FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of blue, white, and red vertical stripes.
ANTHEM: La Marseillaise.
MONETARY UNIT: The euro (€) replaced the franc as the official currency in 2002. The euro is divided into 100 cents. There are coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 euro and 2 euros. There are notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. €1 = US$1.33810 (or US$1 = €0.747329) as of 2011.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; World War II Armistice Day, 8 May; Bastille Day, 14 July; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; World War I Armistice Day, 11 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable holidays include Easter Monday, Ascension, and Pentecost Monday.
TIME: 1 p.m. = noon GMT.
1 Location and Size
Situated in western Europe, France is the second-largest country on the continent, with an area (including the island of Corsica) of 551,500 square kilometers (212,934 square miles). The area occupied by France is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Colorado. France shares borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Andorra, and Spain. France has a total land boundary length of 2,889 kilometers (1,795 miles) and a total coastline (Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea) length of 3,427 kilometers (2,125 miles).
France's capital city, Paris, is located in the north-central part of the country.
Topographically France is one of the most varied countries of Europe, with elevations ranging from 2 meters (7 feet) below sea level at the Rhône River delta to the highest peak of the continent, Mont Blanc (4,807 meters/15,771 feet). Much of the country is ringed with mountains. The Ardennes Plateau is in the northeast, extending into Belgium and Luxembourg. To the east are the Vosges, the high Alps, and the
Jura Mountains. The Pyrenees, much like the Alps in ruggedness and height, run along the Spanish border.
The core of France is the Paris Basin, connected in the southwest with the lowland of Aquitaine. Low hills cover much of Brittany and Normandy. The old, worn-down upland of the Massif Central, topped by extinct volcanoes, occupies the south-central area. The valley of the Rhône, with that of its tributary the Saône, provides an excellent passageway from the Paris Basin and eastern France to the Mediterranean.
There are three other main river systems: the Seine, draining into the English Channel; the Loire, which flows through central France to the Atlantic; and the Garonne, which flows across southern France to the Atlantic. The Loire is the longest river located entirely within France. It has a length of 1,020 kilometers (634 miles). The largest lake is Lake Bourget, with an area of 45 square kilometers (17 square miles).
Three types of climate may be found within France: the oceanic climate, prevailing in the western parts of the country; the continental (transition) type of climate, found over much of eastern and central France; and the Mediterranean climate, widespread throughout the south of France, except in the mountainous southwest.
The mean temperature is about 11°C (53°F) at Paris and 15°C (59°F) at Nice. In central and southern France, annual rainfall is light to moderate, ranging from about 68 centimeters (27 inches) to 100 centimeters (39 inches).
Rainfall is heaviest in Brittany, the northern coastal areas, and the mountainous areas, where it reaches more than 112 centimeters (44 inches).
4 Plants and Animals
France's plants and animals are as varied as its range of topography and climate. It is estimated that there are 4,630 plant species in France. It has forests of oak and beech in the north and center, as well as pine, birch, poplar, and willow. The Massif Central has chestnut and beech; the subalpine zone, juniper and dwarf pine. In the south are pine forests and various oaks.
Eucalyptus (imported from Australia) and dwarf pines abound in the southeast area known as Provence. Toward the Mediterranean are olive trees, vines, and mulberry and fig trees, as well as laurel, wild herbs, and the low vegetation known as maquis (from which the French resistance movement in World War II took its name).
France is home to 148 mammals, 517 birds, 46 reptiles, and 39 amphibians. The Pyrenees and the Alps are the home of the brown bear, chamois (a small antelope about the size of a goat), marmot, and alpine hare. In the forests are polecat and marten, wild boar, and various deer. Hedgehog and shrew are common, as are fox, weasel, bat, squirrel, badger, rabbit, mouse, otter, and beaver.
The birds of France are largely migratory. Warblers, thrushes, magpies, owls, buzzards, and gulls are common. There are storks in the Vosges lowlands and elsewhere, eagles and falcons in the mountains, pheasants and partridge in the south. Flamingos, terns, buntings, herons, and egrets are found in the Mediterranean zone.
The rivers hold eels, pike, perch, carp, roach, salmon, and trout. Lobster and crayfish are found in the Mediterranean.
Water pollution is a serious problem in France due to the accumulation of industrial contaminants, agricultural nitrates, and waste from the nation's cities. Air pollution is also a significant environmental problem in France, which had the world's eleventh-highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions in 1992. More recently, official statistics reflect substantial progress in reducing airborne emissions in major cities. An attempt to ban the dumping of toxic wastes entirely and to develop the technology for neutralizing them proved less successful, however, and the licensing of approved dump sites was authorized in the early 1980s. Carbon dioxide emissions in France totaled 371,453 kilotons.
France had designated 5.56 million hectares (13.75 million acres) percent of land for protection as of 2006. These areas include both national and regional parks, as well as eight biosphere reserves. As of 2011, a total of 9 mammal species were threatened as well as 6 breeding bird species, 4 types of reptiles, 2 types of amphibians, and 44 species of fish. Endangered or extinct species in France included the Corsican swallowtail, the gray wolf, the false ringlet butterfly, the Pyrenean desman, and the Baltic sturgeon. Perrin's cave beetle and the Sardinian pika are known to be extinct.
The estimated population as of 2011 was 65.3 million, with a growth rate of 0.5 percent. Average population density in 2011 was 118 persons per square kilometer (290 per square mile). The projected population for 2025 is 66.1 million.
