Last updated in November 2017
The two countries enjoy close, wide-ranging and amicable relations at the level of government and civil society. There are intensive contacts between the two countries’ members of government and parliament at national, regional and local level. The second German-Netherlands intergovernmental consultations were held in Eindhoven on 21 April 2016. They focused on innovation and the digital economy. There is also trustful cooperation in the border region. Germany is one of the Netherlands’ closest political and economic partners. The two countries also cooperate closely within the European Union and cooperation is likely to become closer and more important following Brexit.
The German-Netherlands Forum has been held every two years since 1996. It brings together civil society representatives from both countries as well as representatives of the respective political, economic and cultural sectors to discuss issues of common interest, thus fostering mutual understanding in the political and economic spheres as well as in civil society. The 14th meeting of the German-Netherlands Forum, which will focus on the issue of migration and integration, was held on 17 and 18 January 2017 in Berlin.
Below the intergovernmental level, an important role is played by cross-border cooperation, especially through the five Euroregions. These are voluntary associations of public-law bodies in the German-Netherlands border region, with regional authorities – and in some cases chambers of commerce – playing a particularly important role in cross-border cooperation. An Internet portal is designed to improve information for cross-border commuters.
In addition to cross-border cooperation in the economic sphere, there are also agreements between the two countries providing for mutual assistance in the case of cross-border disasters (e.g. floods) through the deployment of military forces.
The Netherlands is Germany’s fourth most important trading partner after the United States, France and the United Kingdom. According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), bilateral trade (imports and exports) was worth approximately EUR 162.7 billion in 2016.
Of key importance to Germany is the port of Rotterdam, which sells itself as “Germany’s largest port”. The port of Rotterdam handles more goods for Germany than all German ports combined.
According to experts, economic relations between Germany and the Netherlands are more intensive than between any other two countries worldwide, apart from those between the United States and Canada. A major factor here is direct investment, which is also frequently carried out by foreign company subsidiaries based in the Netherlands.
Tourism is another element in economic relations. In 2016, Germany was once again the top travel destination for Dutch tourists.
In the education and cultural sectors, Germany and the Netherlands enjoy very close and high-level relations in all areas (art, music, theatre, dance, literature, film, etc.).
There is close cooperation between universities, schools and vocational training centres on both sides. This includes mutual exchanges of scientists and academics, teachers, university and school students and trainees as well as cooperation between museums, foundations and other cultural institutions. There are currently some 24,000 Germans studying in the Netherlands. Both countries promote their neighbour’s language, especially in the border region. Support is also given to school partnerships, youth and student exchange programmes and cooperation in vocational training. The Euregio bodies make an important contribution here.
There are some 700 cooperation agreements between universities (especially at institute and department level) and non-academic research institutions (Max Planck Institutes, Helmholtz Research Centres, Fraunhofer Institutes and academies).
For the most part, the cultural institutions and organisers of cultural events in the two countries maintain direct contacts. Three German-Netherlands cultural foundations (Deutsche Bibliothek Den Haag, Genootschap Nederland-Duitsland and Stichting Cultuur en Communicatie) are active in fostering bilateral cultural relations through literary readings, music events and lectures, discussion evenings and film screenings.
In October 2016, the Netherlands and Flanders were the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In March 2016, Germany was the theme of the 65th Dutch National Book Week.