The French Republic or France (French: République française or France) is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in western Europe, and which is further made up of a collection of overseas islands and territories located in other continents.
France is a democracy organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is a developed nation whose modern economy is the fifth-largest in the world in 2003. Its main values are the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
France is a founding member of the European Union, and its largest member state with respect to land area. France is also a founding member of NATO and the UN, and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is one of only seven acknowledged nuclear powers on the planet.
Main article: History of France
The borders of modern France closely match those of the ancient territory of Gaul, inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. Gaul was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC, and the Gauls eventually adopted Romance speech and culture. Christianity also took root in the second and third centuries AD. Gaul's eastern frontiers along the Rhine were overrun by Germanic tribes in the fourth century AD, principally the Franks, from which the ancient name of "Francie" derived, modern name "France" derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris (see now Île-de-France).
Although the French monarchy is often dated to the 5th century, France's continuous existence as a separate entity begins with the 9th-century division of Charlemagne's 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.
Charlemagne's descendants ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, starting with the Capetian dynasty, ruled France until 1792, when the French Revolution established a Republic, in a period of increasingly radical change that began in 1789.
Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the republic in 1799, making himself First Consul. His armies engaged in several wars across Europe, conquered many countries and established new kingdoms with Napoleon's family members at the helm. Following his defeat in 1815, monarchial rule was restored to France, which was then legislatively abolished and followed by a Second Republic. The second republic ended when the late Emperor's nephew, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President and proclaimed a Second Empire. Less ambitious than his uncle, the second Napoleon was also ultimately unseated, and republican rule returned for a third time.
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 more parliamentary regimes.
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 political, defence and security apparatus.
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 (originally 7-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. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the cabinet, and thus the majority in the Assembly determines the choice of government. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 6-year terms, and one half of the Senate is renewed every 3 years (starting 2007 (http://www.senat.fr/role/senate.html)). The Senate's legislative powers are limited; the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses, except for constitutional laws (amendements to the constitution & "lois organiques"). The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.
French politics, for the past 30 years, have been characterised by the opposition of two political groups: one left-wing, centered around the French Socialist Party, and one right-wing, centered around the RPR, then its successor the UMP. The Front National far-right party, advocating tougher law-and-order and immigration policies, has made inroads since the early 1980s and seems to remain stable at around 16% of the votes.
France has 26 regions (French: région), which are further subdivided into 100 départements. The departments are numbered (mainly alphabetically) and this number is used, for instance, in postal codes and vehicle number plates.
The departments are further subdivided into 342 arrondissements.
The overseas departments are former colonies outside France that now enjoy a status similar to European or metropolitan France. They are 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.
The overseas territories and countries form part of the French Republic, but do not form part of the Republic's European territory or the EU fiscal area. They continue to use the French Pacific Franc as their currency, which was not replaced by the euro like the French franc was in 2002. The French Pacific Franc's value is, however, now tied to that of the euro.
The territorial collectivities have an intermediate status between overseas department and overseas territory.
France also maintains control over a number of other small islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, including Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, Tromelin Island. See Islands controlled by France in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Main article: Geography of France While the main territory of France (la métropole) is located in Western Europe, France is also constituted from territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the western and southern Indian Ocean, the northern and southern Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica (sovereignty claims in Antarctica are not recognised by most countries, see Antarctic Treaty).
Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Sea, and from the Rhine River to the Atlantic Ocean; it is bordered by the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. The French Republic also shares land borders overseas with Brazil, Suriname, and the Netherlands.
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.
Maritime territory (EEZ)
Due to its numerous overseas departments and territories scattered on all oceans of the planet, France possesses the second-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km² (4,260,000 sq. miles), just behind the EEZ of the United States (11,351,000 km² / 4,383,000 sq. miles), but ahead of the EEZ of Australia (8,232,000 km² / 3,178,000 sq. miles). According to a different calculation cited by the Pew Research Center, the EEZ of France would be 10,084,201 km² (3,893,532 sq. miles), behind the United States (12,174,629 km² / 4,700,651 sq. miles), but ahead of Australia (8,980,568 km² / 3,467,416 sq. miles) and Russia (7,566,673 km² / 2,921,508 sq. miles).