It was estimated that 85 percent of the population lived in urban areas. Paris, the capital, is the largest city, with a population of 10.4 million. The next largest cities include Marseilles and Lyon.
In 2011 France's net migration rate was 1.46 migrants per 1,000 citizens. The total number of emigrants living abroad was 1.7 million, and the total number of immigrants living in France was 6.7 million. Under French citizenship laws, immigrants seeking naturalization must prove a willingness toward cultural integration. This has become an important issue among Muslim immigrants. In 2008 a Moroccan woman was denied citizenship when her practice of Islam was deemed incompatible with French values. In 2010 a Muslim man was denied citizenship because he wanted his French wife to wear a full veil in public. France chose not to accept many refugees from the 2011 Arab Spring.
8 Ethnic Groups
The French are generally derived from three basic European ethnic stocks: Celtic, Latin, and Teutonic (Frankish), but there are also small groups of Flemings, Catalans, Germans, Armenians, Roma (gypsies), Russians, Poles, and others. The largest resident alien groups are Algerians, Portuguese, Moroccans, Italians, Spaniards, Tunisians, and Turks.
Not only is French the national language of France, but it also has official status (often with other languages) throughout much of the former French colonial empire, including about two dozen nations in Africa. In all, it is estimated that more than 300 million people have French as their official language or mother tongue. Moreover, French is the sole official language at the International Court of Justice and shares official status in most international organizations. Other languages spoken within France itself include Breton (akin to Welsh) in Brittany; a German dialect in Alsace and Lorraine; Flemish in northeastern France; Spanish, Catalan, and Basque in the southwest; Provençal in the southeast, and an Italian dialect on the island of Corsica.
In 2009 an estimated 64 percent of the population were nominally Roman Catholic, but church officials claim that very few were practicing members of the church. Muslims, the second- largest religious group in the nation, accounted for about 10 percent of the population, with most adherents being North African immigrants. Protestants, Buddhists, Jews, Evangelicals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Orthodox Christians, Scientologists, Mormons, and Sikhs each accounted for less than 5 percent of the total population.
France has one of the most highly developed transportation systems in Europe. Its outstanding characteristic has long been the degree to which it is centralized at Paris. Plateaus and plains offering easy access radiate from the city in all directions, and rivers with broad valleys converge on it from all sides. The road network
includes 1 million paved kilometers (634,000 miles). There are 598 vehicles per 1,000 people in the country.
Le Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) is the fastest train in the world, averaging 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour over most of its run. The Paris subway (Métro) carries more than one million passengers a day. Parisian bus lines carry about 800,000 passengers daily. A 50-kilometer (31-mile) rail tunnel under the English Channel (the “Chunnel”) linking France and England was completed in 1993.
France, especially in its northern and north-eastern regions, has a number of navigable rivers and connecting canals, and inland water transportation is of major importance. There are about 6,969 kilometers (4,331 miles) of navigable waterways in heavy use. The French merchant marine, as of 2010, had a total of 167 ships of at least 1,000. The leading ports are Marseille, Le Havre, Dunkerque, Rouen, Bordeaux, and Cherbourg.
There are 475 airports. Scheduled domestic and international flights carried 58 million passengers in 2009. The two international airports of Paris, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, lead in both passenger and freight traffic.
Cave paintings and engravings, the most famous of them at Lascaux in the southwest, testify to human habitation in France as early as 30,000 years ago.
Detailed knowledge of French history begins with the conquest of the region (58–51 BC) by Julius Caesar. At that time it was inhabited by Celtic tribes known as the Gauls. Under Roman
rule the Gallic provinces were among the most prosperous and civilized of the Roman Empire.
Early in the 5th century, Teutonic tribes-the Visigoths, Burgundians, and Franks (from whom the French take their name)-invaded the region. Charlemagne (ruled 768–814), was the greatest of the early Frankish rulers. Through wide conquests, he added to the territories under his rule, eventually reigning over an area corresponding to present-day France plus Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and northern Italy.
After the death of Charlemagne, his empire was broken up and weakened. At the end of the 10th century, Hugh Capet (ruled 987–996) founded the line of French kings that was to rule the country for the next 800 years. Feudalism, the system under which a feudal lord gave his subjects land in exchange for military and other services, was well-established by this time.
Between 1066 and 1070, William II, the duke of Normandy, conquered England in what became known as the Norman Conquest. He
became England's king as William I, introducing the French language and culture to that country.
The reign of Philip IV (“the Fair,” 1285–1314) marks the height of French royal power in the medieval period. After the death of Pope Boniface VIII, Philip moved the seat of the papacy from the Vatican to Avignon, where the popes resided under French control until 1377.
In 1337 Edward III of England, Philip's grandson, challenged the right of Philip's nephew, Philip VI, to the throne. This set off a series of wars between France and England that lasted from 1337 to 1453 and became known as the Hundred Years' War.
The Hundred Years' War The first part of the Hundred Years' War was really a struggle between dynasties rather than a national struggle. The English armies themselves were commanded by French-speaking nobles and a French-speaking king. Modern nationalism came into play with the campaign launched by Henry V, who became an English national hero after his decisive victory at Agincourt in 1415.
French nationalism found an inspiration in the figure of Joan of Arc. Confident that she had a divinely inspired mission to save France, this young woman led the siege of Orléans and had France's prince, called the dauphin, crowned Charles VII. Joan fell into English hands and was burned at the stake in 1431. The French armies continued to advance, however. The English had been driven from almost all French territory by 1461.
