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Map of France
Introduction France
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 presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. Presently, 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 defense and security apparatus.
Geography 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
Geographic coordinates:
46 00 N, 2 00 E
Map references:
total: 547,030 sq km
land: 545,630 sq km
note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas administrative divisions
water: 1,400 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of Colorado
Land boundaries:
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
3,427 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
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
mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m
Natural resources:
coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, potash, timber, fish
Land use:
arable land: 33.3%
permanent crops: 2.11%
other: 64.59% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
20,000 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean
Environment - current issues:
some forest damage from acid rain (major forest damage occurred as a result of severe December 1999 windstorm); 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-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, 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: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note:
largest West European nation
People France
59,765,983 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 18.5% (male 5,675,269; female 5,401,661)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 19,503,556; female 19,479,646)
65 years and over: 16.3% (male 3,948,433; female 5,757,418) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.35% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
11.94 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
9.04 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
0.64 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
4.41 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.05 years
female: 83.14 years (2002 est.)
male: 75.17 years
Total fertility rate:
1.74 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.44% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
130,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
2,000 (1999 est.)
noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women)
adjective: French
Ethnic groups:
Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities
Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%
French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (1980 est.)
Government France
Country name:
conventional long form: French Republic
conventional short form: France
local long form: Republique Francaise
local short form: France
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
22 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes
note: metropolitan France is divided into 22 regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and is subdivided into 96 departments; see separate entries for the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion) and the overseas territorial collectivities (Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon)
Dependent areas:
Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, New Caledonia, Tromelin Island, Wallis and Futuna
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica
486 (unified by Clovis)
National holiday:
Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)
28 September 1958, amended concerning election of president in 1962, amended to comply with provisions of EC Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Amsterdam Treaty in 1996, Treaty of Nice in 2000; amended to tighten immigration laws 1993
Legal system:
civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Jacques CHIRAC (since 17 May 1995)
head of government: Prime Minister Jean-Pierre RAFFARIN (since 7 May 2002)
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (changed from seven-year term in 2001); election last held 21 April and 5 May 2002 (next to be held, first round NA April 2007, second round NA May 2007); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly majority and appointed by the president
election results: Jacques CHIRAC reelected president; percent of vote, second ballot - Jacques CHIRAC (RPR) 81.96%, Jean-Marie LE PEN (FN) 18.04%
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the suggestion of the prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (321 seats - 296 for metropolitan France, 13 for overseas departments and territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms; elected by thirds every three years) and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a single-member majoritarian system to serve five-year terms)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - RPR 83, PS 68, UDC 37, DL 35, RDES 16, PCF 16, other 66; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - UMP 355, PS 140, UDF 29, PCF 21, Radical Party 7, The Greens 3, other 22
elections: Senate - last held 23 September 2001 (next to be held NA September 2004); National Assembly - last held 8-16 June 2002 (next to be held NA June 2007)
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:
Citizen adn Republican Movement or MCR [Jean Pierre CHEVENEMENT]; Democratic and European Social Rally or RDES (mainly RAD and PRG) [leader NA]; Forum of Social Republicans or FRS (offshoot from UMP) [Christine BOUTIN]; French Communist Party or PCF [Marie-George BUFFET]; Generation Ecology [France GAMERRE]; Hunting, Fishing, Nature, and Tradition or CPNT [Jean SAINT-JOSSE]; Independent Ecological Movement or MEI [Antoine WAECHTER]; Left Radical Party or PRG (previously Radical Socialist Party or PRS and the Left Radical Movement or MRG) [Jean-Michel BAYLET]; Liberal-Christian Right [Charles MILLON]; Liberal Democracy or DL (originally Republican Party or PR) [Alain MADELIN]; Movement for France or MPF [Philippe DE VILLIERS]; National Front or FN [Jean-Marie LE PEN]; National Republican Movement or MNR [Bruno MEGRET]; Radical Party or RP [Francois LOOS]; Rally for France or RPF [Charles PASQUA]; Rally for the Republic or RPR [Michelle ALLIOT-MARIE]; Revolutionary Communists' League or LCR [Alain KRIVINE]; Socialist Party or PS [Francois HOLLANDE]; The Greens [Gilles LEMAIRE, national secretary]; Union for French Democracy or UDF (coalition of DL, CDS, UDF, RP, and other parties) [Francois BAYROU]; Union for a Popular Movement or UMP (including RPR, DL, and a part of UDF) [Alain JUPPE]; Union of the Center or UDC [leader NA]
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 865,000 members (claimed, of which 810,000 are actively employed); 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)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Jean-David LEVITTE
chancery: 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007
FAX: [1] (202) 944-6166
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco
telephone: [1] (202) 944-6000
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Howard H. LEACH
embassy: 2 Avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris
mailing address: PSC 116, B210 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 French Tricouleur (Tricolor); 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
Economy France
Economy - overview:
France is in the midst of a gradual 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, but still retains large stakes in several leading firms, including Air France, France Telecom, and Renault, and remains dominant in some sectors, particularly the 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. The government has lowered income taxes and introduced measures to boost employment but has done little to reform an overly expensive pension system, rigid labor market, and restrictive bureaucracy which discourage hiring and make the tax burden one of the highest in Europe. In addition to the tax burden, the reduction of the workweek to 35 hours has drawn criticism for lowering the competitiveness of French businesses. The current economic slowdown has thrown the government's goal of balancing the budget by 2004 off track.
