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France Travel Guide:

          Facts on France

Flag of France
      History   Geography    People    Economy    Communications    Transportation

 

  Map of France's largest cities

Map of France and its major cities

 

History Top of Page 

 

  

  

  

  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 introduction of the Euro in January 2002. At present, 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 Top of Page
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
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
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
Geography Note Largest West European nation
Natural hazards Flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean
People Top of Page

  

Population 60,876,136 (July 2006 est.)
Age Structure 0-14 years: 18.3% (male 5,704,152/female 5,427,213)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 19,886,228/female 19,860,506)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 4,103,883/female 5,894,154) (2006 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%
Language 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%

 

Government Top of Page

  

  

   

  

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)
Independence 486 (unified by Clovis)
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 Top of Page
Overview 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. It retains controlling stakes in several leading firms, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales, and is 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 government has lowered income taxes and introduced measures to boost employment and reform the pension system. In addition, it is focusing on the problems of the high cost of labor and labor market inflexibility resulting from the 35-hour workweek and restrictions on lay-offs. The tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). The lingering economic slowdown and inflexible budget items have pushed the budget deficit above the Eurozone's 3%-of-GDP limit; unemployment stands at 10%. 
Currency Euro
Currency Code EUR

 

Communications Top of Page
Telephone System General assessment: highly developed
Domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay; extensive introduction of fiber-optic cable
Internet Country Code .fr
Transportation Top of Page
Railways total: 29,085 km
standard gauge: 28,918 km 1.435-m gauge (14,481 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 167 km 1.000-m gauge (2005)
Roadways total: 891,290 km
paved: 891,290 km (including 10,390 km of expressways) (2003)
Waterways 8,500 km (1,686 km accessible to craft of 3,000 metric tons) (2000)
Ports and Harbors Bordeaux, Calais, Dunkerque, La Pallice, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, Rouen, Strasbourg
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