France

Introduction 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. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU's military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.
History

Rome to revolution

The 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 took root 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 Carolingians 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. 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 along 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. However, the French electorate voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May 2005.

Geography Location: metropolitan France: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain
French Guiana: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and Suriname
Guadeloupe: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Puerto Rico
Martinique: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago
Reunion: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Geographic coordinates: metropolitan France: 46 00 N, 2 00 E
French Guiana: 4 00 N, 53 00 W
Guadeloupe: 16 15 N, 61 35 W
Martinique: 14 40 N, 61 00 W
Reunion: 21 06 S, 55 36 E
Map references: metropolitan France: Europe
French Guiana: South America
Guadeloupe: Central America and the Caribbean
Martinique: Central America and the Caribbean
Reunion: World
Area: total: 643,427 sq km; 547,030 sq km (metropolitan France)
land: 640,053 sq km; 545,630 sq km (metropolitan France)
water: 3,374 sq km; 1,400 sq km (metropolitan France)
note: the first numbers include the overseas regions of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion
Area - comparative: slightly less than the size of Texas
Land boundaries: metropolitan France - total: 2,889 km
border countries: Andorra 56.6 km, Belgium 620 km, Germany 451 km, Italy 488 km, Luxembourg 73 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Spain 623 km, Switzerland 573 km
French Guiana - total: 1,183 km
border countries: Brazil 673 km, Suriname 510 km
Coastline: total: 4,668 km
metropolitan France: 3,427 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: metropolitan France: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral
French Guiana: tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation
Guadeloupe and Martinique: subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average
Reunion: tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April)
Terrain: metropolitan France: mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east
French Guiana: low-lying coastal plains rising to hills and small mountains
Guadeloupe: Basse-Terre is volcanic in origin with interior mountains; Grande-Terre is low limestone formation; most of the seven other islands are volcanic in origin
Martinique: mountainous with indented coastline; dormant volcano
Reunion: mostly rugged and mountainous; fertile lowlands along coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m
Natural resources: metropolitan France: coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, fish
French Guiana: gold deposits, petroleum, kaolin, niobium, tantalum, clay
Land use: arable land: 33.46%
permanent crops: 2.03%
other: 64.51%
note: French Guiana - arable land 0.13%, permanent crops 0.04%, other 99.83% (90% forest, 10% other); Guadeloupe - arable land 11.70%, permanent crops 2.92%, other 85.38%; Martinique - arable land 9.09%, permanent crops 10.0%, other 80.91%; Reunion - arable land 13.94%, permanent crops 1.59%, other 84.47% (2005)
Irrigated land: total: 26,190 sq km;
metropolitan France: 26,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 189 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 33.16 cu km/yr (16%/74%/10%)
per capita: 548 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: metropolitan France: flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean
overseas departments: hurricanes (cyclones), flooding, volcanic activity (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion)
Environment - current issues: some forest damage from acid rain; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff
Environment - international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: largest West European nation
Politics

France 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 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.

