Official Name: French Republic
Total area: 674 843 km2
GDP per capita: $35,548
Native Language: French
Government: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Major Religion: Roman Catholicism
Monetary Unit: Euro (EUR)
France is the largest country in the EU and stretches from the North Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The landscape is varied, with mountains to the east and south, including the Alpine peak of Mont Blanc (4,810m), the highest point in western Europe. The French lowlands are made up of four river basins, the Seine to the north, the Loire and Garonne flowing to the west, and the Rhône, which flows from Lake Geneva into the Mediterranean.
The President of the Republic has an important political role. He chairs meetings of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) and retains overall responsibility for key areas of foreign policy and defence. The day-to-day running of the country is in the hands of the prime minister. The President is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. Parliament consists of a National Assembly, directly elected every five years, and a Senate, whose members are elected by an electoral college.
France has an advanced industrial economy and an efficient agricultural sector. Its main activities include automotive, aerospace, information technology, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and fashion.
France has produced some of the continent's most influential writers and thinkers, from Descartes and Pascal in the 17th century to Rousseau and Voltaire in the 18th, Balzac, Baudelaire and Flaubert in the 19th and Sartre and Camus in the 20th. Over the last two centuries it has given the art world the works of Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Braque, to name a few.
French cuisine is one of the best in Europe; Cooking and eating are part of the French culture and way of life.
Health & Wellbeing
Comprehensive welfare entitlements, including medical coverage, provider selection and 100% reimbursable treatments.
Economy & Jobs
Agriculture, forestry, fisheries, banking, retail and tourism.
Paris, the city of Arles, the coastal city of Biarritz, the city of Cannes, the Chamonix valley, the valley of Château de Chambord, Saint Malo and the north coast, and the city of Toulouse.
As a member of the G8 group of leading industrialized countries, it is ranked as the fifth largest and Europe's second largest economy in terms of nominal GDP; With 39 of the world's 500 largest companies in 2010, France ranks 4th in the world and 1st in Europe on the Fortune Global 500, ahead of Germany and the UK. France joined 11 other EU members to adopt the euro on January 1, 1999, with euro coins and notes fully replacing the French franc (₣) in early 2002.
France gets 79% of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest percentage in the world.
France has a mixed economy, combining sizeable private enterprise (nearly 2.5 million registered enterprises) with significant (albeit declining) state enterprise and state intervention (see dirigisme). The government retains significant influence over key segments of the infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership in railways, electricity, aircraft, nuclear power and telecommunications. It has gradually relaxed its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. France is part of a currency union, the euro zone (dark blue) and the EU single market.
The government is slowly corporating the state sector, selling stakes in France Télécom, Air France, and the insurance, banking, and defense industries. France has an important aerospace industry, led by the European consortium Airbus, and has its own national spaceport, the Center Spatial Guyanais.
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), France was the world's sixth largest exporter and fourth largest importer of manufactured goods in 2009. In 2008, France was the third largest recipient of foreign direct investment among OECD countries, at US$117.9 billion, behind Luxembourg (where foreign direct investment consisted mainly of remittances to banks in that country) and the United States (316, 1 billion US dollars). over the UK ($96.9 billion), Germany ($24.9 billion) or Japan ($24.4 billion).
In the same year, French companies invested $220 billion outside of France, ranking France as the second most important outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the United States ($311.8 billion), and ahead of the United Kingdom ($111.4 billion), Japan ($128 billion) and Germany ($156.5 billion). With 39 of the 500 biggest companies of the world in 2010, France ranks 4th in the Fortune Global 500, behind the USA, Japan and China, but ahead of Germany and the UK.
Financial services, banking and the insurance sector are an important part of France's economy. The Paris stock exchange market (French: La Bourse de Paris) is an ancient institution, as it was created by Louis XV in 1724. In 2000, the stock exchanges of Paris, Amsterdam and Bruxelles merged into Euronext. In 2007, Euronext merged with the New York stock exchange to form NYSE Euronext, the world's largest stock exchange. Euronext Paris, the French branch of the NYSE Euronext group is Europe's second largest stock exchange market, behind the London Stock Exchange.
French companies have maintained key positions in the Insurance and Banking industries: AXA is the world's largest insurance company, and is ranked by Fortune the ninth richest corporation by revenues. The leading French banks are BNP Paribas and the Crédit Agricole, ranking as the world's 1st and 6th largest banks in 2010 (determined by the amount of assets), while the Société Générale group was ranked the world's eight largest in 2008–2009.
France is the smallest emitter of carbon dioxide among the seven most industrialized countries in the world, due to its heavy investment in nuclear power. As a result of large investments in nuclear technology, most of the electricity produced in the country is generated by 59 nuclear power plants (78% in 2006, up from only 8% in 1973, 24% in 1980, and 75% in 1990). In this context, renewable energies (see the power cooperative Enercoop) are having difficulties taking off the ground.