The Netherlands (in Dutch: Nederland) is a constitutional monarchy in Western Europe with some 17 million inhabitants. The country is sometimes referred to as Holland, although Holland is only a region within the Netherlands, just like Zeeland, Friesland, Brabant, etc. Since the independence of the Netherlands in 1648, Holland has been the cultural, economic and political center of the Netherlands. The three largest Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague are also located in Holland. For this reason, people sometimes use the word Holland as pars pro toto for the Netherlands, similar as occurs with England and the United Kingdom. Together with present-day Belgium, Luxembourg and the north of France, the Netherlands once formed a region in Europe that was called the Low Countries (in Dutch: De Lage Landen).