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France

The French Republic, or France, is a country located in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. It is a founding member of the European Union.

République Française
France has no national coat of arms
(In Detail)

National motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité
(French, Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood)
Official languageFrench
CapitalParis
PresidentJacques Chirac
Prime MinisterJean-Pierre Raffarin
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 47th
547,030 km² ¹
0.26%
Population
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 21st
59,551,227 ¹
109/km²
CurrencyEuro², French euro coins
Time zoneUTC +1 (CET[?])
National anthemLa Marseillaise
Internet TLD.FR
Calling Code33
(1) Data for European (metropolitan) France
(2) Prior to 1999: French franc

Table of contents

History Main article: History of France

The roots of France as a separate entity started with Charlemagne's dividing his Frankish empire into an eastern and a western part. The eastern part can be regarded the beginnings of what is now Germany, the western part that of France. A variety of descendants of Charlemagne ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, a duke, was crowned King of France. His descendants, the Capetian dynasty, ruled France until 1789, when the French overthrew their monarchy during the French Revolution.

Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy (known as the Fifth Republic) that has not succumbed to the instabilities experienced in earlier French parliamentary democracies. In recent years, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. Today, France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European defense and security apparatus. It is also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Politics Main article: Politics of France

The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by public referendum on September 28, 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to Parliament. Under the constitution, the president is elected directly for a 5-year term. Presidential arbitration assures regular functioning of the public powers and the continuity of the state. The president names the prime minister, presides over the cabinet, commands the armed forces, and concludes treaties.

The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) is the principal legislative body. Its deputies are directly elected to 5-year terms, and all seats are voted on in each election. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 9-year terms, and one-third of the Senate is renewed every 3 years. The Senate's legislative powers are limited; the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.

Regions & Departments Main articles: Département, List of regions in France

France has 26 regions (French: région), which are further subdivided into 100 départements. The departments are numbered (mainly alphabetically) and this number is used in e.g. postal codes and vehicle number plates.

The overseas departments are former colonies outside France that now enjoy a status similar to European or metropolitan France. They can be considered to be a part of France (and the EU), rather than dependent territories and each of them is a region at the same time. Beyond these there are also three "overseas territories" (French: territoires d'outre-mer, or TOM), French Polynesia (987), Wallis and Futuna (986) and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories, that do not have this status. Furthermore there are three separate overseas collectivities: New Caledonia - which used to be a TOM (988), Saint Pierre and Miquelon (975) and Mayotte (976). Finally, France maintains control over a number of small islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

Geography Main article: Geography of France

France possesses a large variety of landscapes, ranging from coastal plains in the north and west, where France borders the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, to the mountain ranges in the south (the Pyrenees) and the southeast (the Alps), of which the latter contains the highest point of Europe, the Mont Blanc at 4810 m. In between are found other elevated regions such as the Massif Central[?] or the Vosges mountains and extensive river basins such as those of the Loire River, the Rhone River, the Garonne and Seine.

Economy Main article: Economy of France

France's economy combines modern capitalistic methods with extensive, but declining, government intervention. The government retains considerable influence over key segments of each sector, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunication firms. It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly selling off holdings in France Telecom, in Air France, and in the insurance, banking, and defense industries. Meanwhile, large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer in Western Europe. France joined 11 other EU members to launch the euro on January 1, 1999, with euro coins and banknotes completely replacing the French franc in early 2002.

See also: List of French companies

Demographics Main article: Demographics of France

The official language is French, with several local languages (Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch (Flemish), German (Alsatian), Occitan), but the French government and school system had discouraged the use of any them until recently. The regional languages are now taught at some schools, though French remains the only official language in use by the government, local or national.

Culture Main article: Culture of France

Holidays
Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1New Year's DayJour de l'An 
-EasterPâquesSunday, date varies
-Easter MondayLundi de PâquesMonday, date varies
May 1Labour DayFête du Travail 
May 8Victory Day 1945Victoire 1945 
-Ascension DayAscensionThursday, date varies
-PentecostPentecôteSeventh Sunday after Easter
July 14Bastille DayFête NationaleNational Day
August 15Assumption[?]Assomption 
November 1All Saints DayToussaint 
November 11Veterans DayArmistice 1918 
December 25Christmas DayNoël 

Miscellaneous topics

The capital and most populous city, Paris, is home to the Eiffel Tower, a tower of girdered steel constructed in 1889.

The Palace of Versailles is the number one tourist destination in France followed by the great châteaux of the Loire Valley.

Cities and major towns or those of historical significance include:

Abbeville, Ajaccio, Albertville, Albi, Amiens, Angers, Angouleme, Aurillac[?], Bastia, Besancon, Bordeaux, Belfort[?], Brest, Brive[?], Caen, Cahors[?], Calais, Cannes, Carcassonne, Chamonix, Charleville-Mezieres[?], Chatellerault[?], Chinon, Clermont-Ferrand, Colmar, Deauville[?], Dieppe, Digne-les-Bains[?], Dijon, Dole[?], Domremy, Dreux[?], Dunkerque, Evreux[?], Grenoble, La Baule[?], La Rochelle, Le Havre, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Mende[?], Metz, Mont-de-Marsan[?], Montauban, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice, Nimes, Orleans, Paris, Pau, Perigueux[?], Perpignan, Poitiers, Quimper[?], Reims, Rennes, Rodez[?], Roubaix[?], Saint-Gaudens[?], Saint-Etienne[?], Saint-Nazaire[?], Saint-Tropez[?], Saumur, Sete[?], Soissons, Strasbourg, Tarbes[?], Toulon, Toulouse, Tours, Tourcoing[?], Valence, Vichy

International rankings

External links


European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia


Countries of the world  |  Europe



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