As the Protestant Reformation gained a growing following in France, bitter hostility developed between the Protestants (called Huguenots) and the Catholics. In the 16th century, a series of fierce religious civil wars devastated France. On 23–24 August 1572, thousands of Protestants were slaughtered in the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew. When the Protestant Henry of Navarre mounted the throne, he embraced Catholicism and in 1598 signed the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed religious freedom to the Huguenots.
In the 17th century, Cardinal Richelieu, the minister of Louis XIII, enhanced the king's absolute rule at home and combated the power of the Austrian Habsburgs abroad. He destroyed the political power of the Protestants and led France into the Thirty Years' War in 1635. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the Thirty Years' War. The Peace of the Pyrenees (1659) established France as the dominant power on the European continent.
The reign of Louis XIV (1661–1715) marked the high point of the French monarchy. He transformed the French state into an absolute monarchy based on the so-called divine right of kings. Great overseas colonies were carved out in India, Canada, and Louisiana.
Nevertheless, the Sun King, as Louis XIV was called, left the country in a weaker position than he had found it. In 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes, and an estimated 200,000 Huguenots fled the country to escape persecution. The economy was severely affected by the loss of many skilled workers. Louis undertook a long series of foreign wars that weakened France economically and militarily.
Further wars in the 18th century cost France its Indian and Canadian colonies and bankrupted the country. Meanwhile, the center of economic power in the kingdom had shifted to the hands of the middle class, who resented the unproductive ruling class.
The French Revolution In 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General, the national assembly, made up of representatives from all three “estates” (the nobility, clergy, and commoners). The representatives of the third estate, the Commons, broke away and proclaimed themselves the National Assembly. This action marked the beginning of the French Revolution, although the act that best symbolized the power of the revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a royal prison, by a Paris mob on 14 July—an event still commemorated as a national holiday.
Louis XVI was forced to accept a new constitution providing for a limited monarchy. The Assembly's successor, the National Convention, elected in September 1792, proclaimed the First French Republic. Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, were convicted of treason and beheaded. The radical Jacobins under Maximilien Robespierre seized power and instituted a Reign of Terror from 1793 to 1794, executing thousands of people. In 1795 a new, moderate constitution was introduced, and executive power was vested in a Directory of five men.
The Directory fell in 1799, when the military hero Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) led a coup d'état and established the Consulate. In 1804 he had himself proclaimed emperor as Napoleon I and ruled France until his downfall in 1814.
Napoleon led his imperial armies to a striking series of victories. By 1808 he was the master of all Europe west of Russia with the exception of the British Isles. Napoleon's ill-fated attempt to conquer Russia in 1812 was followed by the creation of a powerful alliance against him, consisting of Russia, Prussia, Britain, and Sweden. He met his final defeat at the hands of British and Prussian forces at Waterloo (in present-day Belgium) on 18 June 1815.
Charles X, who took over the throne in 1824, tried to restore the absolute powers of the monarchy. He was overthrown in 1830 in the three-day “July revolution.” In 1848, the regime of Louis Philippe, who succeeded Charles, was overthrown in the name of the Second Republic. Four years later, however, its first president, Louis Napoleon (1808–1873), the nephew of Napoleon I, had himself proclaimed emperor under the title Napoleon III.
The Second Empire, which lasted from 1852 to 1871, was characterized by colonial expansion and great material prosperity. The emperor's aggressive foreign policy eventually led to the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), which ended in a crushing defeat for France and in his own downfall. Democratic government finally triumphed in France under the Third Republic, whose constitution was adopted in 1875.
The 20th century During World War I (1914–18), the forces of France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States were locked in an extended struggle with those of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. Almost all the bitter fighting in the west was conducted on French soil. Among the Allies, French casualties, including nearly 1.4 million dead, were second only to those sustained by Russia.
The heavily industrialized provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, lost to Germany during the war, were restored to France under the Treaty of Versailles (1919). In addition, Germany was ordered to pay heavy war reparations. Nevertheless, the French economy, plagued by recurrent crises, was unable to achieve great prosperity in the 1920s. The worldwide economic depression of the 1930s was accompanied in France by inflation, widespread unemployment, and profound social unrest.
In the meantime, Germany, under Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party, was rearming and threatening war on the European continent.
In a futile attempt to secure peace, the French government went along with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement toward Hitler. Hitler was not to be appeased, however, and when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France joined the United Kingdom in declaring war on Germany.
On 10 May 1940, the Germans invaded western Europe, outflanking the French Maginot Line fortifications and routing the French armies between the Belgian frontier and Paris. Northern France was placed under direct occupation by the Germans. Southern France was ruled by the Vichy government under the World War I hero, Marshal Pétain, in close cooperation with the Germans.
French resistance gathered overseas around General Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970), who had escaped to London. De Gaulle organized a provisional government and the Free French forces. Regular French units and resistance fighters alike fought in the 1944 campaign that drove the Germans from France. Shortly after the liberation of Paris, de Gaulle's provisional government moved to Paris. It was officially recognized by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union in October 1944.
After World War II (1939–45), France still faced almost continuous fighting overseas. In 1954 it lost control of Indochina in Asia. Later, Algeria was the scene of a nationalist rebellion by Muslims. After a rebellion by French settlers in Algeria in 1958, General de Gaulle, the only leader who could rally the nation, was installed as premier. He ended the threat in Algeria peaceably. In December 1958 he was officially named the first president of the Fifth Republic.
Algeria gained independence on 1 July 1962. Nearly all of France's former African territories were given their independence as well. France has continued to provide economic
assistance, and its ties with most of the former colonies have remained close. During the mid-1960s, de Gaulle sought to distance France from the Anglo-American alliance. France developed its own atomic weapons and withdrew its forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command.
