1 a republic in western Europe; the largest country wholly in Europe [syn: French Republic]
2 French writer of sophisticated novels and short stories (1844-1924) [syn: Anatole France, Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault]
- Rhymes: -ɑːns
- Afrikaans: Frankryk
- Albanian: Franca
- Arabic: (faránsa)
- Aragonese: Franzia
- Armenian: Ֆրանսիա (Fransia)
- Asturian: Francia
- Basque: Frantzia
- Bosnian: Francuska
- Breton: Frañs (state), Bro-C'hall (country)
- Bulgarian: Франция (Frántsija)
- Catalan: França
- Chinese: 法兰西
- Teochew: Huag8gog4
- Chinese Min Nan: Hoat-kok
- Cornish: Pow Frynk
- Corsican: Francia
- Croatian: Francuska
- Czech: Francie
- Danish: Frankrig
- Dutch: Frankrijk
- Esperanto: Francio, Francujo
- Estonian: Prantsusmaa
- Faroese: Frakland
- Finnish: Ranska
- French: France
- West Frisian: Frankryk
- Galician: Francia
- Georgian: საფრანგეთი (saphrangeti)
- German: Frankreich
- Greek: Γαλλία (Gallía)
- Gujarati: ફ્રાઁસ
- Haitian Creole: Frans
- Hebrew: צָרְפַת
- Hindi: फ़्राँस
- Hungarian: Franciaország
- Icelandic: Frakkland
- Ido: Francia
- Indonesian: Perancis, Prancis
- Interlingua: Francia
- Irish: An Fhrainc
- Italian: Francia
- Japanese: フランス, 仏蘭西 (Furánsu)
- Kannada: ಪ್ರಾಂಸ್
- Kashmiri: फ्रांस
- Korean: 프랑스 (Peurangseu)
- Latin: Gallia
- Latvian: Francija
- Limburgish: Frankriek
- Lithuanian: Prancūzija
- Livonian: Prantsūzmō
- Low Saxon: Frankriek
- Luxembourgish: Frankräich
- Macedonian: Франција (Frántsija)
- Malagasy: Frantsa
- Malay: Perancis
- Maldivian: Faranseysi Vilath
- Maltese: Franza
- Mongolian: Франц улс (Frants uls)
- Nauruan: France
- Norwegian: Frankrike (Franske Republikk, Republikken Frankrike)
- Novial: Fransia
- Occitan: França
- Old English: Francland
- Ossetic: Франц (Frants)
- Persian: (frânseh)
- Polish: Francja
- Portuguese: França
- Romanian: Franţa
- Romansh: Frantscha
- Russian: Франция (Frántsija)
- Sanskrit: फ्रांस
- Sardinian: Frantza
- Scots: Franse
- Scottish Gaelic: An Fhraing
- Sicilian: Francia
- Slovak: Francúzsko
- Slovene: Francija
- Sotho: France
- Spanish: Francia
- Swedish: Frankrike
- Tagalog: Pransya
- Tamil: பிரான்ஸ் (pirāns)
- Thai: (fàràngsèt)
- Tok Pisin: Pranis
- Turkish: Fransa
- Ukrainian: Франція (Frántsija)
- Urdu: (frâns)
- Vietnamese: Pháp
- Võro: Prantsusmaa
- Welsh: Ffrainc
- Yiddish: פֿראַנקרײַך (Frankraykh)
EtymologyFrom the Francs, a people.
this the country France ( or /frɑns/, French: [fʁɑ̃s]), officially the French Republic (, ), is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in Western Europe and that also comprises various overseas islands and territories located in other continents. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. French people often refer to Metropolitan France as L’Hexagone (The “Hexagon”) because of the geometric shape of its territory.
France is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. Due to its overseas departments, France also shares land borders with Brazil and Suriname (bordering French Guiana) , and the Netherlands Antilles (bordering Saint-Martin). France is also linked to the United Kingdom by the Channel Tunnel, which passes underneath the English Channel.
France is a unitary semi-presidential republic. Its main ideals are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. France was the world's foremost power from the latter half of the 17th century until the early 19th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, France built one of the largest colonial empires of the time, stretching across West Africa and Southeast Asia, prominently influencing the cultures and politics of the regions. France is a developed country, with the sixth (nominal GDP) or eighth (PPP) largest economy in the world. It is the most visited country in the world, receiving over 79 million foreign tourists annually (including business visitors, but excluding people staying less than 24 hours in France). France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the Francophonie, the G8, and the Latin Union. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; it is also an acknowledged nuclear power.
Origin and history of the namesee also List of country name etymologies The name “France” comes from Latin Francia, which literally means “land of the Franks” or “Frankland”. There are various theories as to the origin of the name of the Franks. One is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca.
Another proposed etymology is that in an ancient Germanic language, Frank means free as opposed to slave. This word still exists in French as franc, it is also used as the translation of “Frank” and to name the local money, until the use of the euro in the 2000s.
