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The French Republic or France (French République Française or France), is a country located in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. It is a founding member of the European Union, a member of NATO, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It holds nuclear weapons.

République Française

(In Detail) Coat of arms of the French Republic

National motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité
(Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood)
Official languageFrench
Largest CityParis
President Jacques Chirac
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
 - Total 1

 - Metropolitan France2

 - % water
Ranked 47th
674,843 km²
(260,558 sq. mi.)
551,695 km² 3
(213,011 sq. mi.)
543,965 km² 4
(210,026 sq. mi.)
(January 1, 2004)
 - Total 1

 - Metropolitan France2

 - Density2
Ranked 20th



CurrencyEuro(€)5, CFP Franc6,
Time zoneUTC +1 (CET) (DST +2)2
National anthemLa Marseillaise
Internet TLD.fr 2
Calling Code33 2
(1) Whole territory of the French Republic, including all the overseas departments and territories, but excluding the French territory of Terre Adélie in Antarctica where sovereignty is suspended since the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959
(2) Metropolitan (i.e. European) France only
(3) French National Geographic Institute data
(4) French Land Register data, which exclude lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km² (0.386 sq. mi. or 247 acres) as well as the estuaries of rivers
(5) Whole of the French Republic except the overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean
(6) French overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean only

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Administrative divisions
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Religion
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 See also
11 International rankings
12 External links


Main article: History of France

The borders of modern France closely match those of the ancient territory of Gaul, inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. Gaul was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC, and the Gauls eventually adopted Romance speech and culture. Christianity also took root in the second and third centuries AD. Gaul's eastern frontiers along the Rhine were overrun by Germanic tribes in the fourth century AD, principally the Franks, from which the ancient name of "Francie" derived, modern name "France" derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris (see now Île-de-France).

Although the French monarchy is often dated to the 5th century, France's continuous existence as a separate entity begins with the 9th-century division of Charlemagne's Frankish empire into an eastern and a western part. The eastern part can be regarded the beginnings of what is now Germany, the western part that of France.

Charlemagne's descendants ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, starting with the Capetian dynasty, ruled France until 1792, when the French Revolution established a Republic, in a period of increasingly radical change that began in 1789.

Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the republic in 1799, making himself Emperor. His armies engaged in several wars across Europe, conquered many countries and established new kingdoms with Napoleon's family members at the helm. Following his defeat in 1815, monarchial rule was restored to France, which was then legislatively abolished and followed by a Second Republic. The second republic ended when the late Emperor's nephew, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President and proclaimed a Second Empire. Less ambitious than his uncle, the second Napoleon was also ultimately unseated, and republican rule returned for a third time.

Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy (known as the Fifth Republic) that has not succumbed to the instabilities experienced in earlier more parliamentary regimes.

In recent decades, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in January 1999.

Today, France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defense and security apparatus.

It is also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.


Main article: Politics of France

The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by public referendum on September 28 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to Parliament. Under the constitution, the president is elected directly for a 5-year (originally 7-year) term. Presidential arbitration assures regular functioning of the public powers and the continuity of the state. The president names the prime minister, presides over the cabinet, commands the armed forces, and concludes treaties.

The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) is the principal legislative body. Its deputies are directly elected to 5-year terms, and all seats are voted on in each election. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the cabinet, and thus the majority in the Assembly determines the choice of government. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 9-year terms, and one-third of the Senate is renewed every 3 years. The Senate's legislative powers are limited; the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.

See also:

Administrative divisions

Main articles:
Administrative divisions of France, List of regions in France

France has 26 regions (French: région), which are further subdivided into 100 départements. The departments are numbered (mainly alphabetically) and this number is used in e.g. postal codes and vehicle number plates.

The departments are further subdivided into 342 arrondissements.

The overseas departments are former colonies outside France that now enjoy a status similar to European or metropolitan France. They are considered to be a part of France (and the EU) rather than dependent territories, and each of them is a region at the same time.

The overseas territories and countries form part of the French Republic, but do not form part of the Republic's European territory or the EU fiscal area. They continue to use the French Pacific Franc as their currency, which was unaffected by the French franc's replacement by the Euro in 2002.

The territorial collectivities have an intermediate status between overseas department and overseas territory.

France also maintains control over a number of other small islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, including Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, Tromelin Island. See Islands controlled by France in the Indian and Pacific oceans.


Main article: Geography of France

France possesses a large variety of landscapes, ranging from coastal plains in the north and west, where France borders the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, to the mountain ranges in the south (the Pyrenees) and the southeast (the Alps), of which the latter contains the highest point of Europe, the Mont Blanc at 4810 m.

