551,670 sq. km. (220,668 sq. mi.); largest west European country, about four-fifths
the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital--Paris. Other cities--Marseille,
Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nice, Rennes, Lille, Bordeaux.
Temperate; similar to that of the eastern U.S.
Population (Jan. 2005 est.): 62.4 million.
growth rate (2004 est): 2.3%.
Ethnic groups: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic,
Slavic, North African, Sub-Saharan African, Indochinese, and Basque minorities.
Roman Catholic 90%.
Education: Years compulsory--10.
Health: Infant mortality rate--4.46/1,000.
force (2004): 24,720,000: Services—72.9%; industry and commerce—24.4%;
Constitution: September 28, 1958.
(chief of state); prime minister (head of government). Legislative--bicameral
Parliament (577-member National Assembly, 319-member Senate). Judicial--Court
of Cassation (civil and criminal law), Council of State (administrative court),
Constitutional Council (constitutional law).
Subdivisions: 22 administrative
regions containing 96 departments (metropolitan France). Four overseas departments
(Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Reunion); five overseas territories
(New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna Islands, and French Southern
and Antarctic Territories); and two special status territories (Mayotte and St.
Pierre and Miquelon).
Political parties: Union for a Popular Majority (UMP
-- a synthesis of center-right Gaullist/nationalist and free-market parties);
Union for French Democracy (a fusion of centrist and pro-European parties); Socialist
Party; Communist Party; National Front; Greens; various minor parties.
Universal at 18.
(2004 est.): $2.018 trillion.
Avg. annual growth rate (2004 est.): 2.3%.
capita GDP (2004 est.): $32,340.
Agriculture: Products--grains (wheat,
barley, corn); wines and spirits; dairy products; sugarbeets; oilseeds; meat and
poultry; fruits and vegetables.
Industry: Types--aircraft, electronics,
transportation, textiles, clothing, food processing, chemicals, machinery, steel.
(est.): Exports (2004)--$341.3 billion: automobiles and automobile spare
parts, aircraft, pharmaceuticals, electronic components, wine, electric components.
Imports (2004)--$349.3 billion: crude oil, automobiles and automobile spare
parts, pharmaceuticals, natural gas, aircraft spare parts, electronics. Major
trading partners--EU and U.S.
Exchange rate: U.S. $1=euro 0.884 in 2003,
and U.S. $1=euro 0.804 in 2004.
prehistoric times, France has been a crossroads of trade, travel, and invasion.
Three basic European ethnic stocks--Celtic, Latin, and Teutonic (Frankish)--have
blended over the centuries to make up its present population. France's birth rate
was among the highest in Europe from 1945 until the late 1960s. Since then, its
birth rate has fallen but remains higher than that of most other west European
countries. Traditionally, France has had a high level of immigration. More than
1 million Muslims immigrated in the 1960s and early 1970s from North Africa, especially
Algeria. About 90% of the population is Roman Catholic, 7% Muslim, less than 2%
Protestant, and about 1% Jewish. In 2004, there were over 5 million Muslims, largely
of North African descent, living in France.
is free, beginning at age 2, and mandatory between ages 6 and 16. The public education
system is highly centralized. Private education is primarily Roman Catholic. Higher
education in France began with the founding of the University of Paris in 1150.
It now consists of 91 public universities and 175 professional schools, such as
the post-graduate Grandes Ecoles. Private, college-level institutions focusing
on business and management with curriculums structured on the American system
of credits and semesters have been growing in recent years.
French language derives from the vernacular Latin spoken by the Romans in Gaul,
although it includes many Celtic and Germanic words. French has been an international
language for centuries and is a common second language throughout the world. It
is one of five official languages at the United Nations. In Africa, Asia, the
Pacific, and the West Indies, French has been a unifying factor, particularly
in those countries where it serves as the only common language among a variety
of indigenous languages and dialects.
was one of the earliest countries to progress from feudalism to the nation-state.