In the spring of 1968, student riots and a month-long general strike severely weakened the Gaullist regime. In April 1969 President de Gaulle resigned. In June Georges Pompidou, a former premier in de Gaulle's government, was elected the second president of the Fifth Republic. In 1974, after President Pompidou died in office, an Independent Republican, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, became the third president of the Fifth Republic. Giscard strengthened relations with the United States but continued to follow a middle course between the superpowers (United States and Soviet Union) in world affairs.
A Socialist, François Mitterrand, was elected president in May 1981. Mitterrand launched a program of economic reforms, including government takeover of many industrial companies and most major banks. Mitterrand committed French troops to a peacekeeping force in Lebanon and aided the Chadian government against domestic rebels and their Libyan backers.
A major scandal broke in 1985. French agents in New Zealand were responsible for the destruction of a ship, which was owned by the environmentalist group Greenpeace. It was protesting French nuclear tests in the South Pacific at the time it was destroyed.
In March 1986 elections, the Socialists lost their majority in the National Assembly. In order to keep control of the government, Mitterrand had to appoint a conservative prime minister to head a new center-right cabinet. The new prime minister, Jacques Chirac, successfully began a program to denationalize 65 state-owned companies. This plan was opposed by Mitterrand. In 1988 Mitterrand won a commanding 54 percent of the vote and a second seven-year term, and Chirac resigned.
By 1994, however, Mitterrand had grown ill and announced he would retire in May 1995. In the elections that followed, Chirac received 52 percent of the vote and gained the presidency. Chirac sought to limit government spending in order to meet certain monetary guidelines, so that France would be ready to join the European Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999. The EMU would create one currency (the euro) to replace member countries' individual currencies. Many of Chirac's policies to reduce public spending were met with resistance.
Chirac called for parliamentary elections in 1997, a year earlier than the constitution required. He believed that a majority of the population would support decreased government spending and restrained monetary policy. Chirac's plan backfired when the Socialists and Communists won the majority. Socialist leader Lionel Jospin was named prime minister, and he pledged to protect the welfare state. By early 1998, however, unemployment was still high, and the jobless protested outside unemployment offices demanding more benefits.
The euro was successfully launched in 1999, and the currency was circulated in January 2002. Presidential elections were held on 21 April and 5 May 2002. In the first round, National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen came in second ahead of Prime Minister Jospin. The strong showing by Le Pen sent shock waves throughout France and Europe, as his extreme right-wing,
anti-immigrant party demonstrated its popularity. In the second round of voting, Chirac overwhelmingly defeated Le Pen. Chirac named centrist Jean-Pierre Raffarin to be prime minister.
From 2002 to 2003, France was confronted with a major foreign policy dilemma. Throughout 2002, the United States and United Kingdom were committing troops to the Persian Gulf region, positioning themselves against Iraq and accusing its leader, Saddam Hussein, of possessing weapons of mass destruction. France was the most vocal opponent of war. The United States and United Kingdom abandoned diplomatic efforts at conflict resolution in March 2003, and on 19 March, the coalition went to war in Iraq. After U.S. President George W. Bush announced the end of major hostilities in May 2003, France stressed the need for a political solution to the conflict in Iraq instead of a purely security-oriented one.
Rioting erupted in many parts of France in fall 2005. The government imposed a state of emergency. Thousands of vehicles were set on fire in nearly 300 towns; more than 1,500 people had been arrested by mid-November 2005, when the violence began to subside. Areas with large African and Arab communities were most affected, where anger among many immigrant families over unemployment and discrimination has long been simmering. In June 2006, the upper house of parliament passed a bill setting strict new limits on immigration. The rules make it harder for low-skilled migrants to settle in France.
Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy defeated Socialist Ségolène Royal in the second round of presidential voting on 6 May 2007, 53 percent to 47 percent. The first round of voting had been held in April 2007, but no candidate obtained an absolute majority. In June 2007 the UMP was victorious in parliamentary elections, but with a reduced majority. Sarkozy sought to make France a strong international player again, and to reestablish good relations with the United States. He spent his August 2007 summer vacation in New Hampshire, and visited President George W. Bush at the Bush retreat at Kennebunkport, Maine.
France entered a recession in early 2009 as a result of a global financial crisis. That year, the government announced a $33 billion stimulus package to revitalize the economy. Throughout 2011 and into 2012, France and Germany led efforts to help other European economies struggling with debt. Debt in other European countries had weakened economies across the European Union.
In March 2009, the government announced its intentions to rejoin the NATO integrated military structure. France has been a member of NATO since 1949 but had not participated in formal NATO military operations since 1966.
Under the constitution of the Fifth Republic (1958), as subsequently amended, the president of the republic is elected for a five-year term by direct universal voting. The president appoints the premier and, on the premier's recommendation, the other members of the cabinet. The president has the power to dissolve the National Assembly. When this occurs, new elections must be held in 20 to 40 days. The president executes laws approved by the legislature, has the right of pardon, and is commander of the armed forces.
The Parliament consists of two houses, the National Assembly and the Senate. The National
Assembly is composed of 577 deputies, each representing an electoral district. The deputies' term of office, unless the Assembly is dissolved, is five years.
The Senate consists of 348 members elected to six-year terms, one-third being chosen every three years. All citizens aged 18 years and over are eligible to vote.
To become law, a measure must be passed by Parliament. Bills are introduced in either house, except finance bills, which must be introduced in the Assembly.
