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The French Republic, 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.

République Française

France has no national coat of arms; see Marianne
(In Detail)

National motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité
(French, Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood)
Official languageFrench
Largest CityParis
President Jacques Chirac
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 47th
547,030 km2 ¹
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 20th
60,180,529 ¹
CurrencyEuro², French euro coins
Time zoneUTC +1 (CET)
National anthemLa Marseillaise
Internet TLD.FR¹
Calling Code33¹
(1) Data for European (metropolitan) France
(2) Prior to 1999: French franc

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 Gauls, as illustrated by its Roman conqueror Julius Caesar who wrote a book on that war, is mostly its previous name. The actual shape make it called the hexagone. Though 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.

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. 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.

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, in Air France, and in the insurance, banking, and defense industries.

France joined 11 other EU members to launch the euro on January 1 1999, with euro coins and banknotes completely replacing the French franc in early 2002.

See also: List of French companies


Main article: Demographics of France

The official language is French, with several local languages (Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch (Flemish), German (Alsatian), Occitan), 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 1995 CIA World Factbook lists the religion of France as: Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim (North African workers) 1%, unaffiliated 6%.

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 interrogated 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" and the number of "without religion" may be attributed to people who nominally belong to a religion, perhaps out of social pressure or custom, but do not actually believe in it.

See also: Islam in France


Main article: Culture of France

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1New Year's DayJour de l'An 

-EasterPâquesSunday, date varies
-Easter MondayLundi de PâquesMonday after Easter
May 1Labour DayFête du Travail 
May 8V-E DayVictoire 1945End of WWII
-Ascension DayAscensionThursday, 40 days after Easter
-PentecostPentecôteSeventh Sunday after Easter
July 14Bastille DayFête NationaleNational Day
August 15AssumptionAssomption 
November 1All Saints DayToussaint 
November 11Veterans Day
Armistice Day
Remembrance Day
Armistice 1918End of WWI
December 25Christmas DayNoël 

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).

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 steel 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.

See also

International rankings

External links

European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia

Countries of the world  |  Europe  |  Council of Europe

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