Its monarchs surrounded themselves with capable ministers, and French armies were
among the most innovative, disciplined, and professional of their day.
the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), France was the dominant power in Europe. But
overly ambitious projects and military campaigns of Louis and his successors led
to chronic financial problems in the 18th century. Deteriorating economic conditions
and popular resentment against the complicated system of privileges granted the
nobility and clerics were among the principal causes of the French Revolution
(1789-94). Although the revolutionaries advocated republican and egalitarian principles
of government, France reverted to forms of absolute rule or constitutional monarchy
four times--the Empire of Napoleon, the Restoration of Louis XVIII, the reign
of Louis-Philippe, and the Second Empire of Napoleon III. After the Franco-Prussian
War (1870), the Third Republic was established and lasted until the military defeat
World War I (1914-18) brought
great losses of troops and materiel. In the 1920s, France established an elaborate
system of border defenses (the Maginot Line) and alliances to offset resurgent
German strength. France was defeated early in World War II, however, and was occupied
in June 1940. The German victory left the French groping for a new policy and
new leadership suited to the circumstances. On July 10, 1940, the Vichy government
was established. Its senior leaders acquiesced in the plunder of French resources,
as well as the sending of French forced labor to Germany; in doing so, they claimed
they hoped to preserve at least some small amount of French sovereignty.
The German occupation proved quite costly,
however, as a full one-half of France's public sector revenue was appropriated
by Germany. After 4 years of occupation and strife, Allied forces liberated France
in 1944. A bitter legacy carries over to the present day.
emerged from World War II to face a series of new problems. After a short period
of provisional government initially led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, the Fourth
Republic was set up by a new constitution and established as a parliamentary form
of government controlled by a series of coalitions. The mixed nature of the coalitions
and a consequent lack of agreement on measures for dealing with Indochina and
Algeria caused successive cabinet crises and changes of government.
on May 13, 1958, the government structure collapsed as a result of the tremendous
opposing pressures generated in the divisive Algerian issue. A threatened coup
led the Parliament to call on General de Gaulle to head the government and prevent
civil war. He became prime minister in June 1958 (at the beginning of the Fifth
Republic) and was elected president in December of that year.
years later, in an occasion marking the first time in the 20th century that the
people of France went to the polls to elect a president by direct ballot, de Gaulle
won re-election with a 55% share of the vote, defeating François Mitterrand. In
April 1969, President de Gaulle's government conducted a national referendum on
the creation of 21 regions with limited political powers. The government's proposals
were defeated, and de Gaulle subsequently resigned. Succeeding him as president
of France have been Gaullist Georges Pompidou (1969-74), Independent Republican
Valery Giscard d'Estaing (1974-81), Socialist François Mitterrand (1981-95), and
neo-Gaullist Jacques Chirac (first elected in spring 1995 and reelected in 2002).
While France continues to revere its
rich history and independence, French leaders are increasingly tying the future
of France to the continued development of the European Union. During his tenure,
President Mitterrand stressed the importance of European integration and advocated
the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and political union,
which France's electorate narrowly approved in September 1992. President Jacques
Chirac assumed office May 17, 1995, after a campaign focused on the need to combat
France's stubbornly high unemployment rate and growing "incomes gap."
center of domestic attention soon shifted, however, to the economic reform and
belt-tightening measures required for France to meet the criteria for Economic
and Monetary Union (EMU) laid out by the Maastricht Treaty. In late 1995, France
experienced its worst labor unrest in at least a decade, as employees protested
government cutbacks. On the foreign and security policy front, Chirac took a more
assertive approach to protecting French peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia
and helped promote the peace accords negotiated in Dayton and signed in Paris
in December 1995. The French have been one of the strongest supporters of North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) policy in Kosovo and
the Balkans. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S., France
has played a central role in the war on terrorism. French forces participate in
Operation Enduring Freedom and in the International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) for Afghanistan. France did not join the coalition that liberated Iraq
in 2003. Notwithstanding the ensuing difficulties in U.S.-France relations, cooperation
between the U.S. and France in the intelligence and law enforcement dimensions
of the war on terror remained excellent.
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, presidents have been elected directly for
a 7-year term since 1958. Beginning in 2002, the term of office is now 5 years.
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.
president may submit questions to a national referendum and can dissolve the National
Assembly. In certain emergency situations, the president may assume full powers.