There are 22 regions, and the regional councils elect their own presidents. These are divided into 96 departments of metropolitan France; there are also 4 overseas departments. The departments are further subdivided into arrondissements, cantons, and communes (municipalities). The basic unit of local government is the commune, governed by a municipal council and presided over by a mayor.
14 Political Parties
Since the late 1950s, French politics has been dominated by four political groups: the Gaullists, an independent center-right coalition; the Socialists; and the Communists.
The Gaullist party, called the Rally for the Republic (Rassemblement pour la République—RPR) was founded by former president Jacques Chirac in 1976. In the same year, the centrist parties formed the Union for French Democracy (Union pour la Démocratie Française—UDF).
In 1995 Jacques Chirac was elected president, defeating Socialist Lionel Jospin. In 1997 the Gaullists suffered a stunning defeat by the Socialists and Communists, leading to the appointment of Jospin as prime minister. In the same elections, the Gaullists saw their parliamentary presence decline from 464 seats to 249; the Socialists (and related splinter groups) went from 75 seats to 273; the Communists from 24 to 38; the Greens from no seats to 8; and the farright National Front maintained its single seat.
Presidential elections were held in April and May 2002, with Jacques Chirac defeating National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round. Jospin had come in third behind Le Pen in the first round, a major defeat for the left. In the National Assembly elections held in June, Chirac's RPR united with the Liberal Democracy party (formerly the Republican Party) to form the Union for the Presidential Majority and won an overwhelming majority of seats, taking 357 to the Socialists' 140. The National Front failed to win a single seat; the UDF held 29 seats and the Communists took 21. The Greens held only 3 seats.
In May 2007, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy of the Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire—UMP) defeated Socialist Ségolène Royal in the second round of presidential voting, 53 percent to 47 percent. The first round of voting had been held in April 2007, but no candidate obtained an absolute majority. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2007. The UMP won over 46 percent of the vote and 313 seats in the National Assembly; the Socialists took over 42 percent of the vote and 186 seats. In all, parties affiliated with the UMP and supporting President Sarkozy won 345 seats, and the United Left affiliated with the Socialists took 227 seats.
Sarkozy reshuffled his cabinet in March 2010 after his party lost regional elections in 21 of the 22 regions in mainland France and Corsica. The socialist-led opposition received about 54 percent of the votes.
15 Judicial System
There are two types of lower judicial courts in France, the civil courts and the criminal courts. The function of the civil courts is to judge conflicts arising between persons. The function of the criminal courts is to judge violations against the law. The most serious crimes, for which the penalties may range to life imprisonment, are tried in special courts periodically. Special administrative courts deal with disputes between individuals and government agencies.
From the lower courts, appeals may be taken to appeals courts, of which there were 27 in 2003. Judgments of the appeals courts are final, except that appeals on the interpretation of the law may be taken to the highest of the judicial courts, the Court of Cassation in Paris.
The Conseil Constitutionnel rules on whether or not laws are constitutional. The death penalty was abolished in 1981.
16 Armed Forces
All French males between the ages of 18 and 45 must perform ten months of national service. In 2011, there were 238,591 active personnel in the armed services. The army numbered 130,600 including members of the Foreign Legion. The French navy numbered 40,353 active members
and the air force had 52,669 active personnel. In 2011, the military budget was $55.9 billion.
In 2010 the French and British governments signed two treaties that committed the countries to cooperation and shared resources in defense and nuclear testing. A research and testing center was to be opened in each country. The French nuclear test center was expected to open in 2014.
France is one of the most richly endowed countries of Europe. The favorable climate, extensive areas of rich soil, and long-established tradition of skilled agriculture have created ideal conditions for a thriving farm economy. Large deposits of iron ore, a well-integrated network of power plants, important domestic reserves of natural gas, good transport, and high standards of industrial workmanship have made French industry one of the most modern in Europe.
France and the United States are the world's top two exporting countries in defense products, agricultural goods, and services. Taxes remain the highest in the top industrialized countries, which is seen as a hindrance to the business climate. The fastest-growing areas of the economy were consulting services, meat and milk products, public works, insurance and financial services, and recreation, culture, and sports. France joined 10 other European Union countries in adopting the euro as its currency in January 1999. Although the government has privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, it still controls large sectors of the economy, including energy, transportation, and the defense industry. Unemployment remains a large problem in France, especially among youth and minorities.
A global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 led to a major slowdown of the economy. In 2011 the French economy had a high public debt, high unemployment from the financial crisis, and low labor productivity. The French government responded to the need for more austerity measures by announcing a new plan in November 2011. The goal of the proposed plan was to reduce public debt, balance the budget, and stabilize the French economy.
In 2010 France's GDP was estimated at $2.1 trillion, or about $33,100 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.5 percent. The average inflation rate was 1.5 percent. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2 percent of GDP, industry 19 percent, and services 79 percent.
Industry has expanded considerably since World War II (1939–45), with major progress in the electronics, transport, processing, and construction industries. France is the fourth-leading industrial power, after the United States, Japan, and Germany. In 2010 industry accounted for 19 percent of the GDP percent.
The steel industry suffered from the impact of worldwide recession in the early 1980s. France ranks eleventh in world steel production.
The French automotive industry is one of the largest in the world. Some 3.6 million passenger cars were produced in 2001. The French aircraft industry specializes in advanced design and experimental development. Some of its models, such as the Caravelle and the Mirage IV, have been used in more than fifty countries.
