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Low Countries, also called Benelux countries, coastal region of northwestern Europe, consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. These are together known as the Benelux countries, from the initial letters of their names. The Low Countries are bordered by Germany to the east and France to the south. In 1947 the three nations formed the Benelux Customs Union, which broadened over the years into what a 1960 treaty confirmed as the Benelux Economic Union.
Map of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, with insets of Amsterdam and Brussels (c. 1900), from the 10th edition of Encyclopædia mmsanotherstage2019.com.
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The Low Countries are so called because much of their land along the North Sea coast and for some distance inland is either below sea level or just slightly above it. More than a quarter of the total land area of the Netherlands is below sea level, for instance. Natural sand dunes and a system of man-made sea walls and dikes protect the polders (artificially drained flat country largely below sea level) from flooding. The Zuidplaspolder northeast of Rotterdam is the lowest point in the Low Countries and lies 22 feet (6.76 metres) below sea level. The principal rivers of the Low Countries include the Schelde, Meuse (Maas), and branches of the lower Rhine. An extensive network of shipping canals and waterways links the major rivers. More than 3,000 square miles (8,000 square km) of fertile farmland have been reclaimed from the deltas of the Schelde, Meuse, and Rhine rivers and from the Zuiderzee, which was formerly a shallow arm of the North Sea cutting deep into the northwestern coast of the Netherlands.