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Flag of France
France - the Tricolore

 Country Profile

Capital City: Paris

Local Time
: UTC +1h

Location: Central 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.
Area: 551,670 sq. km. (220,668 sq. mi.); largest west European country.
Terrain: Mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east.
Border countries: Andorra, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland

Climate: 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.

Type: Republic.
Constitution: The Constitution of 4 October 1958.

Nationality: Adjective--French.
Population: 59.3 million.
Ethnic groups: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Sub-Saharan African, Indochinese, and Basque minorities.
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%.
Language: French.
Literacy: 99%.


Currency: Euro (EUR)

Natural resources: Coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorospar, gypsum, timber, fish.

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 partners:
Germany 14.9%, Spain 9.6%, UK 9.4%, Italy 9.3%, Belgium 7.2%, USA 6.8% (2003)

Imports partners: Germany 19.1%, Belgium 9.4%, Italy 9%, Spain 7.4%, Netherlands 7%, UK 7%, USA 5.4% (2003)

Internet Links

Official Sites of France


Assemblée nationale

Sénat français

Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

France Diplomatie - Ministère des Affaires Etrangères

Diplomatic Missions
French Mission to the United Nations

Embassy of France

Directory of French representations abroad (in French)

Embassies and consulates in France

INSEE - Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques

Meteo France

Map of 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 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

Location:  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:  Europe

Area:  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

Coastline:  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)

Climate:  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

Terrain:  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% permanent crops: 2% other: 65% (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

Population:  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:   83.14 years (2002 est.)  male: 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.)

Nationality:  noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women) adjective: French

Ethnic groups:  Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African,
Indochinese, Basque minorities

Religions:  Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim
5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%

Languages:  French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages
(Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)

Literacy:  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:  republic

Capital:  Paris

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

Independence:  486 (unified by Clovis)

National holiday:  Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)

Constitution:  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

Suffrage:  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 - PS 245, RPR 140, UDF 109,
PCF 37, PRS 13, MEI 8, MDC 7, LDI-MPF 1, FN 1, various left 9, various
right 7 elections:  National Assembly - last held 25 May-1 June 1997
(next to be held, first round 9 June 2002; second round 16 June 2002)

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:  Citizens Movement or MdC [Jean Pierre
CHEVENEMENT]; Communist, Republican, and Citizen or CRC (mainly PCF)
[leader NA]; Democratic and European Social Rally or RDES (mainly
RAD and PRG) [leader NA]; French Communist Party or PCF [Robert HUE];
Generation Ecology [Brice LALONDE]; 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]; Movement of Reformers
[Jean-Pierre SOISSON]; National Front or FN [Jean-Marie LE PEN]; National
Republican Movement [Bruno MEGRET]; Popular Party for French Democracy or
PPDF [Herve DE CHARETTE]; Radical Party or RP [Francois LOOS]; Rally for
France or RPF [Charles PASQUA]; Rally for the Republic or RPR [Michelle
ALLIOT-MARIE]; Republicans and Independents or RI (mainly DL) [leader
NA]; Socialist Party or PS [Francois HOLLANDE]; The Greens [Dominique
VOYNET]; Union for French Democracy or UDF (coalition of DL, CDS, UDF,
RP, and other parties) [Francois BAYROU]; Union for the Presidential
Majority or UMP [leader NA]; Union of the Center or UDC [leader NA]

Political pressure groups and leaders:  Communist-controlled labor union
(Confederation Generale du Travail) or CGT, nearly 2.4 million members
(claimed); independent labor union or Force Ouvriere, 1 million members
(est.); independent white-collar union or Confederation Generale
des Cadres, 340,000 members (claimed); National Council of French
Employers (Conseil National du Patronat Francais) or CNPF or Patronat;
Socialist-leaning labor union (Confederation Francaise Democratique du
Travail) or CFDT, about 800,000 members (est.)

International organization participation:  ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia
Group, BDEAC, BIS, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECA
(associate), ECE, ECLAC, EIB, EMU, ESA, ESCAP, EU, FAO, FZ, G- 5, G- 7,

Diplomatic representation in the US:   Ambassador Francois V. BUJON
DE L'ESTANG chancery:  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,
 PSC 116, B210 APO AE 09777 telephone:  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 transition, from a
well-to-do modern economy that featured extensive government ownership
and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The
Socialist-led 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, Renault,
and Thales, and remains dominant 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. The current
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 that 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, which is to
be extended to small firms in 2002, 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.