Chemicals, one of the fastest-growing industries in France, range from perfume components to industrial materials such as sulfuric acid. Other industries important to France's economy include pharmaceuticals, perfume and cosmetics, electronics, textiles, and food processing. France produces 54.6 million hectoliters (1.4 billion gallons) of wine annually, making it the second-largest producer after Italy. Agribusiness is an increasingly important industry, supplying France's vast number of restaurants and hotels.
In 2010, 29.3 million persons were in the labor force. Some 72 percent of the workforce were employed in the service sector, with 24 percent in industry, and 4 percent in agriculture. As of 2010, the unemployment rate averaged 9.5 percent.
Although only about 7 percent of the work-force was unionized as of 2010, trade unions have significant influence in the country. The labor code and other laws provide for work, safety, and health standards. The minimum hourly wage rate was $11.79 as of 2010. This amount provides a decent standard of living for a family. The standard legal workweek is set at 35 hours with restrictions on overtime. Children under age sixteen are not permitted to work, and there are restrictions pertaining to employment of those under eighteen.
A reform bill passed in 2010 increased the retirement age and the years necessary to pay into social security. Many people opposed this bill and protested with strikes. They believed it was unfair to those who have worked part-time or been unemployed for long periods of time, particularly women who left the workforce to raise children.
Agriculture remains a vital sector of the French economy. Roughly 35 percent of the total land is farmed, and the country's major crops include
wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, and wine grapes. In 2009 cereal production amounted to 70 million tons, fruit production 9.2 million tons, and vegetable production 4.8 million tons. The most productive farms are in northern France, but specialized areas, such as the vegetable farms of Brittany, the great commercial vineyards of the Languedoc, Burgundy, and Bordeaux districts, and the flower gardens, olive groves, and orchards of Provence, also contribute heavily to the farm economy. There is large-scale production of fruits, chiefly apples, pears, peaches, and cherries.
22 Domesticated Animals
France dedicated 9.9 million hectares (24.5 million acres) to permanent pasture or meadow in 2009. During that year, the country tended 183 million chickens, 19.2 million head of cattle, and 14.8 million pigs. The production from these animals amounted to 1.66 million tons of beef and veal, 1.96 million tons of pork, 1.3 million tons of poultry, 907,373 tons of eggs, and 16.1 million tons of milk. France also produced 138,694 tons of cattle hide and 8,646 tons of raw wool. Meat exports in 2009 were valued at just under $3.3 billion.
Dairy farming flourishes in the rich grasslands of Normandy. France produces some 300 kinds of cheese; in 2009, production totaled about 1.8 million tons. Dairy and egg exports generated $5 billion in 2009.
France, with a coastline dotted with numerous small harbors, has long supported a flourishing coastal and high-seas fishing industry. The total catch for 2008 was 457,127 tons, with an export value of $1.6 billion. French aquaculture consists mainly of oyster and mussel production; most of the facilities are located along the English Channel and the Atlantic coast.
Herring, skate, whiting, sole, mackerel, tuna, sardines, lobster, and mussels make up the principal seafood catch, along with cod, mostly from the fishing banks off northern North America, where French fishing vessels have sailed for centuries. Exports of canned seafood products in 2003 consisted mainly of tuna, mackerel, and sardines. The United Kingdom and Norway are France's leading seafood suppliers.
Forests cover about 29 percent of France's total area. About 66 percent of the forestland is covered with oak, beech, and poplar and 34 percent with resinous trees. This makes France the third most forested country in the European Union, behind Sweden and Finland.
In 2009 roundwood production was estimated 29 million cubic meters (1 billion cubic feet). The value of all forest products, including roundwood, totaled $6.2 billion.
France is among the world's leading producers of coal. The country is also self-sufficient in salt, potash, fluorspar, and talc. Talc de Luzenac, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, was the leading producer of talc in the world. In addition, France has sizable deposits of antimony, bauxite, magnesium, pyrites, tungsten, and certain radioactive minerals.
Production figures for 2009 were: agricultural and industrial limestone, 8,302,000 metric tons; hydraulic cement, 18.3 million tons; salt (rock, refined brine, marine, and in solution), 6.2 million tons; crude gypsum and anhydrite, 3.35 million tons (France was one of Europe's largest producers of gypsum, with two-thirds coming from the Paris Basin); marketable kaolin and kaolinitic clay, 519,000 tons; crude feldspar, 650,000 tons; kyanite, andalusite, and related materials, 65,000 tons; mica, 20,000 metric tons; and crude and powdered talc (significant to the European market), 420,000 metric tons. In 2009, France also produced copper; gold; silver; powder tungsten; uranium; elemental bromine; refractory clays; diatomite; lime; nitrogen; mineral, natural, and iron oxide.
Mining of lead and zinc has completely ceased.
26 Foreign Trade
France imported $685 billion worth of goods and services in 2011, while exporting $578 billion worth of goods and services. Leading French exports, by major categories, are capital goods (machinery, heavy electrical equipment, transport equipment, and aircraft), consumer goods (autos, textiles, and leather), and semifinished products (mainly chemicals, iron, and steel). Major imports are fuels, machinery and equipment, chemicals and paper goods, and consumer goods. France is the largest producer and exporter of farm products in Europe.
Germany continues to be France's most important trading partner. Other principal trading partners are the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, China, and Japan.
27 Energy and Power
In 2008 France produced 570 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and consumed 494 billion kilowatt hours, or 7,563 kilowatt hours per capita. Roughly 51 percent of energy came from fossil fuels, while 45 percent came from alternative fuels.
