Find all the essential information and a summary of the fact sheet on France, its influence and its attractiveness.
- Major cities
- Political system
Three vertical stripes: blue, white, red
- National anthem
- National motto
244,340 sq mi (632 834 km2), 213,010 sq mi (551 695 km2) of which are covered by Metropolitan France
65,586,000 inhabitants in 2013
1,907.2 billion Euros (5th in the world)
€30,451.4 / capita
France is the most expansive country in the European Union and benefits from a wide variety of landscapes. Located on Europe's western side, the metropolitan territory has over 3,400 miles (5 500 km) of coastline stretching from the North Sea and along the Channel to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and along the Mediterranean in the south. Several islands line the coasts, the largest of which is Corsica located in the Mediterranean.
The large mountain ranges are distributed in the east and the south while 4 great river basins cross the country. The Seine in the north, the Loire and the Garonne in the west, and the Rhône between Switzerland and the Mediterranean.
France shares its borders with Belgium and Luxembourg in the north, Germany, Switzerland and Italy in the east, and with Spain in the south.
It also includes overseas territories which include a great number of islands.
In addition to its metropolitan territory, France covers more than 46,000 mi² of land overseas: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy off the coast of North America; French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and Clipperton in the Pacific Ocean; and Reunion Island, Mayotte, the Scattered Islands, the Crozet Islands and the Kerguelen Islands with St. Paul and Amsterdam in the Indian Ocean. As for French Guiana, it is located in South America while Adélie Land is in Antarctica.
In the 1st century BC, Julius Caesar occupied a large part of the current territory, which at the time was called Gaul and mostly inhabited by peoples of Celtic origin. It was the Franks who gave their name to this country which they conquered in the 5th century. By pushing out the Romans and constituting a kingdom, Clovis put an end to the Gallo-Roman era. However, it wasn't until the 9th century following a treaty that divided Charlemagne's empire that France was born. Carolingian king Charles the Bald attempted to form a kingdom but it was Hugues Capet, starting from the 10th century, who implemented a model of great royal power.
Many kings led wars and battles to strengthen their central authority and the borders of the kingdom. This Capetian dynasty would illustrate itself with Philippe Auguste and then Louis IX, known as Saint Louis. The 14th and a large part of the 15th centuries were marked by periods of conflict like the Hundred Years War, great epidemics and social unrest.
The ascension of François 1st in 1515 and with him the emergence of the Renaissance in France concluded this terrible period. Put back into question during the Wars of Religion between 1562 and 1598, royal authority was restored by Louis XIII and especially Louis XIV who established absolute power. This royal dynasty was brought down by the revolution of 1789 with the end of the reign of Louis XVI and the proclamation of the 1st Republic in 1792. In 1804, Napoleon established an imperial power which, at its end in 1815, marked a period alternating between revolutions and attempts to re-establish royalty. The end of the Second Empire in 1870 definitively sealed the return of the Republic.
The 20th century saw the two World Wars which were particularly murderous. The first one, between 1914 and 1918, finished with a France that was victorious but in ruins. The second one, between 1939 and 1945, opened a dark chapter in the history of France, with the collaboration of the power in place that was Nazi Germany. The Resistance rallied around General de Gaulle contributed to creating a new political class which led the reconstruction of the country under the 4th Republic.
Up until the 1960s, the period was marked by wars of independence and decolonisation. The Algerian war concluded the end of a Republic on its last breath. In 1958, a new constitution proclaimed the 5th Republic.
The constitution of the 5th Republic, proclaimed on 4 October 1958, stipulates that “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic.”
The President of the Republic is elected for a 5 year term by direct universal suffrage. He names the Prime Minister and based on his recommendation, the members of the government.
The President of the Republic presides over the Council of Ministers, promulgates laws and is the Commander-in-Chief of the armies. The Prime Minister directs the actions of the government which determine and lead national policy. He is responsible before both Houses of Parliament:
- The National Assembly, 577 deputies elected by direct universal suffrage for a period of 5 years.
- The Senate, 348 senators elected by indirect universal suffrage for a period of 6 years.
The National Assembly and the Senate control the government and draw up and vote on laws. In case of disagreement on a law, the National Assembly has the final say.
Metropolitan France is composed of territorial collectivities whose members are elected by direct universal suffrage: the communes, the departments and the regions. Every collectivity is representative of itself according to defined capabilities.
The status of France's overseas territories varies. Some are departments and regions like Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana and Mayotte, while others have the status of an overseas collectivity with varying degrees of autonomy and capabilities.
France's cultural heritage is the fruit of a long history and French passion for the arts. Some 750 pieces of property are classified on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The architectural heritage is particularly important, whether it be religious, civilian, military or industrial.
France's museums count exceptional collections bearing testimony to the history of art from around the world, such as the Louvre and the great schools of French paintings of the 19th and 20th centuries. France is also the country of great writers and distinguished composers, not to mention the homeland of cinema, renowned filmmakers, as well as actors and actresses who have been recognized around the world.
The 5th largest economic power, France's economy currently revolves around services which employ more than 70% of the active population.
Its dynamic agricultural sector makes France the leading agricultural producer in the European Union, while its viticulture is particularly important since France is the global leader in the production of wines and spirits.
The industrial sector is particularly developed in the agribusiness, automobile, building and public works, chemical industry, rail, aeronautics and aerospace, energy, and pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors. The transport sector benefits from an efficient road and rail network.
New technologies hold an important place in the developing sectors and are mostly supported by large enterprises but also a small ribbon of SMEs.
France is also renowned for its luxury and tourism sector. It is the leading tourist destination in the world.
A large network of road and rail transport covers the country.
The motorway network (more than 60,000 miles, as 10 000 kilomètres) crosses France from north to south and east to west.
A secondary road network services the smaller communities.
The rail network is composed of high speed trains (TGV) servicing the large French and European cities and a local network linking the main cities to the smallest communities.
Air transport services the large French cities and Paris boasts one of the largest international airports.
The public transport systems are very developed. In the large cities, metros, tramways and buses provide transportation for travellers over a large radius around the city centre.
In the smaller towns or in the country, the local services or bus networks linked to the train stations provide access to the majority of the French communities.