People Population: total: 64,057,790
note: 60,876,136 in metropolitan France (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.6% (male 6,063,181/female 5,776,272)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 20,798,889/female 20,763,283)
65 years and over: 16.2% (male 4,274,290/female 6,038,011) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 37.5 years
female: 40.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.588% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 12.91 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.55 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.002 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.708 male(s)/female
total population: 0.956 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.41 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 80.59 years
male: 77.35 years
female: 84 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.98 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.4% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 120,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 1,000 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women)
adjective: French
Ethnic groups: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities
overseas departments: black, white, mulatto, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian
Religions: Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%
overseas departments: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan
Languages: French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)
overseas departments: French, Creole patois
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: French Republic
conventional short form: France
local long form: Republique francaise
local short form: France
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Paris
geographic coordinates: 48 52 N, 2 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 26 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie (Lower Normandy), Bourgogne, Bretagne (Brittany), Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse (Corsica), Franche-Comte, Guadeloupe, Guyane (French Guiana), Haute-Normandie (Upper Normandy), Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Martinique, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Reunion, Rhone-Alpes
note: France is divided into 22 metropolitan regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and 4 overseas regions (including French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion) and is subdivided into 96 metropolitan departments and 4 overseas departments (which are the same as the overseas regions)
Dependent areas: Clipperton Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Wallis and Futuna
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica; New Caledonia has been considered a "sui generis" collectivity of France since 1999, a unique status falling between that of an independent country and a French overseas department
Independence: 486 (Frankish tribes unified); 843 (Western Francia established from the division of the Carolingian Empire)
National holiday: Fete de la Federation, 14 July (1790); note - although often incorrectly referred to as Bastille Day, the celebration actually commemorates the holiday held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille (on 14 July 1789) and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy; other names for the holiday are Fete Nationale (National Holiday) and quatorze juillet (14th of July)
Constitution: adopted by referendum 28 September 1958, effective 4 October 1958
note: amended concerning election of president in 1962; amended to comply with provisions of 1992 EC Maastricht Treaty, 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, 2003 Treaty of Nice; amended to tighten immigration laws in 1993; amended in 2000 to change the seven-year presidential term to a five-year term; amended in 2005 to make the EU constitutional treaty compatible with the Constitution of France and to ensure that the decision to ratify EU accession treaties would be made by referendum
Legal system: civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Francois FILLON (since 17 May 2007)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president at the suggestion of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (changed from seven-year term in October 2000); election last held 22 April and 6 May 2007 (next to be held spring 2012); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly majority and appointed by the president
election results: Nicolas SARKOZY wins the election; First Round: percent of vote - Nicolas SARKOZY 31.18%, Segolene ROYAL 25.87%, Francois BAYROU 18.57%, Jean-Marie LE PEN 10.44%, others 13.94%; Second Round: SARKOZY 53.1% and ROYAL 46.9%
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (331 seats, 305 for metropolitan France, 9 for overseas departments, 5 for dependencies, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve six-year terms; one third elected every three years); note - between 2006 and 2011, 15 new seats will be added to the Senate for a total of 348 seats - 326 for metropolitan France and overseas departments, 2 for New Caledonia, 2 for Mayotte, 1 for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, 1 for Saint-Barthelemy, 1 for Saint-Martin, 3 for overseas territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; starting in 2008, members will be indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve six-year terms, with one-half elected every three years; and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats, 555 for metropolitan France, 15 for overseas departments, 7 for dependencies; members are elected by popular vote under a single-member majority system to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 26 September 2004 (next to be held in September 2008); National Assembly - last held 10 and 17 June 2007 (next to be held in June 2012)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 156, PS 97, UDF (now MoDem) 33, PCF 23, RDSE 15, other 7; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - UMP 46.37%, PS 42.25%, miscellaneous left wing parties 2.47%, PCF 2.28%, NC 2.12%, PRG 1.65%, miscellaneous right wing parties 1.17%, the Greens 0.45, other 1.24%; seats by party - UMP 313, PS 186, NC 22, miscellaneous left wing parties 15, PCF 15, miscellaneous right wing parties 9, PRG 7, the Greens 4, other 6
Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation (judges are appointed by the president from nominations of the High Council of the Judiciary); Constitutional Council or Conseil Constitutionnel (three members appointed by the president, three appointed by the president of the National Assembly, and three appointed by the president of the Senate); Council of State or Conseil d'Etat