Besides the president, the other main component of France's executive branch is
the cabinet. Led by a prime minister, who is the head of government, the cabinet
is composed of a varying number of ministers, ministers-delegate, and secretaries
of state. Parliament meets for one 9-month session each year. Under special circumstances
the president can call an additional session.
parliamentary powers were diminished by the Constitution, the National Assembly
can still cause a government to fall if an absolute majority of the total Assembly
membership votes to censure. The Parliament is bicameral with a National Assembly
and a Senate. The National Assembly 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 and, under new rules passed in 2003
to shorten the term, serve for six years, with one-half of the Senate being renewed
every three years. (As a transitional measure in 2004, 62 Senators were elected
to 9-year terms, while 61 were elected to 6-year terms; subsequently, all terms
will be six 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. The
government also can declare a bill to be a question of confidence, thereby linking
its continued existence to the passage of the legislative text; unless a motion
of censure is introduced and voted, the text is considered adopted without a vote.
The most distinctive feature of the
French judicial system is that it is divided into the Constitutional Council and
the Council of State. The Constitutional Council examines legislation and decides
whether it conforms to the constitution. Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, it considers
only legislation that is referred to it by Parliament, the prime minister, or
the president; moreover, it considers legislation before it is promulgated. The
Council of State has a separate function from the Constitutional Council and provides
recourse to individual citizens who have claims against the administration. The
Ordinary Courts--including specialized bodies such as the police court, the criminal
court, the correctional tribunal, the commercial court, and the industrial court--settle
disputes that arise between citizens, as well as disputes that arise between citizens
and corporations. The Court of Appeals reviews cases judged by the Ordinary Courts.
Traditionally, decision-making in France
has been highly centralized, with each of France's departments headed by a prefect
appointed by the central government. In 1982, the national government passed legislation
to decentralize authority by giving a wide range of administrative and fiscal
powers to local elected officials. In March 1986, regional councils were directly
elected for the first time, and the process of decentralization continues, albeit
at a slow pace.
Prime Minister--Dominique de Villepin
Ambassador to the United States--Jean-David
Ambassador to the United Nations--Jean-Marc Rochereau de la Sablière
France maintains an embassy in the U.S. at
4101 Reservoir Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-944-6000).
President Jacques Chirac and his center-right coalition
won the May 2002 elections. Chirac was first elected in 1995, and his party, the
Rally for the Republic (RPR), won an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
In Chirac's first term, a referendum was passed changing the presidential term
of office from 7 to 5 years. During his first 2 years in office, President Chirac's
Prime Minister was Alain Juppé, who also served as leader of Chirac's neo-Gaullist
RPR Party. However, during the legislative elections of 1997, the left won a majority
in the Assembly, and Juppé was replaced by Socialist Lionel Jospin. This right-left
"cohabitation" arrangement, which ended with Jospin's resignation following his
defeat in the first round of the May 2002 presidential elections, was the longest
lasting government in the history of the Fifth Republic. Jean-Pierre Raffarin
became Prime Minister in May 2002 following Jospin’s resignation. In June 2005,
former Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin replaced Raffarin as Prime Minister,
shortly after the defeat of the EU Constitution in a referendum on May 29, 2005. Among
other cabinet changes in June 2005, Phillippe Douste-Blazy became the new Foreign
Minister and Nicolas Sarkozy was appointed Interior Minister.
expected, in the second round of the presidential election on May 5th, 2002, Jacques
Chirac comfortably defeated Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the extremist, right-wing
National Front. Chirac won by the largest margin (82% to 19%) ever recorded in
the second round of a French presidential election; at the same time, abstention
reached a record level of 20%.
ensuing legislative elections proved to be a victory for the center-right and
a reversal of the 1997 elections. The center-right coalition party won 399 out
of 577 seats in the National Assembly, thereby securing for Chirac and his party
a majority in the government. Meanwhile, the combined left--Socialists (PS), Communists
(PCF) and Greens--took only 178. The extreme-right National Front, despite the
infamous second-place finish of its leader Le Pen in the April/May 2002 presidential
election, won no seats. Abstention at 39% set a new record. In March 2004 regional
elections, however, Chirac’s party lost control of all but one region, while the
Socialists scored major gains. The Union for Popular Movement (UMP)--center-right
coalition party--won only 16.6% of the vote in the June 2004 European Parliament
Experts have called on France
to reduce government spending, the budget deficit, and public debt, and to allow
flexibility in the implementation of the 35-hour work week. Mounting pressure
for short- and long-term reforms include more labor-market flexibility, less taxation,
and an improved business climate, including further privatization and liberalization.