However, rather than the ethnic name of the Franks coming from the word frank, it is also possible that the word is derived from the ethnic name of the Franks, the connection being that only the Franks, as the conquering class, had the status of freemen. In German, France is still called Frankreich, which literally means “Realm of the Franks”. In order to distinguish from the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne, Modern France is called Frankreich, while the Frankish Realm is called Frankenreich.
The word “Frank” had been loosely used from the fall of Rome to the Middle Ages, yet from Hugh Capet's coronation as “King of the Franks” (“Rex Francorum”) it became used to strictly refer to the Kingdom of Francia, which would become France. The Capetian Kings were descended from the Robertines, who had produced two Frankish kings, and previously held the title of “Duke of the Franks” (“dux Francorum”). This Frankish duchy encompassed most of modern northern France but because the royal power was sapped by regional princes the term was then applied to the royal demesne as shorthand. It was finally the name adopted for the entire Kingdom as central power was affirmed over the entire kingdom.
GeographyWhile Metropolitan France is located in Western Europe, France also has a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica. These territories have varying forms of government ranging from overseas department to overseas collectivity.
Metropolitan France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi), having the largest area among European Union members and slightly larger than Spain. France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the south-east, the Massif Central in the south-central and Pyrenees in the south-west. At 4,807 metres (15,770 ft) above sea-level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. Metropolitan France also has extensive river systems such as the Loire, the Garonne, the Seine and the Rhône, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean sea at the Camargue, the lowest point in France (2 m / 6.5 ft below sea level).]] France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 674,843 square kilometres (260,558 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. However, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 square kilometres (4,260,000 sq mi), approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, just behind the United States (11,351,000 km² / 4,383,000 sq mi) and ahead of Australia (8,232,000 km² / 3,178,000 sq mi).
Metropolitan France is situated between 41° and 51° North, on the western edge of Europe, and thus lies within the northern temperate zone. The north and northwest have a temperate climate, while a combination of maritime influences, latitude and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France. In the south-east a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool to warm summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps and other mountainous regions is mainly alpine, with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snow cover lasting for up to six months.
Rome to revolutionThe borders of modern France are approximately the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was conquered for Rome by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC, and the Gauls eventually adopted Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved) and Roman culture. Christianity first appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and became so firmly established by the fourth and fifth centuries that St. Jerome wrote that Gaul was the only region “free from heresy”.
In the 4th century AD, Gaul’s eastern frontier along the Rhine was overrun by Germanic tribes, principally the Franks, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived. The modern name “France” derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. The Franks were the first tribe among the Germanic conquerors of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity rather than Arianism (their King Clovis did so in 498) ; thus France obtained the title “Eldest daughter of the Church” (La fille ainée de l’Église) , and the French would adopt this as justification for calling themselves “the Most Christian Kingdom of France”.
Existence as a separate entity began with the Treaty of Verdun (843) , with the division of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into East Francia, Middle Francia and Western Francia. Western Francia approximated the area occupied by modern France and was the precursor to modern France.
The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country through a series of wars and dynastic inheritance. The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV of France. At this time France possessed the largest population in Europe (see Demographics of France) and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became, and remained for some time, the common language of diplomacy in international affairs. Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
Monarchy to Republic
The monarchy ruled France until the French Revolution, in 1789. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed, along with thousands of other French citizens. After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799, making himself First Consul, and later Emperor of what is now known as the First Empire (1804–1814). In the course of several wars, his armies conquered most of continental Europe, with members of the Bonaparte family being appointed as monarchs of newly established kingdoms.
Following Napoleon's final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the French monarchy was re-established, but with new constitutional limitations. In 1830, a civil uprising established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848. The short-lived Second Republic ended in 1852 when Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte proclaimed the Second Empire. Louis-Napoléon was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.
France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century until the 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire was the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. At its peak, between 1919 and 1939, the second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 square kilometres (4,767,000 sq mi) of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 square kilometres (4,980,000 sq mi) in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world's land area.
Though ultimately a victor in World War I, France suffered enormous human and material losses that weakened it for decades to come. The 1930s were marked by a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government. At the start of World War II, France held a series of unsuccessful rescue campaigns in Norway, Belgium and The Netherlands from 1939 to 1940. Upon the May-June 1940 Nazi German blitzkrieg and its Fascist Italian support, France's political leadership disregarded Churchill's proposal of a Franco-British Union and signed the Second Armistice at Compiègne on 22 June 1940. The Germans established a puppet regime under Marshal Philippe Pétain known as Vichy France, which pursued a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The regime's opponents formed the Free French Forces outside of France and the French Resistance inside. France was liberated with the joint effort of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Free French Forces and the French resistance in 1944. Soon the Nouvelle Armée Française (“new French army”) was established with the massive help of US-built material and equipment, and pursued the fight alongside the Allies in various battles, including the campaign of Italy.
The Fourth Republic was established after World War II and struggled to maintain its economic and political status as a dominant nation state. France attempted to hold on to its colonial empire, but soon ran into trouble. The half-hearted 1946 attempt at regaining control of French Indochina resulted in the First Indochina War, which ended in French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Only months later, France faced a new, even harsher conflict in Algeria.
The debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria, then home to over one million European settlers, wracked the country and nearly led to civil war. In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which contained a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War and Franco-French civil war that resulted in the capital Algiers, was concluded with peace negotiations in 1962 that led to Algerian independence.
In recent decades, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of the evolving European Union, including the introduction of the euro in January 1999. France has been at the forefront of the European Union member states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to create a more unified and capable European Union political, defence, and security apparatus. The French electorate voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May 2005, but the successor Treaty of Lisbon was ratified by Parliament in February 2008.
GovernmentThe French Republic is a unitary semi-presidential republic with strong democratic traditions. The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by referendum on 28 September 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to parliament. The executive branch itself has two leaders: the President of the Republic, who is elected directly by universal adult suffrage for a 5-year term (formerly 7 years) and is the Head of State, and the Government, led by the president-appointed Prime Minister.
The French parliament is a bicameral legislature comprising a National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and a Senate. The National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies and are directly elected for 5-year terms. 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 (originally 9-year terms) , and one half of the seats are submitted to election every 3 years starting in September 2008. The Senate's legislative powers are limited; in the event of disagreement between the two chambers, the National Assembly has the final say, except for constitutional laws and lois organiques (laws that are directly provided for by the constitution) in some cases. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.
French politics are characterised by two politically opposed groupings: one left-wing, centred around the French Socialist Party, and the other right-wing, centred previously around the Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) and now its successor the Union for a Popular Movement. The executive branch is currently composed mostly of the UPM.
Conventions and notations
- France is the home of the International System of Units (the metric system). The Imperial System is almost completely ignored in France. Some pre-metric units are still used, essentially the livre (a unit of weight equal to half a kilogram) and the quintal (a unit of weight equal to 100 kilograms).
- In mathematics, France uses the infix notation like most countries. For large numbers the long scale is used. Thus, the French use the word billion for the number 1,000,000,000,000, which in countries using short scale is called a trillion. However, there exists a French word, milliard, for the number 1,000,000,000, which in countries using the short scale is called a billion. Thus, despite the use of the long scale, one billion is called un milliard (“one milliard”) in French, and not mille millions (“one thousand million”). It should also be noted that names of numbers above the milliard are rarely used. Thus, one trillion will most often be called mille milliards (“one thousand milliard”) in French, and rarely un billion.
- In the French numeral notation, the comma (,) is the Decimal separator, whereas the dot (.) is used between each group of three digits especially for big numbers. A space can also be used to separate each group of three digits especially for small numbers. Thus three thousand five hundred and ten may be written as 3 510 whereas fifteen million five hundred thousand and thirty-two may be written as 15.500.032. In finances, the currency symbol is used as a decimal separator or put after the number. For example €25 048,05 is written either 25 048€05 or 25 048,05 € (always with an extra space between the figure and the currency symbol).
- Cars are driven on the right.
- In computing, a bit is called a bit yet a byte is called an octet (from the Latin root octo, meaning “8”). SI prefixes are used.
- 24-hour clock time is used, with h being the separator between hours and minutes (for example 2.30 pm is 14h30).
- The all-numeric form for dates is in the order day-month-year, using a slash as the separator (example: 31/12/1992 or 31/12/92).
France uses a civil legal system; that is, law arises primarily from written statutes; judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it (though the amount of judge interpretation in certain areas makes it equivalent to case law). Basic principles of the rule of law were laid in the Napoleonic Code. In agreement with the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen law should only prohibit actions detrimental to society. As Guy Canivet, first president of the Court of Cassation, wrote about the management of prisons:
- Freedom is the rule, and its restriction is the exception; any restriction of Freedom must be provided for by Law and must follow the principles of necessity and proportionality.
French law is divided into two principal areas: private law and public law. Private law includes, in particular, civil law and criminal law. Public law includes, in particular, administrative law and constitutional law. However, in practical terms, French law comprises three principal areas of law: civil law; criminal law and administrative law.
France does not recognise religious law, nor does it recognise religious beliefs or morality as a motivation for the enactment of prohibitions. As a consequence, France has long had neither blasphemy laws nor sodomy laws (the latter being abolished in 1791). However “offences against public decency” (contraires aux bonnes mœurs) or breach of the peace (trouble à l'ordre public) have been used to repress public expressions of homosexuality or street prostitution.
Laws can only address the future and not the past (ex post facto laws are prohibited) ; and to be applicable, laws must be officially published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française.
Foreign relationsFrance is a member of the United Nations and serves as one of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto rights. It is also a member of the WTO, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) , the Indian Ocean Commission (COI). It is an associate member of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and a leading member of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF) of fifty-one fully or partly French-speaking countries. It hosts the headquarters of the OECD, UNESCO, Interpol, Alliance Base and the International Bureau for Weights and Measures. In 1953 France received a request from the United Nations to pick a coat of arms that would represent it internationally. Thus the French emblem was adopted and is currently used on passports.
