with Italy, its capital, forms one of the country's primary subdivisions, along with twenty counties. Croatia has an area of 56,594 square kilometres and a population of 4.28 million, most of whom are Roman Catholics. Inhabited since the Paleolithic Age, the Croats arrived in the area in the 6th century and organised the territory into two duchies by the 9th century. Croatia was first internationally recognized as an independent state on 7 June 879 during the reign of duke Branimir. Tomislav became the first king by 925, elevating Croatia to the status of a kingdom, which retained its sovereignty for nearly two centuries. During the succession crisis after the Trpimirović dynasty ended, Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102.
In 1527, faced with Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of Austria to the Croatian throne. In October 1918, in the final days of World War I, the State of Slovenes and Serbs, independent from Austria-Hungary, was proclaimed in Zagreb, in December 1918 it was merged into the Kingdom of Serbs and Slovenes. Following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, most of the Croatian territory was incorporated into the Nazi-backed client-state which led to the development of a resistance movement and the creation of the Federal State of Croatia which after the war become a founding member and a federal constituent of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 25 June 1991, Croatia declared independence, which came wholly into effect on 8 October of the same year; the Croatian War of Independence was fought for four years following the declaration. The sovereign state of Croatia is a republic governed under a parliamentary system and a developed country with a high standard of living.
It is a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, NATO, the World Trade Organization, a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. As an active participant in the UN peacekeeping forces, Croatia has contributed troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and took a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008–2009 term. Since 2000, the Croatian government has invested in infrastructure transport routes and facilities along the Pan-European corridors. Croatia's economy is dominated by service and industrial sectors and agriculture. Tourism is a significant source of revenue, with Croatia ranked among the top 20 most popular tourist destinations in the world; the state controls a part of the economy, with substantial government expenditure. The European Union is Croatia's most important trading partner. Croatia provides a social security, universal health care system, a tuition-free primary and secondary education, while supporting culture through numerous public institutions and corporate investments in media and publishing.
The name of Croatia derives from Medieval Latin Croātia. Itself a derivation of North-West Slavic *Xrovat-, by liquid metathesis from Common Slavic period *Xorvat, from proposed Proto-Slavic *Xъrvátъ which comes from Old Persian *xaraxwat-; the word is attested by the Old Iranian toponym Harahvait-, the native name of Arachosia. The origin of the name is uncertain, but is thought to be a Gothic or Indo-Aryan term assigned to a Slavic tribe; the oldest preserved record of the Croatian ethnonym *xъrvatъ is of variable stem, attested in the Baška tablet in style zvъnъmirъ kralъ xrъvatъskъ. The first attestation of the Latin term is attributed to a charter of Duke Trpimir from the year 852; the original is lost, just a 1568 copy is preserved, leading to doubts over the authenticity of the claim. The oldest preserved stone inscription is the 9th-century Branimir Inscription found near Benkovac, where Duke Branimir is styled Dux Cruatorvm; the inscription is not believed to be dated but is to be from during the period of 879–892, during Branimir's rule.
The area known as Croatia today was inhabited throughout the prehistoric period. Fossils of Neanderthals dating to the middle Palaeolithic period have been unearthed in northern Croatia, with the most famous and the best presented site in Krapina. Remnants of several Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures were found in all regions of the country; the largest proportion of the sites is in the river valleys of northern Croatia, the most significant cultures whose presence was discovered include Baden, Starčevo, Vučedol cultures. The Iron Age left traces of the Celtic La Tène culture. Much the region was settled by Illyrians and Liburnians, while the first Greek colonies were established on the islands of Hvar, Korčula, Vis. In 9 AD the territory of today's Croatia became part of the Roman Empire. Emperor Diocletian had a large palace built in Split to which he retired after his abdication in AD 305. During the 5th century, the last de jure Western emperor last Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos ruled his small realm from the palace after fleeing Italy to go into exile in 475.
The period ends with Avar and Croat invasions in the first half of the 7th century and destruction of all Roman towns. Roman survivors retreated to more favourable sites on the coast and mountains; the city of Dubrovnik was founded by such survivors from Epidaurum. The ethnogenesis of Croats is uncertain an
The Netherlands is a country located in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian. The six largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Tilburg. Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General and Supreme Court; the Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, the largest in any country outside Asia. The country is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD and WTO, as well as a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union.
It hosts several intergovernmental organisations and international courts, many of which are centered in The Hague, dubbed'the world's legal capital'. Netherlands means'lower countries' in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre above sea level, nearly 17% falling below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as polders, are the result of land reclamation that began in the 16th century. With a population of 17.30 million people, all living within a total area of 41,500 square kilometres —of which the land area is 33,700 square kilometres —the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, intensive agriculture; the Netherlands was the third country in the world to have representative government, it has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848.
The country has a tradition of pillarisation and a long record of social tolerance, having legalised abortion and human euthanasia, along with maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870, allowed women's suffrage in 1917, became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001, its mixed-market advanced economy had the thirteenth-highest per capita income globally. The Netherlands ranks among the highest in international indexes of press freedom, economic freedom, human development, quality of life, as well as happiness; the Netherlands' turbulent history and shifts of power resulted in exceptionally many and varying names in different languages. There is diversity within languages; this holds for English, where Dutch is the adjective form and the misnomer Holland a synonym for the country "Netherlands". Dutch comes from Theodiscus and in the past centuries, the hub of Dutch culture is found in its most populous region, home to the capital city of Amsterdam.
Referring to the Netherlands as Holland in the English language is similar to calling the United Kingdom "Britain" by people outside the UK. The term is so pervasive among potential investors and tourists, that the Dutch government's international websites for tourism and trade are "holland.com" and "hollandtradeandinvest.com". The region of Holland consists of North and South Holland, two of the nation's twelve provinces a single province, earlier still, the County of Holland, a remnant of the dissolved Frisian Kingdom. Following the decline of the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Flanders, Holland became the most economically and politically important county in the Low Countries region; the emphasis on Holland during the formation of the Dutch Republic, the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Dutch Wars in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, made Holland serve as a pars pro toto for the entire country, now considered either incorrect, informal, or, depending on context, opprobrious. Nonetheless, Holland is used in reference to the Netherlands national football team.
The region called the Low Countries and the Country of the Netherlands. Place names with Neder, Nieder and Nedre and Bas or Inferior are in use in places all over Europe, they are sometimes used in a deictic relation to a higher ground that consecutively is indicated as Upper, Oben, Superior or Haut. In the case of the Low Countries / Netherlands the geographical location of the lower region has been more or less downstream and near the sea; the geographical location of the upper region, changed tremendously over time, depending on the location of the economic and military power governing the Low Countries area. The Romans made a distinction between the Roman provinces of downstream Germania Inferior and upstream Germania Superior; the designation'Low' to refer to the region returns again in the 10th century Duchy of Lower Lorraine, that covered much of the Low Countries. But this time the corresponding Upper region is Upper Lorraine, in nowadays Northern France; the Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled the Low Countries in the 15th century, used the term les pays de par deçà for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà for their original