In 2010 domestic demand for oil was 1.9 million barrels per day, making France the world's 9th-largest consumer of oil. In 2010 net imports of crude oil came to 2.2 million barrels per day. Oil production totaled 18,085 barrels of oil a day.
France's coal and natural gas reserves are very limited. As of 2011 the country had an estimated 6.8 billion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves. Production of natural gas in 2010
totaled an estimated 721 billion cubic feet. Consumption totaled 50 billion cubic feet.
France has become the world's leading producer of nuclear power per person, with the world's second-greatest nuclear power capacity (exceeded only by the United States). Nuclear power accounts for 79 percent of the electric power generated in France, followed by hydroelectric at 12 percent and conventional thermal at 9 percent.
28 Social Development
France has a highly developed social welfare system. The social security fund is financed by contributions from both employers and employees and is partially subsidized by the government. Legislation passed in 2010 changed the retirement age from 60 to 62. The change was scheduled to occur by 2018, increasing in intervals of four months per year.
Equal pay for equal work is provided for by law, although men continue to earn more than women, and unemployment rates are higher for women than for men. Sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace. Rape and spousal abuse laws are strictly enforced, and the penalties are severe. Shelters, counseling, and hotlines are available to victims of sexual abuse and violence.
Large Arab/Muslim, African, and Jewish communities have been subject to harassment and prejudice. Extremist anti-immigrant groups have increasingly been involved in racial attacks. In 2010 France's parliament approved a law that made psychological violence a crime. Psychological violence included verbal attacks intended to harm or degrade another person's life. The bill was primarily designed to protect women.
Under the French system of health care, patients have the option of seeing a private doctor on a fee basis or going to a state-operated facility. Nearly all private doctors are affiliated with the social security system and the patients' expenses are reimbursed in part. The social security system subsidizes approximately 75 percent of all healthcare costs. Pharmaceutical consumption in France is among the highest of all Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries (exceeded only by Japan and the United States).
As of 2011 there were 35 physicians, 89 nurses, and 71 hospital beds per every 10,000 people. Life expectancy in 2011 averaged 81 years. Infant mortality rate was 3 per 1,000 live births, and 90 percent of children were vaccinated against measles. Tobacco and alcohol consumption continue to be health concerns in France.
In 2011 an estimated 0.40 percent of adults were living with HIV/AIDS.
There are about 30 million dwellings nationwide. About 25 million are primary residences, three million are second homes, and two million are vacant. About 58 percent of all dwellings are detached homes.
Education is compulsory for children from the age of six to sixteen and is free in all state primary and secondary schools. Higher education is not free, but academic fees are low, and more
|Selected Social Indicators The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2011. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world's 7 billion people live in high-income countries, while 10% live in low-income countries.|
|Indicator||France||Low-income countries||High-income countries||United States|
|* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country's GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than
|SOURCES: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2011; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2011.|
|Per capita gross national income (GNI)*||$34,440||$1,257||$37,183||$47,020|
|Population growth rate||0.5%||2.2%||0.6%||1%|
|People per square kilometer of land||118||54||33||32|
|Life expectancy in years: male||78||56||77||78|
|Number of physicians per 1,000 people||3.5||0.2||2.6||2.7|
|Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)||19||47||15||14|
|Literacy rate (15 years and older)||99%||57%||97%||99%|
|Cellular phone subscriptions per 1,000 people||951||250||1,111||972|
|Internet users per 1,000 people||710||26||722||780|
|Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)||4,279||351||4,819||7,503|
|CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)||6||0.3||12.5||19.3|
than half of the students are excused from payment. Some 98 percent of age-eligible children were enrolled in primary school as of 2009. Secondary enrollment for age-eligible children stood at 98 percent. Tertiary enrollment was estimated at 55 percent. France had a literacy rate of 99 percent. Public expenditure on education represented 5.6 percent of GDP.
Yearly, about 15 percent of elementary school children and 21 percent of secondary level students attend private schools, the majority of which are Roman Catholic. In Brittany, most children attend Catholic schools. Freedom of education is guaranteed by law. The state exercises certain controls over private educational institutions, nearly all of which follow the uniform curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education.
Primary school covers five years of study. There are two levels of secondary instruction. The first, the collège, is compulsory. After four years of schooling are successfully completed, the student receives a national diploma (brevet des collèges). Those who wish to pursue further studies enter either the two-year lycée d'enseignement professionel or the three-year lycée d'enseignement général et technologique. The former prepares students for a certificate of vocational competence, the latter for the baccalauréat, which is a pre-requisite for higher education. Choice of a lycée depends on aptitude test results.
There are 91 public universities and 175 professional schools within 26 académies, which now act as administrative units. The old University of Paris, also referred to as the Sorbonne, is the oldest in France and one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the
world. It is now divided into 13 units, only a few of which are at the ancient Left Bank site. There are Catholic universities at Argers, Lille, Lyon, and Toulouse.
Postal, telephone, and telegraph systems are operated by the government. As of 2009 there were some 35.5 million main phone lines, and mobile phone subscriptions averaged 95 per 100 people.
There were 41 FM and 3,500 AM radio stations and 310 television stations. Internet users numbered 71 per 100 citizens.
In 2002, there were over 100 daily newspapers in the country. Some of the important regional papers rival the Parisian dailies in influence and circulation. Major newspapers included Ouest-France (circulation 753,730); Le Figaro (circulation 318,909); and Le Monde (circulation 289,990). The Agence France-Presse is the most important French news service. The illustrated Paris-Match is the most widely read magazine, with a weekly circulation of 626,178. Several magazines for women also enjoy wide popularity, including Elle (circulation 381,647).