French foreign policy has been largely shaped by membership of the European Union, of which it was a founding member. In the 1960s, France sought to exclude the British from the organization, seeking to build its own standing in continental Europe. Since the 1990s, France has developed close ties with reunified Germany to become the most influential driving force of the EU, but consequently rivaling the U.K. and limiting the influence of newly-inducted East European nations. France is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but under President de Gaulle, it excluded itself from the joint military command to avoid the supposed domination of its foreign and security policies by U.S. political and military influence. In the early 1990s, the country drew considerable criticism from other nations for its underground nuclear tests in French Polynesia. France vigorously opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, straining bilateral relations with the U.S. and the U.K. France retains strong political and economic influence in its former African colonies and has supplied economic aid and troops for peace-keeping missions in the Ivory Coast and Chad.
Militarysee also Military history of France
The French armed forces are divided into four branches:
Since the Algerian War, conscription was steadily reduced and was finally suspended in 2001 by Jacques Chirac. The total number of military personnel is approximately 359,000. France spends 2.6% of its GDP on defence, slightly more than the United Kingdom (2.4%) , and is the highest in the European Union where defence spending is generally less than 1.5% of GDP. Together they account for 40% of EU defence spending. About 10% of France's defence budget goes towards its force de frappe, or nuclear weapons. A significant part of French military equipment is made in France. Examples include the Rafale fighter, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Exocet missile, and the Leclerc tank. Some weaponry, like the E-2 Hawkeye or the E-3 Sentry was bought from the United States. Despite withdrawing from the Eurofighter project, France is actively investing in European joint projects such as the Eurocopter Tiger, multipurpose frigates, the UCAV demonstrator nEUROn and the Airbus A400M. France is a major arms seller as most of its arsenal's designs are available for the export market with the notable exception of nuclear powered devices. Some of the French designed equipments are specifically designed for exports like the Franco-Spanish Scorpène class submarines. Some French equipments have been largely modified to fit allied countries' requirements like the Formidable class frigates (based on the La Fayette class) or the Hashmat class submarines (based on the Agosta class submarines).
- Although it includes very competent anti-terrorist units such as the GIGN or the EPIGN the gendarmerie is a military police force which serves for the most part as a rural and general purpose police force. Since its creation the GIGN has taken part in roughly one thousand operations and freed over five-hundred hostages; the Air France Flight 8969's hijacking brought them to the world's attention.
- French intelligence can be divided into two major units: the DGSE (the external agency) and the DST (domestic agency). The latter being part of the police while the former is associated to the army. The DGSE is notorious for the Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, but it is also known for revealing the most extensive technological spy network uncovered in Europe and the United States to date through the mole Vladimir Vetrov.
- The French “Force de frappe” relies on a complete independence. The current French nuclear force consists of four submarines equipped with M45 ballistic missiles. The current Triomphant class is currently under deployment to replace the former Redoutable class. The M51 will replace the M45 in the future and expand the Triomphants firing range. Aside of the submarines the French dissuasion force uses the Mirage 2000N; it is a variant of the Mirage 2000 and thus is designed to deliver nuclear strikes. Other nuclear devices like the Plateau d'Albion's Intercontinental ballistic missiles and the short range Hadès missiles have been disarmed. With 350 nuclear heads stockpiled France is the world's third largest nuclear power.
- The Marine Nationale is regarded as one of the world's most powerful. The professional compendium flottes de combats, in its 2006 edition, ranked it world's 6th biggest navy after the American, Russian, Chinese, British and Japanese navies.. It is equipped with the world's only nuclear powered Aircraft Carrier, with the exception of the American navy. Recently Mistral class ships joined the Marine Nationale, the Mistral itself having taken part to operations in Lebanon. For the 2004 centennial of the Entente Cordiale President Chirac announced the Future French aircraft carrier would be jointly designed with Great Britain. The French navy is equipped with the La Fayette class frigates, early examples of stealth ships, and several ships are expected to be retired in the next few years and replaced by more modern ships, examples of future surface ships are the Forbin and the Aquitaine class frigates. The attack submarines are also part of the Force Océanique Stratégique although they do not carry the nuclear dissuasion, the current class is the Rubis Class and will be replaced in the future by the expected Suffren Class.
- The Armée de Terre employs 133,500 people, it is very famous for the Légion Etrangère (French Foreign Legion) though the French special forces aren't the Legion but the Dragons Parachutistes and the Marines Parachutistes. The French assault rifle is the FAMAS and future infantry combat system is the Félin. France uses both tracked and wheeled vehicles to a significant points, examples of wheeled vehicles would be the Caesar or the AMX 10 RC. Although its main battle tank is the Leclerc many older AMX 30 tanks are still operational. It uses the AMX 30 AuF1 for artillery. Finally it is getting equipied with Eurocopter Tigers helicopters.
- The Armée de l'Air is the oldest and first professional air force worldwide. It still today retains a significant capacity. It uses mainly two aircraft fighters: the older Mirage F1 and the more recent Mirage 2000. The later model exists in a ground attack version called the Mirage2000D. The modern Rafale is in deployment in both the French air force and navy.
TransportationThe railway network of France, which stretches 31,840 kilometres (19,784 mi) is the most extensive in Western Europe. It is operated by the SNCF, and high-speed trains include the Thalys, the Eurostar and TGV, which travels at 320 km/h (200 mph) in commercial use. The Eurostar, along with the Eurotunnel Shuttle, connects with the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel. Rail connections exist to all other neighbouring countries in Europe, except Andorra. Intra-urban connections are also well developed with both underground services and tramway services complementing bus services.