French and EU analysts stress that longer-term measures must focus on reducing
the future burden of ballooning public pension and health care budgets, as well
as reducing labor-related taxes. Government action to initiate such reforms may
have contributed to the center-right’s poor showing in the 2004 regional and European
Parliamentary elections, and continues to spark periodic strikes and work stoppages
a GDP of $2.02 trillion, France is the fifth-largest Western industrialized economy.
It has substantial agricultural resources, a large industrial base, and a highly
skilled work force. A dynamic services sector accounts for an increasingly large
share of economic activity and is responsible for nearly all job creation in recent
years. GDP growth was 0.2% in 2003, after two years of steady decline from 4.2%
in 2000. GDP growth rebounded to 2.3% in 2004 from 1.1% in 2002 and 0.5% in 2003.
Government economic policy aims to
promote investment and domestic growth in a stable fiscal and monetary environment.
Creating jobs and reducing the high unemployment rate through recovery-supportive
policy has been a top priority. The Government of France successfully reduced
an unemployment rate of 12% to 8.7% in the late 1990s but has seen unemployment
increase to above 10.1% in early 2005. France joined 10 other European Union countries
in adopting the euro as its currency in January 1999. Since then, monetary policy
has been set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. On January 1, 2002, France,
along with the other countries of the euro zone, dropped its national currency
in favor of euro bills and coins.
significant reform and privatization over the past 15 years, the government continues
to control a large share of economic activity: Government spending, at 54.7% of
GDP in 2003, is among the highest in the G-7. Regulation of labor and product
markets is pervasive. The government continues to own shares in corporations in
a range of sectors, including banking, energy production and distribution, automobiles,
transportation, and telecommunications.
passed in 1998 shortened the legal work week from 39 to 35 hours for most employees
effective January 1, 2000. Recent assessments of the impact of work week reduction
on growth and jobs have generally concluded that the goal of job creation was
not met. The current administration is introducing increasing flexibility into
the law, returning the country to a de facto (if not de jure) 39-hour work week
in the private sector.
France's labor unions accounts for less than 10% of the private sector work force
and is concentrated in the manufacturing, transportation, and heavy industry sectors.
Most unions are affiliated with one of the competing national federations, the
largest and most powerful of which are the communist-dominated General Labor Confederation
(CGT), the Workers' Force (FO), and the French Democratic Confederation of Labor
France has been very successful
in developing dynamic telecommunications, aerospace, and weapons sectors. With
virtually no domestic oil production, France has relied heavily on the development
of nuclear power, which now accounts for about 80% of the country's electricity
is the second-largest trading nation in western Europe (after Germany). France
ran a $23.0 billion deficit in 2004. Total trade for 2004 amounted to $858.2 billion,
over 40% of GDP. Trade with EU-15 countries accounts for 61.0% (2004) of French
In 2003, U.S.-France trade in
goods and services totaled $84.5 billion. U.S. industrial chemicals, aircraft
and engines, electronic components, telecommunications, computer software, computers
and peripherals, analytical and scientific instrumentation, medical instruments
and supplies, broadcasting equipment, and programming and franchising are particularly
attractive to French importers. Total French trade of goods and services was $994.4
billion in 2003.
Principal French exports
to the United States are aircraft and engines, beverages, electrical equipment,
chemicals, cosmetics, and luxury products. France is the ninth-largest trading
partner of the United States.
is the European Union's leading agricultural producer, accounting for about one-third
of all agricultural land within the EU. Northern France is characterized by large
wheat farms. Dairy products, pork, poultry, and apple production are concentrated
in the western region. Beef production is located in central France, while the
production of fruits, vegetables, and wine ranges from central to southern France.
