443 Dutch municipalities in 2007

Last year, 25 municipalities were abolished and 10 new ones created. The number of municipalities on 1 January 2007 stands at 443. The Netherlands is the only country in Europe to reduce its number of municipalities on an annual basis.

Most significant changes in Limburg

The recent redivisions were largely confined to the province of Limburg, where eleven municipalities were abolished and four new ones created. In the provinces of North and South Holland, the number of municipalities was reduced by three and five respectively. 

Newly created municipalities in Limburg, 1 January 2007

Newly created municipalities in Limburg, 1 January 2007

Number of municipalities more than halved

Over the past forty years, the number of Dutch municipalities was very gradually reduced by nearly 500 to the current number of 443. The Netherlands varies considerably from other European countries in this respect.

Denmark recently implemented a large-scale redivision project. On 1 January 2007, the number of Danish municipalities was reduced drastically from 271 to 98. In 1977, Belgium reduced the number of municipalities by three-quarters to 589 in one fell swoop. This number still stands.
The number of German municipalities was reduced by 3 thousand to 13 thousand over the past 25 years. It mainly concerned redivisions in the former German Democratic Republic.

Number of municipalities in the Netherlands and Belgium

Number of municipalities in the Netherlands and Belgium

Stable situation in France

With 37 thousand, France has the largest number of municipalities. Approximately 90 percent of the current number of French municipalities still have the same boundaries as in 1793.

Only five Dutch municipalities unaffected by redivision process

In the Netherlands, only five municipalities, i.e. Beesel, Kessel, Mook en Middelaar, Venray and Winschoten, were not changed in the course of the past two centuries. 

Redivision process likely to continue

The municipal redivision process in the Netherlands is likely to continue and the number of municipalities will be reduced further. The Ministry of the Interior recently suggested that all municipalities with fewer than 20,000 residents should be subject to one single large-scale redivision procedure. At the same time, plans to add three new municipalities, viz. Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are in an advanced stage.

Duncan Beeckman