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 hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations.

 

In recent years, 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. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU’s military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.

 

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

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

Geographic coordinates: metropolitan France: 46 00 N, 2 00 E

French Guiana: 4 00 N, 53 00 W

Guadeloupe: 16 15 N, 61 35 W

Martinique: 14 40 N, 61 00 W

Reunion: 21 06 S, 55 36 E

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

note: the above figure is for metropolitan France and five overseas regions; the metropolitan France population is 62,814,233

Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.5% (male 6,180,905/female 5,886,849)

15-64 years: 64.7% (male 21,082,175/female 21,045,867)

65 years and over: 16.8% (male 4,578,089/female 6,328,834) (2011 est.)

Government:
Country name: conventional long form: French Republic

conventional short form: France

local long form: Republique francaise

local short form: France

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

Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 36.154 million; 35.2 million (metropolitan France) (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 64 million; 62.6 million (metropolitan France) (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 473 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 297

over 3,047 m: 14

2,438 to 3,047 m: 26

1,524 to 2,437 m: 98

914 to 1,523 m: 83

under 914 m: 76 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Army (includes Marines, Foreign Legion, Army Light Aviation), Navy (Marine Nationale, includes Naval Air), Air Force (Armee de l’Air, includes air defense), National Gendarmerie (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 17-40 years of age for male and female voluntary military service (with parental consent); no conscription; 1 year service obligation; women serve in noncombat posts (2012)

Economy:

France is in the midst of 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, 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. 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.

 

Widespread opposition to labour reform has in recent years hampered the government’s ability to revitalize the economy. In 2007, the government launched divisive labour reform efforts that will continue into 2008. France’s tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). France brought the budget deficit within the eurozone’s 3%-of-GDP limit for the first time in 2007 and has reduced unemployment to roughly 8%. 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.

Transnational Issues:

Madagascar claims the French territories of Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island; Comoros claims Mayotte; Mauritius claims Tromelin Island; territorial dispute between Suriname and the French overseas department of French Guiana; France asserts a territorial claim in Antarctica (Adelie Land); France and Vanuatu claim Matthew and Hunter Islands, east of New Caledonia