France is a large producer of many agricultural products and is expanding its
forestry and fishery industries. The implementation of the Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP) and the Uruguay Round of the GATT Agreement resulted in reforms in
the agricultural sector of the economy. Continued revision of the CAP and reforms
agreed under the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) will further change
France is the world's
second-largest agricultural producer, after the United States. However, the destination
of 70% of its exports is other EU member states. Wheat, beef, pork, poultry, and
dairy products are the principal exports. The United States, although the second-largest
exporter to France, faces stiff competition from domestic production, other EU
member states, and third countries. U.S. agricultural exports to France, totaling
$425 million in 2003, consist primarily of soybeans and products, feeds and fodders,
seafood, and consumer oriented products, especially snack foods and nuts. French
agricultural exports to the United States are mainly cheese, processed products,
and wine. They amount to about $1.75 billion (2003) annually.
doctrine is based on the concepts of national independence, nuclear deterrence,
and military sufficiency. France is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), and has worked actively with Allies to adapt NATO--internally
and externally--to the post-Cold War environment. In December 1995, France announced
that it would increase its participation in NATO's military wing, including the
Military Committee (the French withdrew from NATO's military bodies in 1966 while
remaining full participants in the alliance's political councils). France remains
a firm supporter of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
and other efforts at cooperation.
of NATO, France has actively and heavily participated in a variety of peacekeeping/coalition
efforts in Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, often taking the lead in
these operations. France has undertaken a major restructuring to develop a professional
military that will be smaller, more rapidly deployable and better tailored for
operations outside of mainland France. Key elements of the restructuring include
reducing personnel, bases, and headquarters and rationalizing equipment and the
armament industry. French active-duty military at the beginning of 2004 numbered
about 334,000 (including Gendarmes), of which nearly 35,000 were assigned outside
of metropolitan France. France completed the move to all-professional armed forces
when conscription ended on December 31, 2002.
places a high priority on arms control and non-proliferation. After conducting
a final series of six nuclear tests, the French signed the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty in 1996. France has implemented a moratorium on the production, export,
and use of anti-personnel landmines and supports negotiations leading toward a
universal ban. France is an active participant in the major supplier regimes designed
to restrict transfer of technologies that could lead to proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction: the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group (for chemical
and biological weapons), the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Missile Technology
Control Regime. France participates actively in the Proliferation Security Initiative,
and is engaged with the U.S., both bilaterally and at the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW), to curb nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) proliferation from the
D.P.R.K., Iran, Libya, and elsewhere. France has signed and ratified the Chemical
U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Craig Roberts Stapleton
Chief of Mission--Karl Hofmann
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--Josiah
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Thomas J. White
for Commercial Affairs--Robert Connan
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs--Donald
Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs--Elizabeth J. Agnew
for Public Affairs--Renee Earle
Defense Attache--Col. Ralph R. Steinke
for Scientific and Technological Affairs--Robert W. Dry
Consulate General, Marseille--Philip Breeden
Consul, APP Lyon--Angie Bryan
Consul, APP Toulouse--Jennifer
Consul, APP Rennes--Virginia Murray
Consul, APP Bordeaux--J.
Consul, APP Lille--vacant
U.S. Embassy in France is located
at 2 Avenue Gabriel, Paris 8 (tel.  (1) 4312-2222). The United States also
is represented in Paris by its mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD).
AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information
Program provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements.
Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information
on entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability,
crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts
in the country. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends
that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Public Announcements
are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats
and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks
to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available
by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand
system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov/. Consular
Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining
passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are on the Internet and hard copies
can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office
of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies,
Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's
single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone:
1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators
for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time,
excluding federal holidays.
can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and
a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm
give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280)
is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel.
Information on travel
conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays,
and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure
from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see
"Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged
their travel via the State Department’s travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov/
or at the Consular section of the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country by filling
out a short form and sending in a copy of their passports. This may help family
members contact you in case of an emergency.
Department of State Web Site. Available on
the Internet at http://www.state.gov/, the Department
of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information, including Background Notes and
daily press briefings
along with the directory of key officers
of Foreign Service posts and more.
provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered
by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help
with the export process, and more.
a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic,
business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The
site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market
research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the
National Trade Data Bank.