France and Netherlands


Political relations and visits

Bilateral contact between France and the Netherlands is frequent with numerous bilateral consultations and interministerial contacts.

The visit by the President of the French Republic to the Netherlands on 20 January 2014, the first presidential visit in 14 years, which helped bolster our cooperation. A State visit by the royal couple was held on 10 and 11 March 2016 and helped to promote our economic, cultural and political ties. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Jean-Marc Ayrault, visited the Netherlands on 21 November 2016 where he met with his counterpart Bert Koenders during a Franco-Dutch conference on “European Integration: Unity in efficiency”. Mark Rutte met the President of the French Republic twice in Paris on 16 June and 31 August 2017. The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also met his Dutch counterpart, Mr Halbe Zijlstra on 6 November in Paris.

Economic relations

Economic relations are strong, as shown by the overall trade volume which reached €39.2 billion in 2016 making the Netherlands France’s eighth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade, up year-on-year since 2010, remains substantially in deficit for France (-€7.1 billion in 2016; France’s fifth-largest trade deficit). This has resulted mainly from the fall in French exports to the Netherlands (down 0.6% since 2014) due to the lack of large contacts and the fall in internal demand from the Netherlands. The agri-food industry, which accounts for a quarter of our trade, has the highest trade deficit of any industry.

As regards investment, France is the third-largest country for FDI in the Netherlands and the Netherlands is the second-largest stock investor in France. Reciprocal investment is especially apparent in the areas of transport and energy, including the Air-France-KLM merger in 2004, the partnership between Schiphol and Paris airports; the acquisition by Transdev of the public transport company Connexion in 2007; the acquisition by Total of Goal Petroleum and the purchase of the assets of the Dutch natural gas and oil company NAM by GDF SUEZ. French companies have thus formed fruitful synergies with their Dutch partners which sometimes give rise to world leaders in their fields of activity (Air France-KLM, Danone-Numico).

With 1,350 companies employing over 129,800 people, France has significant presence in the Netherlands (total turnover of €50.1 billion), particularly in the transport, energy and agri-food industries. On the other hand, with over 2,400 businesses in France, accounting for more than 260,000 jobs, and with a total turnover of more than €51 billion, the Dutch presence in France is also significant.

The Franco-Dutch economic year, launched during the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in Utrecht on 3 July 2015 in the presence of the French Minister of the Economy and Finance, Emmanuel Macron, helped bolster our economic relations and give momentum to innovation, investments and reciprocal trade. The event was drawn to a close on 7-8 December 2016 in Paris in the presence of Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

These relations have developed under a 1946 bilateral agreement. Bilateral scientific cooperation is strong and diversified, and mainly takes place under the European Research Area; France is the Netherlands’ fourth-largest scientific partner. Academic cooperation is organized around the French-Dutch Network for Higher Education and Research (RFN) located, for the French side, at the University of Lille III. Most French research bodies (CNRS, INRA, IFREMER, INSERM, ANVAR) have signed agreements with their Dutch counterparts. Our activities, which fit into Community action, rely on the French-Dutch working group on science and technology, the RFN and the Hubert Curien Van Gogh Programme launched in 1997 promoting researcher mobility. The Descartes-Huygens Prize has been awarded yearly since 1995 to a Dutch and a French researcher, and the Descartes excellence scholarship programme, set up in 2011, makes it possible to award nine or ten scholarships of €9000 per year to finance studies of students at master’s and doctorate level.

French has also retained its third language status and is still widely taught (18% of students in the final year of secondary education and 43% of pre-university science students take French as a baccalaureate subject). Four universities have schools of French language and literature. A language assistant programme has been created. The large network of 33 Alliance Française teaching centres teach French to more than 8000 students a year.

Cultural cooperation is based on Dutch operators (festivals, museums) to propose French creations to the public, including in cinema, architecture and sculpture. This cooperation is very often maintained directly between large French and Dutch institutions including the Rijksmuseum, Louvre, musée van Gogh, Concertgebouw, Opéra and more.

For more information, please consult the website of the Institut Français in the Netherlands

Other cooperation

Cross-border cooperation also takes place on the Caribbean island of St Maarten/St Martin, which has been divided between France and the Netherlands since the 1648 Treaty of Concordia which introduced free movement between both parts of the island, a unique example of European territorial cooperation. Cooperation between the two parts of the island is essential particularly as regards policing and the fight against irregular immigration. An agreement on the demarcation of the maritime border was negotiated on 26 and 27 March 2015 and signed on 6 April 2016.

Updated: 13 December 2017

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