Amsterdam is home to the head office of Gazprom International. Staff in the Amsterdam office participate in the management of Gazprom projects all over the world. The Managing Director is in charge of the office. Amsterdam is also the location of Gazprom International Training B.V., the Gazprom International group's special training division. It was established in 2011 as an international training centre for the professional development of technical and non-technical employees in the oil and gas sector, as well as for the certification of the industry workers in accordance with the best global and Russian standards.
The Netherlands (Dutch – Nederland) is a state comprising a territory in Western European and the Antilles Islands of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius. The Western European territory is lapped by the North Sea (451 km of coastline). It shares borders with Germany and Belgium. The Netherlands and the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten which hold special status make up a state named the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Relations between its members are regulated by the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands which was passed in 1954.
The Netherlands are often referred to as Holland, which is not entirely accurate. South and North Holland are just two of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. Historically, these are the most developed provinces and in many languages Holland is the name used for the whole country. In Russian, this name became widespread after Peter I's visit to the Netherlands. To save time when talking about his visit he would often only speak about the part he had visited – Holland – without mentioning the actual name of the country.
The word "Netherlands" means "lower lands", as in the late Middle Ages the area in the lower reaches of the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt rivers, along the North Sea coast, was called the Lower Coastal Lands or simply, the Lower Lands (de Lage Landen bij de zee, de Nederlanden). However, this literal translation is actually incorrect as, historically, it was common to use this name for the territory more or less equivalent to all of today's Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - put together. The capital city, under the constitution, is Amsterdam, where the monarchs swear their oaths, but the government and parliament, as well as most foreign embassies, are located in the Hague. Other important cities: Rotterdam is the largest port in the country and the second largest port in the world; Utrecht is the centre of the railway network; and Eindhoven is the centre of electronics and high-tech industries. The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam make up the Randstad conurbation where approximately 7.5 million people live.
The oldest trace of human life found in the Netherlands is around 100,000 years old. Before the Romans arrived in the Netherlands the land was populated by Germanic and Celtic tribes who came there in around 600 B.C. After the Roman conquest, the southern part of what is now the Netherlands was a province of Belgica (from the Latin Gallia Belgica). In the Middle Ages the "lower lands" included counties and duchies which had been part of the Roman Empire and which were only merged into a single state under Habsburg rule in the 16th century. After the revolt against Spanish rule led by William II of Orange, considered the founder of the Netherlands, the country was pronounced independent in 1581.
In 1830 Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands, followed in 1890 by Luxembourg. The Netherlands was reformed into a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system in 1848 and has remained so to this day. After World War II, the colonies of Indonesia and Suriname received their independence. In 1957, the Netherlands was one of the founding countries of the European Union (then the European Economic Community).
The monarch is the official head of state but delegates power to the Council of Ministers (parliament) which holds executive power. Legislative power is held by the States General (bicameral parliament).
The Netherlands are divided into 12 provinces (the most recent one, Flevoland, was established in 1986 on land reclaimed from the sea). The provinces themselves are divided into municipalities. The Netherlands has a population of about 17 million and covers a territory of 41,500 square kilometres.
The inhabitants include two groups of native people – the Dutch and the Frisians – and a large immigrant population. Ethnic composition: Dutch – 80.7%, German – 2.4%, Indonesian – 2.4%, Turkish – 2.2%, Surinamese – 2.0%, Moroccan – 2.0%, Indian – 1.5%, Antillean and Aruban – 0.8%, other – 6.0%.
The state language of the Netherlands is Dutch. It is a Germanic language. Dutch differs from Flemish mainly in its vocabulary – it has Frisian and Saxon words and fewer borrowings from French. Over 22 million people speak Dutch in Europe alone. For historical reasons, Dutch is also widely spoken in Suriname and Indonesia. It is the basis of Afrikaans which is spoken in South Africa. The language of the Frisians in the Friesland province is also an official language. It has much in common with English and Scandinavian languages.
The main religions observed by the population of the Netherlands are: Protestant – 33%, Catholics – over 31%, Muslim – over 6.5%. The inhabitants of the Netherlands are the tallest in the world: the average height is 1.83 metres for men and 1.70 metres for women.
The Netherlands has a mild maritime climate with cool summers and moderate winters. The average temperature in July is 16–17°C, and in January it is around 2°C
Since Roman times the Dutch have been reclaiming land from the sea. The first polders were built back in the 18th century and since then significant coastal ground has been reclaimed. After severe flooding in 1953 when many coastal dams burst, a decision was made to cut off river estuaries from the sea and allow shipping to continue along the numerous channels.
The Netherlands has a modern, highly developed, post-industrial economy. Important sectors include machine engineering, electronics, petrochemistry, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding, ferrous metals, mining, textiles, furniture making and the pulp and paper industry. Wind farms have been installed along the sea coast. Diamond cutting is a well-known, if small, branch of the economy. The Netherlands is home to the head offices and production facilities of transatlantic and European companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever and Royal Philips Electronics. Its banking system is made up of such banks as ABN AMRO Bank, ING Groep N.V. and Rabobank.
In the mining sector, natural gas plays an important part. There are pipelines transporting it all around the country and abroad. Gas reserves are estimated at 1.7 trillion cubic metres (UN data for 2004).
Agriculture in the Netherlands is a highly intensive and important economic sector, although in 2005 it employed only around 1.0% of the population, accounting for no more than 1.6% of total GDP.