The Cook Islands (English: Cook Islands, Rarotongan: Kuki ’Āirani) make up an archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and New Zealand. They have a parliamentary-democratic system of government in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen small islands have a combined area of 236 km², but the Exclusive Economic Zone occupies more than 1,800,000 square kilometers of ocean.
The population is concentrated on the island of Rarotonga (14,153 inhabitants in 2006), where the international airport is located. There are also many Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, particularly on the North Island. In the 2006 census there were 58,008 people identified as being of Cook Islands Māori descent.
With over 90,000 visitors a year in 2006, tourism is the islands' main source of income, ahead of banking, pearling, and exports of seafood and exotic fruits.
Defense and foreign representation are the responsibility of New Zealand, which must also consult the Cook Islands. Even so, in recent years the Cook Islands have been adopting a growing independence in regard to the management of Foreign Affairs.  The citizens of the Cook Islands have New Zealand citizenship and also the nationality of the Islands. Cook.
The capital is Avarua. A popular form of art on the islands is tivaevae, hand-made quilts.
The Cook Islands were first settled in the 6th century AD by Polynesian peoples who migrated from near Tahiti to the southeast.
The first European contacts on the island date back to 1595, when the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neyra sighted Pukapuka Island and named it San Bernardo. In 1606 the explorer Pedro Fernández de Quirós sighted Rakahanga, who called it Beautiful People. In 1764 the British sighted Pukapuka and called it Danger Island but did not settle.
Between 1773 and 1779, Captain James Cook claimed for the British crown the archipelago that now bears his name, between the islands of Tahiti and Tonga. In 1888, the islands acquired the status of a protectorate, becoming annexed in 1901 by New Zealand. On August 4, 1965, New Zealand granted the Cook Islands autonomy. In 1985, the Rarotonga Treaty was signed, declaring the South Pacific a non-nuclear zone.
It is a dependency with a parliamentary representative democracy, where the Chief Minister is the Head of State. The islands are self-governed in free association with New Zealand and are fully responsible for internal affairs. New Zealand retains some external affairs responsibilities, in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent years, the Cook Islands have been more in control of their foreign affairs and in 2005 had diplomatic relations with 18 countries. The executive power is exerced by the government. Legislative power is vested in the government and the Legislative Council. The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative branches.
In the executive power, the position of monarch is hereditary; his representative is appointed by the monarch. The New Zealand High Commissioner is chosen by the New Zealand government. The cabinet is chosen by the prime minister and is collectively responsible to Parliament.
The Legislative Council has 25 members, elected for a five-year term, with one seat per constituency. The current Constitution dates from August 5, 1965 (modified in May 1981). There are four political parties in the country: the Cook Islands Party, the Democratic Party, the One Cook Islands Movement and the Titikaveka Oire.
The defense of these islands is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with and at the request of the Cook Islands.