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.
|National motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité|
(French, Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood)
|Prime Minister||Jean-Pierre Raffarin|
- % water
|Ranked 47th |
547,030 km² ¹
- Total (2000)
|Currency||Euro², French euro coins|
|Time zone||UTC +1 (CET[?])|
|National anthem||La Marseillaise|
|(1) Data for European (metropolitan) France|
(2) Prior to 1999: French franc
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|Date||English Name||Local Name||Remarks|
|January 1||New Year's Day||Jour de l'An|
|-||Easter||Pâques||Sunday, date varies|
|-||Easter Monday||Lundi de Pâques||Monday, date varies|
|May 1||Labour Day||Fête du Travail|
|May 8||Victory Day 1945||Victoire 1945|
|-||Ascension Day||Ascension||Thursday, date varies|
|-||Pentecost||Pentecôte||Seventh Sunday after Easter|
|July 14||Bastille Day||Fête Nationale||National Day|
|November 1||All Saints Day||Toussaint|
|November 11||Veterans Day||Armistice 1918|
|December 25||Christmas Day||Noël|
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