Political parties and leaders: Democratic Movement or MoDem [Francois BAYROU] (previously Union for French Democracy or UDF); Democratic and Social European Rally or RDSE [Pierre LAFFITTE] (mainly Radical Republican and Socialist Parties, and PRG); French Communist Party or PCF [Marie-George BUFFET]; Greens [Cecile DUFLOT]; Left Radical Party or PRG [Jean-Michel BAYLET] (previously Radical Socialist Party or PRS and the Left Radical Movement or MRG); Movement for France or MPF [Philippe DE VILLIERS]; National Front or FN [Jean-Marie LE PEN]; New Center or NC [Herve MORIN]; Rally for France or RPF [Charles PASQUA]; Republican and Citizen Movement or MRC [Jean Pierre CHEVENEMENT and Georges SARRE]; Socialist Party or PS [Francois HOLLANDE]; Union for a Popular Movement or UMP [Patrick DEVEDJIAN, Jean-Claude GAUDIN, Jean-Pierre RAFFARIN, Pierre MEHAIGNERIE]; Radical Party [Jean-Louis BORLOO]
Political pressure groups and leaders: historically-Communist labor union (Confederation Generale du Travail) or CGT, approximately 700,000 members (claimed); left-leaning labor union (Confederation Francaise Democratique du Travail) or CFDT, approximately 803,000 members (claimed); independent labor union (Confederation Generale du Travail - Force Ouvriere) or FO, 300,000 members (est.); independent white-collar union (Confederation Generale des Cadres) or CGC, 196,000 members (claimed); employers' union (Mouvement des Entreprises de France) or MEDEF, 750,000 companies as members (claimed)
French Guiana: NA
Guadeloupe: Christian Movement for the Liberation of Guadeloupe or KLPG; General Federation of Guadeloupe Workers or CGT-G; General Union of Guadeloupe Workers or UGTG; Movement for an Independent Guadeloupe or MPGI; The Socialist Renewal Movement
Martinique: Caribbean Revolutionary Alliance or ARC; Central Union for Martinique Workers or CSTM; Frantz Fanon Circle; League of Workers and Peasants; Proletarian Action Group or GAP
Reunion: NA
International organization participation: ABEDA, ACCT, ADB (nonregional members), AfDB, Arctic Council (observer), Australia Group, BDEAC, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS (observer), CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, FZ, G- 5, G- 7, G- 8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IFTU, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, InOC, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, MIGA, MINURCAT, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), Schengen Convention, SECI (observer), SPC, UN, UN Security Council, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, Union Latina, UNITAR, UNMEE, UNMIL, UNOCI, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Pierre VIMONT
chancery: 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 944-6000
FAX: [1] (202) 944-6166
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Craig R. STAPLETON
embassy: 2 Avenue Gabriel, 75382 Paris Cedex 08
mailing address: PSC 116, APO AE 09777
telephone: [33] (1) 43-12-22-22
FAX: [33] (1) 42 66 97 83
consulate(s) general: Marseille, Strasbourg
Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red; known as the "Le drapeau tricolore" (French Tricolor), the origin of the flag dates to 1790 and the French Revolution; the design and/or colors are similar to a number of other flags, including those of Belgium, Chad, Ireland, Cote d'Ivoire, Luxembourg, and Netherlands; the official flag for all French dependent areas
Culture The culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by its geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups. France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a center of high culture and of decorative arts since the seventeenth century, first in Europe, and from the nineteenth century on, world wide. From the late nineteenth century, France has also played an important role in modern art, cinema, fashion and cuisine. The importance of French culture has waned and waxed over the centuries, depending on its economic, political and military importance. French culture today is marked both by great regional and socioeconomic differences and by strong unifying tendencies.
Economy Economy - overview: France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. It maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. Widespread opposition to labor reform has in recent years hampered the government's ability to revitalize the economy. In 2007, the government launched divisive labor reform efforts that will continue into 2008. France's tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). France brought the budget deficit within the eurozone's 3%-of-GDP limit for the first time in 2007 and has reduced unemployment to roughly 8%. With at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.067 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $2.515 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.8% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $33,800 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 2%
industry: 20.7%
services: 77.3% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 27.76 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 4.1%
industry: 24.4%
services: 71.5% (1999)
Unemployment rate: 8% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 6.2% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 24.8% (2004)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 28 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.5% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 20.7% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.311 trillion
expenditures: $1.372 trillion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 66.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish
Industries: machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism
Industrial production growth rate: 1.6% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 543.6 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 8.2%
hydro: 14%
nuclear: 77.1%
other: 0.7% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 451.5 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 68.33 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 8.035 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 73,180 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 1.999 million bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 474,200 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports: 1.89 million bbl/day (2005)
Oil - proved reserves: 158.4 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 1.4 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 47.26 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 863.2 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 47.02 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 341 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$35.94 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $558.9 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages
Exports - partners: Germany 15.6%, Spain 9.6%, Italy 8.9%, UK 8.3%, Belgium 7.3%, US 6.6%, Netherlands 4% (2006)
Imports: $601.4 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals
Imports - partners: Germany 18.9%, Belgium 11.1%, Italy 8.4%, Spain 7%, Netherlands 6.8%, UK 6.6%, US 4.6% (2006)
Economic aid - donor: ODA, $12 billion (2006)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $98.24 billion (2006 est.)