GDP:  purchasing power parity - $1.51 trillion (2001 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:  2.1% (2001 est.)

GDP - per capita:  purchasing power parity - $25,400 (2001 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:  agriculture: 3.3% industry: 25.7% services:
71% (2000)

Population below poverty line:  NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:  lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 25.1% (1995)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:  32.7 (1995)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):  1.7% (2001 est.)

Labor force:  26.6 million (2001 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:  services 71%, industry 25%, agriculture 4%

Unemployment rate:  8.9% (2001 est.)

Budget:  revenues: $210 billion expenditures: $240 billion, including
capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)

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

Industrial production growth rate:  1.3% (2001)

Electricity - production:  513.924 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - production by source:  fossil fuel: 9.55% hydro: 12.98%
other: 0.73% (2000) nuclear: 76.74%

Electricity - consumption:  408.514 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

Exports:  $293.3 billion (f.o.b., 2001)

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

Exports - partners:  EU 61% (Germany 14%, UK 10%, Spain 9%, Italy 9%,
Benelux 8%), US 9% (2000)

Imports:  $292.6 billion (f.o.b., 2001)

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

Imports - partners:  EU 63% (Germany 17%, Benelux 10%, Italy 9%, UK 8%),
US 7% (2000)

Debt - external:  $106 billion (1998)

Economic aid - donor:  ODA, $6.3 billion (1997)

Currency:  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:  EUR; FRF

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)

Radios:  55.3 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations:  584 (plus 9,676 repeaters) (1995)

Televisions:  34.8 million (1997)

Internet country code:  .fr

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):  62 (2000)

Internet users:  11.7 million (2001)

Transportation France

Railways:  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
 31,840 km 1.435-m gauge narrow gauge:
Highways:  total: 892,900 km paved: 892,900 km (including 9,900 km of
expressways) unpaved: 0 km (1999)

Waterways:  14,932 km (6,969 km heavily traveled)

Pipelines:  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.)

Airports:  477 (2001)

Airports - with paved runways:  total: 270 over 3,047 m: 14 2,438 to
3,047 m: 29 914 to 1,523 m: 75 under 914 m: 56 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 96

Airports - with unpaved runways:  total: 207 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 914 to
1,523 m: 73 under 914 m: 131 (2001)

Heliports:  3 (2001)

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 1 January 2002

French Newspapers and Magazines


Les Echos

Le Figaro

Le Monde

Le Monde diplomatique

Le Parisien



Paris Match

La Tribune

Arts & Culture
La bibliothèque nationale de France

Centre Georges Pompidou

Chateau de Versailles

Explorateur Culturel

Festival International du Film de Cannes

La Grotte de Lascaux

Jules Verne

The National Library of Public Information (BPI)


French Museums

Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Musée du Louvre

Business & Economy
Banque de France

Bourse de Paris

Assemblee des Chambres francaises de commerce et d'industrie (ACFCI)

CCIP - Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Paris

Transportation Airline
Air France

Aéroports de Paris




French products



Fashion & Cosmetics

Christian Dior

Christian Lacroix


Jean-Paul Gaultier



Louis Vuitton


Prêt à porter Paris


Yves Saint Laurent

Wines & Champagne
Château Lafite Rothschild


Moët & Chandon




Louis Roederer



Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin





Destination France - A Collection of Travel Guides to France

France Diplomatie - Ministère des Affaires Etrangères

Secretariat d'Etat au Tourisme

French Government Tourist Office

Beyond the French Riviera


Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau

Metropole Paris

Les Pages de Paris / The Paris Pages


The Eiffel Tower

ENA - École Nationale d'Administration

École Centrale Paris

École Polytechnique

Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris - ESSEC

Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po)

Université de Montpellier

Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

Université Panthéon-Assas

Le Grandes École online

A list of French Universities

Science & Research
French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)

The French Space Agency (CNES)

Sophia Antipolis Science Park

France History

Country Guides
Corsica Guide

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Université de Corse Pascal Paoli



Newsgroup of France






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