In between are found other elevated regions such as the Massif Central or the Vosges mountains and extensive river basins such as those of the Loire River, the Rhone River, the Garonne and Seine.


Main article:
Economy of France

France's economy combines extensive private enterprise with substantial, but declining, government intervention. Large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer in Western Europe and, even after the loss of Algeria in the sixties, the French economy remains one of the most important and influential economies in the world. France also has a leading aerospace industry and is the only European power, after Russia, to have its own national space center.

The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunication firms. It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly selling off holdings in France Telecom, Air France, as well as the insurance, banking, and defense industries.

France joined 10 other EU members to launch the euro on January 1 1999, with euro coins and banknotes completely replacing the French franc in early 2002.

Since the end of WWII the government is making efforts to integrate more and more with Germany, both economically and politically, to form what is today called Franco German locomotive that pushes the entire European Union to be the most industrialized and rich economic power of all times. This alliance is the basis of what is called the "core" countries in favour of greater integration of the European Union.

See also: List of French companies


Main article: Demographics of France

The official language is French, with several regional languages (including Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch (Flemish), German (Alsatian), Occitan and Oïl languages), but the French government and school system discouraged the use of any of them until recently. The regional languages are now taught at some schools, though French remains the only official language in use by the government, local or national.


Following from the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France guarantees freedom of religion as a constitutional right. A 1905 law instituted the separation of Church and State and prohibited the government from recognizing, salarying or subsidizing any religion. In the preceding situation, established 1801-1808 of the Concordat, the State used to support the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Calvinist Church and the Jewish religion and provided for public religious educations in those religions (for historical reasons, this situation is still current in Alsace-Moselle).

The French government does not keep statistics as to religion.

The 2003 CIA World Factbook lists the religion of France as: Roman Catholic 83-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim (North African workers) 5-10%, unaffiliated 4%. It is unclear where these numbers come from.

However, in a 2003 poll 41% said that the existence of God was "excluded" or "unlikely". 33% declared that "atheist" described them rather or very well, and 51% for "Christian". When questioned about their religion, 62% answered Roman Catholic, 6% Muslim, 2% Protestant, 1% Jewish, 2% "other religions" (except for Orthodox or Buddhist, which were negligible), 26% "no religion" and 1% declined to answer. The discrepancy between the number of "atheists" (41%) and the number of with "no religion" (26%) may be attributed to people who feel culturally close to a religion, follow its moral values and traditions, but hardly believe in God. In France, there is a strong gap between civilian life and religion. Religion is considered as private as possible. French people in general are opposed to clerical power and its influence in policy. Islamic fundamentalism is considered as a real threat for the cohesion of the French society where communitarism is not accepted. This had already occurred in the past with Catholics before the French Revolution in 1789.

See also: Islam in France, laïcité


Main article: Culture of France

Miscellaneous topics

Description of the flag: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red; known as the drapeau
tricolore (Tricolor Flag); the design and colors are similar to a number of other flags, including those of Belgium, Chad, Ireland, Côte d'Ivoire, and Luxembourg; the official flag for all French dependent areas

The foundation of France may be dated to 486 (unified by Clovis I).

France's motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" was first used as the rebels' motto during the French Revolution.

The national holiday is the Fête Nationale (National Day), celebrating the Taking of the Bastille, July 14 (1789), often referred to as Bastille Day in English.

The capital and most populous city, Paris, is home to the Eiffel Tower, a tower of girdered puddled iron constructed in 1889.

The Palace of Versailles is the number one tourist destination in France followed by the great châteaux of the Loire Valley.

Principal cities include:

Aix-en-Provence, Ajaccio, Albi, Amiens, Angers, Angouleme, Bastia, Belfort, Besançon, Bordeaux, Brest, Caen, Calais, Cannes, Carcassonne, Charleville-Mézières, Clermont-Ferrand, Colmar, Dijon, Dunkerque, Evreux, Grenoble, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Le Mans, Lille, Limoges, Lyon, Marseille, Metz, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nancy, Nantes, Nice, Nîmes, Orléans, Paris, Perpignan, Poitiers, Quimper, Reims, Rennes, Roubaix, Rouen, Saint-Étienne, Saint-Nazaire, Strasbourg, Tarbes, Toulon, Toulouse, Tourcoing, Tours and Valence.

See also List of towns in France and List of fifteen largest French metropolitan areas by population

See also

International rankings

External links

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