There is approximately 893,300 kilometres (555,070 mi) of serviceable roadway in France. The Paris region is enveloped with the most dense network of roads and highways that connect it with virtually all parts of the country. French roads also handle substantial international traffic, connecting with cities in neighboring Belgium, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. There is no annual registration fee or road tax; however, motorway usage is through tolls except in the vicinity of large communes. The new car market is dominated by domestic brands such as Renault (27% of cars sold in France in 2003), Peugeot (20.1%) and Citroën (13.5%). Over 70% of new cars sold in 2004 had diesel engines, far more than contained petrol or LPG engines. France possesses the world's tallest road bridge: the Millau Viaduct, and has built many important bridges such as the Pont de Normandie.
There are approximately 478 airports in France, including landing fields. The Charles de Gaulle International Airport located in the vicinity of Paris is the largest and busiest airport in the country, handling the vast majority of popular and commercial traffic of the country and connecting Paris with virtually all major cities across the world. Air France is the national carrier airline, although numerous private airline companies provide domestic and international travel services. There are ten major ports in France, the largest of which is in Marseille, which also is the largest bordering the Mediterranean Sea. 14,932 kilometres (9,278 mi) of waterways traverse France including the Canal du Midi which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean through the Garonne river.
Administrative divisionsFrance is divided into 26 administrative regions. 22 are in metropolitan France (21 are on the continental part of metropolitan France; one is the territorial collectivity of Corsica), and four are overseas regions. The regions are further subdivided into 100 departments which are numbered (mainly alphabetically). This number is used in postal codes and vehicle number plates amongst others. Four of these departments are found in the overseas regions and are simultaneously overseas regions and overseas departments and are an integral part of France (and the European Union) and thus enjoy a status similar to metropolitan departments. The 100 departments are subdivided into 341 arrondissements which are, in turn, subdivided into 4,032 cantons. These cantons are then divided into 36,680 communes, which are municipalities with an elected municipal council. There also exist 2,588 intercommunal entities grouping 33,414 of the 36,680 communes (i.e. 91.1% of all the communes). Three communes, Paris, Lyon and Marseille are also subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.
The regions, departments and communes are all known as territorial collectivities, meaning they possess local assemblies as well as an executive. Arrondissements and cantons are merely administrative divisions. However, this was not always the case. Until 1940, the arrondissements were also territorial collectivities with an elected assembly, but these were suspended by the Vichy regime and definitely abolished by the Fourth Republic in 1946. Historically, the cantons were also territorial collectivities with their elected assemblies.
In addition to the 26 regions and 100 departments, the French Republic also has six overseas collectivities, one sui generis collectivity (New Caledonia), and one overseas territory. Overseas collectivities and territories form part of the French Republic, but do not form part of the European Union or its fiscal area. The Pacific territories continue to use the Pacific franc whose value is linked to that of the euro. In contrast, the four overseas regions used the French franc and now use the euro.
France also maintains control over a number of small non-permanently inhabited islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean: Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, Tromelin Island.
Overseas regionsOverseas departments have the same political status as metropolitan departments.
EconomyFrance's economy combines extensive private enterprise (nearly 2.5 million companies registered) with substantial (though declining) government intervention (see dirigisme). The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunications firms. It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly selling off holdings in France Télécom, Air France, as well as the insurance, banking, and defence industries.
A member of the G8 group of leading industrialised countries, it is ranked as the fifth or sixth largest economy by nominal GDP depending on source. 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.
According to the OECD, in 2004 France was the world's fifth-largest exporter and the fourth-largest importer of manufactured goods. In 2003, France was the 2nd-largest recipient of foreign direct investment among OECD countries at $47 billion, ranking behind Luxembourg (where foreign direct investment was essentially monetary transfers to banks located in that country) but above the United States ($39.9 billion), the United Kingdom ($14.6 billion), Germany ($12.9 billion), or Japan ($6.3 billion). In the same year, French companies invested $57.3 billion outside of France, ranking France as the second most important outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the United States ($173.8 billion) , and ahead of the United Kingdom ($55.3 billion), Japan ($28.8 billion) and Germany ($2.6 billion).
In the 2005 edition of OECD in Figures, the OECD also noted that France leads the G7 countries in terms of productivity (measured as GDP per hour worked). In 2004, the GDP per hour worked in France was $47.7, ranking France above the United States ($46.3), Germany ($42.1), the United Kingdom ($39.6), or Japan ($32.5).
Despite figures showing a higher productivity per hour worked than in the US, France's GDP per capita is significantly lower than the US GDP per capita, being in fact comparable to the GDP per capita of the other European countries, which is on average 30% below the US level. The reason for this is that a much smaller percentage of the French population is working compared to the US, which lowers the GDP per capita of France, despite its higher productivity. In fact, France has one of the lowest percentages of its population aged 15-64 years at work among the OECD countries. In 2004, 68.8% of the French population aged 15-64 years was in employment, compared to 80.0% in Japan, 78.9% in the UK, 77.2% in the US, and 71.0% in Germany. This phenomenon is the result of almost thirty years of massive unemployment in France, which has led to three consequences reducing the size of the working population: about 9% of the active population is without a job; students delay as long as possible their entry into labour market; and finally, the French government gives various incentives to workers to retire in their early 50s, though these are now receding.