The EEZ of France covers approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, whereas the land area of the French Republic is only 0.45% of the total land area of the Earth.
Main article: Economy of France
The economy of France, a highly diversified market economy with now only a handful of state-owned companies, is among the most developed ones, with large input of high technologies. It ranked as the fifth-largest in the world in 2003, behind the United States, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
According to the WTO, in 2003 France was the fifth-largest exporter in merchandise trade in the world (behind the United States, Germany, Japan, and China, but ahead of the United Kingdom), and the fourth-largest importer (behind the United States, Germany, and China, but ahead of the United Kingdom and of Japan).
According to the OECD in 2003 France hosts the largest percentage of foreigner international investments ahead United States and Belgium and is also so far the most energy independent Western country thanks to its nuclear energy production apparatus that makes France also the minor producer of carbon dioxide among the seven most industrialised countries in the world. Accordingly, the standards of living in France are very high.
France's economy combines extensive private enterprise with substantial, but declining, government intervention (see dirigisme). Large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer in Western Europe and, even after the loss of Algeria in the 1960s, the French economy remains one of the most important and influential economies in the world. France also has a leading aerospace industry and is the only European power to have its own national space centre.
With over 77 million tourists a year, far ahead Spain (51.7 million) and United States (41.9 million) France is ranked as the major tourist destination in the world, featuring cities of high cultural interest (Paris being the foremost), beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts and rural regions that many enjoy for their calm.
The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, 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, Air France, as well as the insurance, banking, and defence industries.
Since the end of WWII the government made efforts to integrate more and more with Germany, both economically and politically. Today the two countries form what is often referred to as the "core" countries in favour of greater integration of the European Union.
See also: List of French companies
See also main article: Foreign relations of France.
France's founding membership in the European Union largely defines France's current foreign policy. The French Republic is furthermore a member of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and of the Indian Ocean Commission (InOC), and an associate member of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). France is also a leading member or the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) which gathers 51 fully or partly French-speaking countries.
Main article: Demographics of France
The official language is French, with several regional languages (including Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch (Flemish), Alsatian, Occitan and Oïl languages), but the French government and school system discouraged the use of any of 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.
Starting with the 19th century, the historical evolution of the population in France has been extremely atypical in the Western World. Unlike the rest of Europe, France did not experience a strong population growth in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Conversely, it experienced a much stronger growth in the second half of the 20th century than the rest of Europe or indeed its own growth in the previous centuries.
The principal cities by population include:
Following from the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France guarantees freedom of religion as a constitutional right. A 1905 law instituted the separation of Church and State and prohibited the government from recognising, salarying or subsidising any religion. In the preceding situation, established 1801-1808 of the Concordat, the State used to support the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Calvinist Church and the Jewish religion and provided for public religious educations in those religions (for historical reasons, this situation is still current in Alsace-Moselle).
The French government does not keep statistics as to religion. However some unofficial statistic exist from CIA and poll:
The French maintain a strong gap between civilian life and religion. Religion is considered as private as possible, communautarism is not socially accepted. French people in general are opposed to clerical power and its influence in policy. Islamic fundamentalism is considered as a real threat for the cohesion of the French society. This echoes earlier quarrels with respect to the influence of the Catholic church in French society (clericalism vs laïcité) and the influence of the Pope in French public affairs (gallicanism vs ultramontanism).
Main article: Culture of France
Description of the flag: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red; known as the drapeau tricolore (Tricolor Flag); the design and colors are similar to a number of other flags, including those of Belgium, Chad, Ireland, Côte d'Ivoire, and Luxembourg; the official flag for all French dependent areas
France's motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" was first used as the rebels' motto during the French Revolution.
The national holiday is the Fête Nationale (National Day), celebrating the Fête de la Fédération, July 14 1790 and not the taking of the Bastille (July 14 1789) as is often mistakenly believed, even by a majority of the French, and is the reason why the holiday is referred to as Bastille Day in English.