purchasing power parity - $1.54 trillion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.1% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $25,700 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 26%
services: 71% (2002 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 25% (1995)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
33 (1995)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.8% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
26.6 million (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 71%, industry 25%, agriculture 4% (1997)
Unemployment rate:
9.1% (2002 est.)
revenues: $210 billion
expenditures: $240 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
-0.3% (2002)
Electricity - production:
513.92 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 10%
hydro: 13%
other: 1% (2000)
nuclear: 77%
Electricity - consumption:
408.51 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
73.172 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
3.737 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish
$307.8 billion f.o.b. (2002)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages
Exports - partners:
EU 61.3% (Germany 14.7%, UK 9.8%, Spain 9.6%, Italy 8.8%), US 8.7% (2001)
$303.7 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals
Imports - partners:
EU 58.6% (Germany 16.7%, Benelux 7.0%, Italy 9.1%, UK 7.5%), US 8.9% (2001)
Debt - external:
$106 billion (1998)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $6.3 billion (1997) (1997)
euro (EUR); French franc (FRF)
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:
Exchange rates:
euros per US dollar - 1.1324 (January 2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999); French francs per US dollar - 5.65 (January 1999), 5.8995 (1998), 5.8367 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications France
Telephones - main lines in use:
34.86 million (yearend 1998)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
11.078 million (yearend 1998)
Telephone system:
general assessment: highly developed
domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay; extensive introduction of fiber-optic cable; domestic satellite system
international: 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
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 41, FM about 3,500 (this figure is an approximation and includes many repeaters), shortwave 2 (1998)
55.3 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
584 (plus 9,676 repeaters) (1995)
34.8 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
62 (2000)
Internet users:
16.97 million (2002)
Transportation France
total: 31,939 km (operated by French National Railways (SNCF); 14,176 km of SNCF routes are electrified and 12,132 km are double- or multiple-track)
standard gauge: 31,840 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 99 km 1.000-m gauge (2000 est.)
total: 892,900 km
paved: 892,900 km (including 9,900 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1999)
14,932 km (6,969 km heavily traveled)
crude oil 3,059 km; petroleum products 4,487 km; natural gas 24,746 km
Ports and harbors:
Bordeaux, Boulogne, Cherbourg, Dijon, Dunkerque, La Pallice, Le Havre, Lyon, Marseille, Mullhouse, Nantes, Paris, Rouen, Saint Nazaire, Saint Malo, Strasbourg
Merchant marine:
total: 49 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,263,691 GRT/1,769,932 DWT
ships by type: bulk 3, cargo 4, chemical tanker 9, combination bulk 1, container 3, liquefied gas 3, passenger 3, petroleum tanker 15, roll on/roll off 4, short-sea passenger 4
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: French Polynesia 2, Greece 1, Japan 1, Norway 1, Sweden 9 (2002 est.)
477 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 273
over 3,047 m: 13
2,438 to 3,047 m: 28
914 to 1,523 m: 80
under 914 m: 57 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 95
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 204
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 74
under 914 m: 128 (2002)
3 (2002)
Military France
Military branches:
Army (includes marines), Navy (includes naval air), Air Force (includes Air Defense), National Gendarmerie
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 14,534,480 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 12,092,938 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 390,064 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$46.5 billion (2000)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.57% (2002)
Transnational Issues France
Disputes - international:
Madagascar claims Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, and Tromelin Island; Comoros claims Mayotte; Mauritius claims Tromelin Island; territorial dispute between Suriname and French Guiana; territorial claim in Antarctica (Adelie Land); Matthew and Hunter Islands, east of New Caledonia, claimed by France and Vanuatu
Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and European synthetics

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003