As many economists have stressed repeatedly over the years, the main issue with the French economy is not an issue of productivity. In their opinion, it is an issue of structural reforms, in order to increase the size of the working population in the overall population. Liberal and Keynesian economists have different answers to that issue. Lower working hours and the reluctance to reform the labour market are mentioned as weak spots of the French economy in the view of the right and lack of government policies fostering social justice by the left. Recent government attempts at adjusting the youth labour market, to combat unemployment, have met with fierce resistance.
With 79.1 million foreign tourists in 2006, visitors per year): Eiffel Tower (6.2 million), Louvre Museum (5.7 million), Palace of Versailles (2.8 million), Musée d'Orsay (2.1 million), Arc de Triomphe (1.2 million), Centre Pompidou (1.2 million), Mont-Saint-Michel (1 million), Château de Chambord (711,000),Sainte-Chapelle (683,000), Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg (549,000), Puy de Dôme (500,000), Musée Picasso (441,000), Carcassonne (362,000).
France has an important aerospace industry led by the European consortium Airbus, and is along with Sweden the only European power (excluding Russia) to have its own national spaceport (Centre Spatial Guyanais). France is also the most energy independent Western country due to heavy investment in nuclear power (Nuclear power in France), which also makes France the smallest producer of carbon dioxide among the seven most industrialized countries in the world. As a result of large investments in nuclear technology, most of the electricity produced in the country is generated by nuclear power plants (78.1% in 2006, up from only 8% in 1973, 24% in 1980, and 75% in 1990).
Large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and EU subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe. Wheat, poultry, dairy, beef, and pork, as well as an internationally recognised foodstuff and wine industry are primary French agricultural exports. EU agriculture subsidies to France total almost $14 billion.
Since the end of the Second World War 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.
DemographyWith an estimated population of 64.5 million people, France is the 19th most populous country in the world. France's largest cities are Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Toulouse, Nice, and Nantes.
In 2003, France's natural population growth (excluding immigration) was responsible for almost all natural population growth in the European Union. In 2004, population growth was 0.68% and then in 2005 birth and fertility rates continued to increase. The natural increase of births over deaths rose to 299,800 in 2006. The lifetime fertility rate rose to 2.00 in 2007, from 1.92 in 2004.http://www.insee.fr/en/ffc/pop_age4.htm
In 2004, a total of 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2005, immigration level fell slightly to 135,890. France is an ethnically diverse nation. According to the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, it has an estimated 4.9 million foreign-born immigrants, of which 2 million have acquired French citizenship. France is the leading asylum destination in Western Europe with an estimated 50,000 applications in 2005 (a 15% decrease from 2004). The European Union allows free movement between the member states. While the UK (along with Ireland) did not impose restrictions, France put in place controls to curb Eastern European migration.
A perennial political issue concerns rural depopulation. Over the period 1960-1999 fifteen rural départements experienced a decline in population. In the most extreme case, the population of Creuse fell by 24%.
According to Article 2 of the Constitution, French is the sole official language of France since 1992. This makes France the only Western European nation (excluding microstates) to have only one officially recognised language. However, 77 regional languages are also spoken, in metropolitan France as well as in the overseas departments and territories. Until recently, the French government and state school system discouraged the use of any of these languages, but they are now taught to varying degrees at some schools. Other languages, such as Portuguese, Italian, Maghrebi Arabic and several Berber languages are spoken by immigrants.
ReligionFrance is a secular country as freedom of religion is a constitutional right, although some religious organizations such as Scientology, Children of God, the Unification Church, and the Order of the Solar Temple are considered cults. According to a January 2007 poll by the Catholic World News: 51% identified as being Catholics, 31% identified as being agnostics or atheists. (Another poll gives atheists proportion equal to 27%), 10% identified as being from other religions or being without opinion, 4% identified as Muslim, 3% identified as Protestant, 1% identified as Jewish.
According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 34% of French citizens responded that “they believe there is a god”, whereas 27% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 33% that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force”. One other study gives 32% of people in France declaring themselves to be atheists, and another 32% declaring themselves “sceptical about the existence of God but not an atheist”.
The current Jewish community in France numbers around 600,000 according to the World Jewish Congress and is the largest in Europe. Estimates of the number of Muslims in France vary widely. According to the 1999 French census returns, there were only 3.7 million people of “possible Muslim faith” in France (6.3% of the total population). There are an estimated 200,000 to 1 million illegal immigrants in France.
The concept of laïcité exists in France and because of this, since 1905, the French government is legally prohibited from recognising any religion (except for legacy statutes like those of military chaplains and Alsace-Moselle). Instead, it merely recognises religious organisations, according to formal legal criteria that do not address religious doctrine. Conversely, religious organisations should refrain from intervening in policy-making. Tensions occasionally erupt about alleged discrimination against minorities, especially against Muslims (see Islam in France).