Debt - external: $4.396 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $697.4 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $1.005 trillion (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $1.71 trillion (2005)
Currency (code): euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
Currency code: EUR
Exchange rates: euros per US dollar - 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 34.63 million; 33,897,000 (metropolitan France) (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 53.023 million; 51,662,000 (metropolitan France) (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: highly developed
domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay; extensive introduction of fiber-optic cable; domestic satellite system
international: country code - 33; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (with total of 5 antennas - 2 for Indian Ocean and 3 for Atlantic Ocean), NA Eutelsat, 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region); HF radiotelephone communications with more than 20 countries
overseas departments: country codes: French Guiana - 594; Guadeloupe - 590; Martinique - 596; Reunion - 262
Radio broadcast stations: AM 41, FM about 3,500 (this figure is an approximation and includes many repeaters), shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 55.3 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 584 (plus 9,676 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 34.8 million (1997)
Internet country code: metropolitan France - .fr; French Guiana - .gf; Guadeloupe - .gp; Martinique - .mq; Reunion - .re
Internet hosts: 12.556 million; 12,555,000 (metropolitan France) (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 62 (2000)
Internet users: 31.295 million; 30.838 million (metropolitan France) (2007)
Transportation Airports: 476 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 292
over 3,047 m: 14
2,438 to 3,047 m: 27
1,524 to 2,437 m: 97
914 to 1,523 m: 80
under 914 m: 74 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 184
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 72
under 914 m: 108 (2007)
Heliports: 3 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 14,665 km; oil 3,032 km; refined products 4,947 km (2007)
Railways: total: 29,370 km
standard gauge: 29,203 km 1.435-m gauge (14,778 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 167 km 1.000-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 956,303 km (includes 5,083 km of roads in the overseas departments)
paved: 951,220 km (metropolitan France; including 10,490 km of expressways) (2004)
Waterways: metropolitan France: 8,500 km (1,686 km accessible to craft of 3,000 metric tons)
French Guiana: 3,760 km (460 km navigable by small oceangoing vessels and coastal and river steamers, 3,300 km by native craft) (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 141 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,777,107 GRT/7,533,631 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 2, cargo 1, chemical tanker 31, container 25, liquefied gas 14, passenger 3, passenger/cargo 32, petroleum tanker 22, roll on/roll off 7, vehicle carrier 4
foreign-owned: 56 (Belgium 6, China 5, Denmark 3, Germany 1, Italy 2, Japan 5, Norway 17, NZ 1, Saudi Arabia 1, Singapore 2, Sweden 10, Switzerland 3)
registered in other countries: 145 (Antigua and Barbuda 1, Australia 1, Bahamas 43, Belgium 1, Bermuda 1, Cameroon 1, Gibraltar 1, Hong Kong 1, Indonesia 1, Isle of Man 2, Italy 5, South Korea 8, Liberia 5, Luxembourg 14, Malta 4, Morocco 13, Netherlands 1, Norway 3, Panama 15, Singapore 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 7, Taiwan 1, UK 9, Wallis and Futuna 6) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Bordeaux, Calais, Dunkerque, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, Rouen, Strasbourg
Military Military branches: Army (includes marines, Foreign Legion, light aviation), Navy (includes naval air), Air Force (includes air defense), National Gendarmerie
Military service age and obligation: 17 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription ended in 1996; women serve in noncombat military posts (2005)
Manpower available for military service: males age 17-49: 13,676,509
females age 17-49: 13,504,539 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 17-49: 11,262,661
females age 17-49: 11,079,472 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 17-49: 389,204
females age 17-49: 372,719 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.6% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Madagascar claims the French territories of Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island; Comoros claims Mayotte; Mauritius claims Tromelin Island; territorial dispute between Suriname and the French overseas department of French Guiana; France asserts a territorial claim in Antarctica (Adelie Land); France and Vanuatu claim Matthew and Hunter Islands, east of New Caledonia
Illicit drugs: metropolitan France: transshipment point for South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and European synthetics
French Guiana: small amount of marijuana grown for local consumption; minor transshipment point to Europe
Martinique: transshipment point for cocaine and marijuana bound for the US and Europe