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Europe - France

Background
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 hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent decades, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. In the early 21st century, five French overseas entities - French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion - became French regions and were made part of France proper.


Geography
Location:

metropolitan 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

French Guiana:
Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and Suriname
Guadeloupe: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Puerto Rico

Martinique:
Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago

Mayotte:
Southern Indian Ocean, island in the Mozambique Channel, about half way between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique

Reunion:
Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar

Area:
total: 643,801 sq km; 551,500 sq km (metropolitan France)
country comparison to the world: 43
land: 640,427 sq km; 549,970 sq km (metropolitan France)
water: 3,374 sq km; 1,530 sq km (metropolitan France)

note:
the first numbers include the overseas regions of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion

Climate:
metropolitan France: 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

French Guiana:
tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation
Guadeloupe and Martinique: subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average

Mayotte:
tropical; marine; hot, humid, rainy season during northeastern monsoon (November to May); dry season is cooler (May to November)

Reunion:
tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April)
Natural Resources:

metropolitan France:
coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, fish

French Guiana:
gold deposits, petroleum, kaolin, niobium, tantalum, clay


People
Population: 65,630,692 (July 2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 21
note:the above figure is for metropolitan France and five overseas regions; the metropolitan France population is 62,814,233

Ethnic groups:
Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities overseas departments: black, white, mulatto, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian

Religions:
Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4% overseas departments: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan

Languages:
French (official) 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)
overseas departments: French, Creole patois, Mahorian (a Swahili dialect)

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)


Government
Government type: republic

Capital:
name: Paris
geographic coordinates: 48 52 N, 2 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

note:
applies to metropolitan France only, not to its overseas departments, collectivities, or territories

Independence:
no official date of independence: 486 (Frankish tribes unified under Merovingian kingship); 10 August 843 (Western Francia established from the division of the Carolingian Empire); 14 July 1789 (French monarchy overthrown); 22 September 1792 (First French Republic founded); 4 October 1958 (Fifth French Republic established)

Legal system:
civil law; review of administrative but not legislative acts

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007)

head of government: Prime Minister Francois FILLON (since 17 May 2007)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president at the suggestion of the prime minister
(For more information visit the World Leaders website)

elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 22 April and 6 May 2007 (next to be held in the spring of 2012); prime minister appointed by the president

election results: Nicolas SARKOZY elected; first round: percent of vote - Nicolas SARKOZY 31.2%, Segolene ROYAL 25.9%, Francois BAYROU 18.6%, Jean-Marie LE PEN 10.4%, others 13.9%; second round: SARKOZY 53.1%, ROYAL 46.9%

Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (348 seats; 328 for metropolitan France and overseas departments, 2 for New Caledonia, 2 for French Polynesia, 1 for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, 1 for Saint-Barthelemy, 1 for Saint-Martin, 1 for Wallis and Futuna, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve six-year terms; one third elected every three years); and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats; 555 for metropolitan France, 15 for overseas departments, 7 for overseas dependencies; members elected by popular vote under a single-member majority system to serve five-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held on 25 September 2011 (next to be held in September 2014); National Assembly - last held on 10 and 17 June 2007 (next to be held in June 2012)

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PS/Greens 140, UMP 132, UDF 31, PCF/MRC 21, PRG 17, other 7; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - UMP 46.4%, PS 42.2%, miscellaneous left wing parties 2.5%, PCF 2.3%, NC 2.1%, PRG 1.6%, miscellaneous right wing parties 1.2%, the Greens 0.4%, other 1.2%; seats by party - UMP 313, PS 186, NC 22, miscellaneous left wing parties 15, PCF 16, miscellaneous right wing parties 9, PRG 7, the Greens 3, other 6

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



Economy Overview

France is transitioning from an economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms, but is in the midst of a euro-zone crisis. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. It maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. With at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism. 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. France's real GDP contracted 2.6% in 2009, but recovered somewhat in 2010 and 2011. The unemployment rate increased from 7.4% in 2008 to 9.3% in 2010 and 9.1% in 2011. Lower-than-expected growth and increased unemployment have cut government revenues and increased borrowing costs, contributing to a deterioration of France's public finances. The government budget deficit rose sharply from 3.4% of GDP in 2008 to 7.5% of GDP in 2009 before improving to 5.8% of GDP in 2011, while France's public debt rose from 68% of GDP to 86% over the same period. Paris is implementing austerity measures that eliminate tax credits and freeze most government spending in an effort to bring the budget deficit under the 3% euro-zone ceiling by 2013, and to highlight France's commitment to fiscal discipline at a time of intense financial market scrutiny of euro-zone debt levels. President SARKOZY secured passage of pension reform in 2010, but Paris may delay additional, potentially unpopular, reforms until after the 2012 election.


Key Economic Indicators
GDP – real growth rate:
1.7% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163
1.4% (2010 est.)
-2.6% (2009 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$35,000 (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
$34,600 (2010 est.)
$34,300 (2009 est.)
note:data are in 2011 US dollars

GDP – composition by sector

agriculture: 1.7%
industry: 18.5%
services: 79.8% (2011 est.)

Labor force:
29.56 million (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21

Budget:
revenues: $1.383 trillion
expenditures: $1.547 trillion (2011 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
1.7% (2010 est.)

Agriculture – products:
wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish

Industries:
machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism

Exports:
$578.4 billion (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$517.2 billion (2010 est.)

Exports – commodities:
machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages

Exports - partners
Germany 16.4%, Italy 8.2%, Belgium 7.7%, Spain 7.6%, UK 6.8%, US 5.1%, Netherlands 4.2% (2010)

Imports:
$684.6 billion (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$588.4 billion (2010 est.)

Imports – commodities:
machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals

Imports – Partners
Germany 19.3%, Belgium 11.4%, Italy 8%, Netherlands 7.5%, Spain 6.8%, China 5.1%, UK 5% (2010)

Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar -
0.7107 (2011 est.)
0.755 (2010 est.)
0.7198 (2009 est.)
0.6827 (2008 est.)
0.7345 (2007 est.)

Communications

Telephones – main lines in use
36.154 million; 35.2 million (metropolitan France) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 8

Telephones – mobile cellular:
64 million; 62.6 million (metropolitan France) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 20

Telephone system:
general assessment: highly developed
domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay; extensive use of fiber-optic cable; domestic satellite system

international: country code - 33; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and US; satellite earth stations - more than 3 (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

overseas departments: country codes: French Guiana - 594; Guadeloupe - 590; Martinique - 596; Mayotte - 262; Reunion - 262

Internet country code: metropolitan France - .fr; French Guiana - .gf; Guadeloupe - .gp; Martinique - .mq; Mayotte - .yt; Reunion - .re

Internet hosts: 15,182,001; 15.161 million (metropolitan France) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 7
Internet Users: 45.262 million; 44.625 million (metropolitan France) (2009)
country comparison to the world: 8



Source: CIA World Factbook