Public healthThe French healthcare system was ranked first worldwide by the World Health Organization in 1997. It is almost entirely free for people affected by chronic diseases (Affections de longues durées) such as cancers, AIDS or Cystic Fibrosis. Average life expectancy at birth is 79.73 years.
As of 2003, there are approximately 120,000 inhabitants of France who are living with AIDS http://www.indexmundi.com/france/hiv_aids_people_living_with_hiv_aids.html
France, as all EU countries, is under an EU directive to reduce sewage discharge to sensitive areas. As of 2006, France is only 40% in compliance with this directive, placing it as one of the lowest achieving countries within the EU with regard to this wastewater treatment standard http://epaedia.eea.europa.eu/page.php?pid=502.
The death of Chantal Sébire revived the debate over euthanasia in France. It was reported on March 21, 2008.
ArchitectureThere is, technically speaking, no architecture named French Architecture, although that has not always been true. Gothic Architecture's old name was French Architecture (or Opus Francigenum). The term “Gothic” appeared later as a stylistic insult and was widely adopted. Northern France is the home of some of the most important Gothic cathedrals and basilicas, the first of these being the Saint Denis Basilica (used as the royal necropolis) ; other majestuous and important French Gothic cathedrals are Notre-Dame de Chartres and Notre-Dame d'Amiens. The kings were crowned in another important Gothic church: Notre-Dame de Reims. Aside from churches, Gothic Architecture had been used for many religious palaces, the most important one being the Palais des Papes in Avignon.
During the Middle Ages, fortified castles were built by feudal nobles to mark their powers against their rivals. When King Philip II took Rouen from King John, for example, he demolished the ducal castle to build a bigger one. Fortified cities were also common, unfortunately most French castles did not survive the passage of time. This is why Richard Lionheart's castle -Château-Gaillard- was demolished as well as the Château de Lusignan. Some important French castles that survived are Chinon Castle, Château d'Angers, the massive Château de Vincennes and the so called Cathar castles.
Before the appearance of this architecture France had been using romanesque architecture like most of Western Europe (with the exception of the Iberian Peninsula, which used Mooresque architecture). Some of the greatest examples of Romanesque Churches in France are the Saint Sernin Basilica in Toulouse and the remains of the Cluniac Abbey (largely destroyed during the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars).
The end of the Hundred Years' War marked an important stage in the evolution of French architecture. It was the time of the French Renaissance and several artists from Italy and Spain were invited to the French court; many residential palaces, Italian-inspired, were built, mainly in the Loire Valley. Such residential castles were the Château de Chambord, the Château de Chenonceau, or the Château d'Amboise. Following the renaissance and the end of the Middle Ages, Baroque Architecture replaced the gothic one. However, in France, baroque architecture found a greater success in the secular domain than in the religious one. In the secular domain the Palace of Versailles has many baroque features. Jules Hardouin Mansart can be said to be the most influential French architect of the baroque style, with his very famous baroque dome of Les Invalides. Some of the most impressive provincial baroque architecture is found in places that were not yet French such as the Place Stanislas in Nancy. On the military architectural side Vauban designed some of the most efficient fortresses of Europe and became a very influential military architect.
After the French revolution the Republicans favoured Neoclassicism although neoclassicism was introduced in France prior to the revolution with such building as the Parisian Pantheon or the Capitole de Toulouse. Built during the French Empire the Arc de Triomphe and Sainte Marie-Madeleine represent this trend the best.
Under Napoleon III a new wave of urbanism and architecture was given birth. If some very extravagant buildings such as the neo-baroque Palais Garnier were built, the urban planing of the time was very organised and rigorous. For example Baron Haussmann rebuilt Paris. These times also saw a strong Gothic-Revival trend across Europe, in France the associated architect was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. In the late 19th century Gustave Eiffel designed many bridges (like the Garabit viaduct) and remains one of the most influential bridge designer of his time, although he is best remembered for the Eiffel Tower.
In the 20th century the Swiss Architect Le Corbusier designed several buildings in France. More recently French architects have combined both modern and old architectural styles. The Louvre Pyramid is a good example of modern architecture added to an older building. Certainly the most difficult buildings to integrate within French cities are skyscrapers, as they are visible from afar. France's largest financial district is La Defense, where a significant number of skyscrapers are located. Other massive buildings that are a challenge to integrate into their environment are large bridges; a good example of the way this has been done is the Millau Viaduct. Some famous modern French architects include Jean Nouvel or Paul Andreu.
French literature tracks its origins back to the Middle Ages. French was not yet a uniform language but was divided into several dialects (mainly: northern oïl, southern oc dialects). Each writer used his own spelling and grammar. Several French mediaeval texts are not signed- such is the case with Tristan and Iseult, or with Lancelot and the Holy Grail, among many others. A significant part of mediaeval French poetry and literature was inspired by the Matter of France, such as the The Song of Roland and the various Chansons de geste. The “Roman de Renart” was written in 1175 by Perrout de Saint Cloude, and told the story of the medieval character Reynard ('the Fox') ; it is also a popular example of early French story-telling.
