Nation at a Glance - France

History

France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. It plays an influential global role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the G-8, the G-20, the EU, and other multilateral organizations. France rejoined NATO's integrated military command structure in 2009, reversing DE GAULLE's 1966 decision to withdraw French forces from NATO. 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 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.

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 SpainFrench Guiana: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and SurinameGuadeloupe: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Puerto RicoMartinique: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and TobagoMayotte: Southern Indian Ocean, island in the Mozambique Channel, about halfway between northern Madagascar and northern MozambiqueReunion: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar

Border Countries: Andorra 55 km, Belgium 556 km, Germany 418 km, Italy 476 km, Luxembourg 69 km, Monaco 6 km, Spain 646 km, Switzerland 525 km

Total Area: 643,801 sq km; 551,500 sq km (metropolitan France) Land: 640,427 sq km; 549,970 sq km (metropolitan France) Water: 3,374 sq km; 1,530 sq km (metropolitan France)

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 mistralFrench Guiana: Tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variationGuadeloupe and Martinique: Subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on averageMayotte: 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)

Terrain: Metropolitan France: Mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in eastFrench Guiana: Low-lying coastal plains rising to hills and small mountainsGuadeloupe: Basse-Terre is volcanic in origin with interior mountains; Grande-Terre is low limestone formation; most of the seven other islands are volcanic in originMartinique: Mountainous with indented coastline; dormant volcanoMayotte: Generally undulating, with deep ravines and ancient volcanic peaksReunion: Mostly rugged and mountainous; fertile lowlands along coast

Natural resources: Metropolitan France: Coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, arable land, fishFrench Guiana: Gold deposits, petroleum, kaolin, niobium, tantalum, clay

Land use: Agricultural land: 52.7% arable land 33.4%; permanent crops 1.8%; permanent pasture 17.5% Forest: 29.2% Other: 18.1% (2011 est.)

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

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

Religions: Christian (overwhelmingly Roman Catholic) 63-66%, Muslim 7-9%, Buddhist 0.5-0.75%, Jewish 0.5-0.75%, Other 0.5-1.0%, None 23-28%

Population: 66,836,154

Administrative divisions: 18 regions (regions, singular - region); Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comte (Burgundy-Free County), Bretagne (Brittany), Centre-Val de Loire (Center-Loire Valley), Corse (Corsica), Grand Est (Grand East), Guadeloupe, Guyane (French Guiana), Hauts-de-France (Upper France), Ile-de-France, Martinique, Mayotte, Normandie (Normandy), Nouvelle-Aquitaine (New Aquitaine), Occitanie (Occitania), Pays de la Loire (Lands of the Loire), Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Reunion

Economy: The French economy is diversified across all sectors. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. However, the government maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. France is the most visited country in the world with 89 million foreign tourists in 2017. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that mitigate economic inequality. France's real GDP grew by 1.9% in 2017, up from 1.2% the year before. The unemployment rate (including overseas territories) increased from 7.8% in 2008 to 10.2% in 2015, before falling to 9.0% in 2017. Youth unemployment in metropolitan France decreased from 24.6% in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 20.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017. France’s public finances have historically been strained by high spending and low growth. In 2017, the budget deficit improved to 2.7% of GDP, bringing it in compliance with the EU-mandated 3% deficit target. Meanwhile, France's public debt rose from 89.5% of GDP in 2012 to 97% in 2017. Since entering office in May 2017, President Emmanuel MACRON launched a series of economic reforms to improve competitiveness and boost economic growth. President MACRON campaigned on reforming France’s labor code and in late 2017 implemented a range of reforms to increase flexibility in the labor market by making it easier for firms to hire and fire and simplifying negotiations between employers and employees. In addition to labor reforms, President MACRON’s 2018 budget cuts public spending, taxes, and social security contributions to spur private investment and increase purchasing power. The government plans to gradually reduce corporate tax rate for businesses from 33.3% to 25% by 2022.

Agriculture - products: Wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish

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

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