The law provides for free expression including those of speech and press.
33 Tourism and Recreation
France is considered the world's top tourist destination. In 2009, tourist arrivals numbered 76.8 million, and receipts from tourism amounted to $59.4 billion. That year there were 1.2 million hotel beds in the country.
France has many tourist attractions, ranging from the museums and monuments of Paris to beaches of the southeast and ski slopes in the
Alps. In 1992 Euro Disneyland, 20 miles east of Paris, opened with great fanfare.
Sophisticated dining, hearty regional specialties, and an extraordinary variety of fine wines attract food and wine lovers the world over. The area between the Rhône River and the Pyrenees contains the largest single stretch of vineyards in the world.
The most popular French sport is soccer (commonly called “le foot”). Other favorite sports are skiing, tennis, water sports, and bicycling. Paris hosted the Winter Olympics in Albertville in 1992. Le Mans is the site of a world-class auto race. The Tour de France, the most prestigious competition in professional cycling, is held during July.
In 2010 French cuisine was recognized by the UN World Heritage Program. The recognition was not only for food but also for traditional meal rituals that include multiple courses, the pairing of wine with foods, the decoration of the table, the placement of dishware, glasses, and utensils, and food tasting gestures. Such an elaborate meal generally occurs at times of celebration, such as weddings, birthdays, and
anniversaries, and serves to strengthen social and familial ties. This marked the first time that a nation's cuisine was added to the list.
34 Famous People
Principal figures of early French history include Clovis I (466?–511), the first important monarch of the Merovingian line; Charles Martel (“the Hammer,” 689?–741), leader of the Franks against the Saracens in 732; his grandson Charlemagne (742–814), the greatest of the Carolingians, crowned emperor of the West on 25 December 800; and William II, duke of Normandy (1027–1087), later William I of England (“the Conqueror,” ruled 1066–1087). Saint Martin of Tours (b. Pannonia, 316?–397) was bishop of Tours and founder of the monastery of Marmoutier. He is now considered the patron saint of France.
Early warrior-heroes include Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc, 1412–1431), the first to have a vision of France as a single nation. She died a martyr and became a saint and a national heroine. The flag of France was first planted in the New World by Jacques Cartier (1491–1557), who was followed by the founder of New France in Canada, Samuel de Champlain (1567–1635).
The era of Louis XIV (“le Roi Soleil,” or “the Sun King,” 1638–1715) was in many respects the golden age of France. Great statesmen, such as the cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, duc de Richelieu (1585–1642), managed French diplomacy and created the French Academy. Noted explorers in the New World include Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle (1643–1687). In literature, leading figures include Moliére (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622–1673), Charles Perrault (1628–1703), and Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619–1655).
Two leading French philosophers and mathematicians of the period, René Descartes (1596–1650) and Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), left their mark on the whole of European thought. Modern French literature began during the 16th century, with François Rabelais (1490?–1553). The poetic prophecies of the astrologer Nostradamus (Michel de Notredame, 1503–1566) are still widely read today.
During the 18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (b. Switzerland, 1712–1778) left a mark on philosophy. Denis Diderot (1713–1784) and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert (1717–1783) created the Great Encyclopedia (Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Artes et des Métiers).
French science was advanced by Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–1788), zoologist and founder of the Paris Museum. In literature, the towering figure was Voltaire (François Marie Arouet, 1694–1778).
The rule of Louis XVI (1754–1793) and his queen, Marie Antoinette (1755–1793), and the social order they represented, ended with the French Revolution. Outstanding figures of the Revolution include Jean-Paul Marat (1743–1793) and Maximilien Marie Isidore Robespierre (1758–1794). Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) rose to prominence as a military leader in the Revolution and subsequently became emperor of France.
During the 19th century, leading figures were Louis Jacques Mendé Daguerre (1789–1851), inventor of photography, and Claude Bernard (1813–1878), the great physiologist. Other pioneers of science include Jean Bernard Léon Foucault (1819–1868) in physics and Louis
Pasteur (1822–1895) in chemistry and bacteriology. Louis Braille (1809–1852) invented the method of writing books for the blind that bears his name. Literary figures include Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885), Alexandre Dumas the elder (1802–1870) and his son, Alexandre Dumas the younger (1824–1895), and Jules Verne (1828–1905). Louis Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) was the greatest figure in 19th century French music. Other figures were Charles François Gounod (1818–1893), composer of Faust, and Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921). Georges Bizet (1838–1875) is renowned for his opera Carmen, and Jacques Lévy Offenbach (1819–1880) for his immensely popular operettas.
In painting, the 19th century produced the impressionists and postimpressionists Édouard Manet (1832–1883), Claude Monet (1840–1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), and Georges Seurat (1859–1891). Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) was the foremost sculptor. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834–1904) created the Statue of Liberty which was given to the city of New York.
In the 20th century, Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), musician, philosopher, physician, and humanist, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. Famous scientists include chemist and physicist Pierre Curie (1859–1906) and his wife, Polish-born Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867–1934), who shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for physics with her husband and won a Nobel Prize again, for chemistry, in 1911. Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a founder of modern sociology.
Honored writers include Sully-Prudhomme (René François Armand, 1839–1907), Marcel Proust (1871–1922), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), and Albert Camus (1913–1960). Significant composers include Claude Achille Debussy (1862–1918).
Of international renown are the master of mime Marcel Marceau (1923–2007) and oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910–1997), who popularized undersea exploration with documentary films and books.
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