In spite of the anonymous character of many French writings of the Middle-Ages, some medieval writers became quite famous: Chrétien de Troyes, for instance. Oc culture was also quite influent in the Middle Ages. An early example of a vernacular poet writing in Occitan was Duke William IX of Aquitaine.
About the history of the French language, one of the most important writer is unquestionably François Rabelais. Modern French took a great deal from his style. His most famous work is quite probably Gargantua and Pantagruel. Later on, Jean de La Fontaine wrote his famous “Fables”, a collection of short stories, written in verse, and usually ending with a “moral teaching”.
During the 17th century Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine and Molière's plays, Blaise Pascal and René Descartes's moral and philosophical books deeply influenced the aristocracy leaving an important heritage for the authors of the following decades.
But it is most certainly in the 18th and 19th centuries which French literature and poetry reach its highest point. The 18th century saw the writings of such huge writers, essayists and moralists as Voltaire, Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As concerns French children's literature in those times, Charles Perrault was probably the most prolific writer, with stories such as: “Puss in Boots”, “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Bluebeard”.
The 19th century saw the birth of many French novels of world renown; Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Jules Verne are probably among the most famous among these writers, both in and outside of France, with such highly popular novels such as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte-Cristo, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Other 19th century fiction writers include Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Théophile Gautier and Stendhal.
Symbolist poetry of the turn of the 19th century also proved to be a strong movement in French poetry, with artists such as Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé.
Now also famous outside of France (whereas they used to be mostly known inside of France) are Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Albert Camus. One of the most well-known 20th century writers is Antoine de St.-Exupéry, whose “Little Prince” has been translated and become a bestseller in a great many countries, remaining popular both with children and adults.
Nowadays, the Prix Goncourt (first given in 1903) rewards “the best and most imaginative prose work of the year”. It has quite probably become France's best-known contemporary literary award.
Popular sports include football, both codes of rugby football and in certain regions basketball and handball. France has hosted events such as the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, and hosted the 2007 Rugby Union World Cup. Stade de France in Paris is the largest stadium in France and was the venue for the 1998 FIFA World Cup final, and hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in October 2007. France also hosts the annual Tour de France, the most famous road bicycle race in the world. France is also famous for its 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car endurance race held in the Sarthe department. Several major tennis tournaments take place in France, including the Paris Masters and the French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
France is the country of creation of the Modern Olympic Games, due to a French aristocrat, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in the end of the 19th century. After Athens in reference to the Greek origin of the ancient Olympic Games, Paris hosted the second Games in 1900. Paris was also the first home of the IOC, before moving to Lausanne for more neutrality. During the Modern era, France has hosted the Olympic Games fives times: two Summer Games (1900 and 1924, both in Paris) and three Winter Games (1924 in Chamonix -the first edition-, 1968 in Grenoble and 1992 in Albertville).
Both the national football team and the national rugby union team are nicknamed “Les Bleus” in reference to the team’s shirt color as well as the national French tricolor flag. The football team is regarded as one of the most skillful teams in the world with one FIFA World Cup victory in 1998, one FIFA World Cup second place in 2006, and two European Championships in 1984 and 2000. The top national football club competition is the Ligue 1. Rugby is also very popular, particularly in Paris and the southwest of France. The national rugby team has competed at every Rugby World Cup, and takes part in the annual Six Nations Championship. Following from a strong domestic tournament the French rugby team has won sixteen Six Nations Championships, including eight grand slams; and have reached the semi-finals and final of the Rugby World Cup.
Marianne is a symbol of the French Republic. She is an allegorical figure of liberty and the Republic and first appeared at the time of the French Revolution. The earliest representations of Marianne are of a woman wearing a Phrygian cap. The origins of the name Marianne are unknown, but Marie-Anne was a very common first name in the 18th century. Anti-revolutionaries of the time derisively called her La Gueuse (the Commoner). It is believed that revolutionaries from the South of France adopted the Phrygian cap as it symbolised liberty, having been worn by freed slaves in both Greece and Rome. Mediterranean seamen and convicts manning the galleys also wore a similar type of cap.
Under the Third Republic, statues, and especially busts, of Marianne began to proliferate, particularly in town halls. She was represented in several different manners, depending on whether the aim was to emphasise her revolutionary nature or her “wisdom”. Over time, the Phrygian cap was felt to be too seditious, and was replaced by a diadem or a crown. In recent times, famous French women have been used as the model for those busts. Recent ones include Sophie Marceau, and Laetitia Casta. She also features on everyday articles such as postage stamps and coins.
- Total GDP, 2005: 6th (out of 180) (World Bank data)
- Total value of foreign trade (imports and exports) , 2002: 4th (out of 185)
- Reporters Without Borders world-wide press freedom index 2005: Rank 30 out of 167 countries
- Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2006 - 18th of 163 countries
- Main list: List of basic France topics
Notes and references
External linkssisterlinks France French government
- Official site of the French Embassy in the United Kingdom
- Official site of the French public service - Contains many links to various administrations and institutions
- Frenchculturenow.com: French society, culture, politics news