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République française
French Republic
Flag of france
National emblem of France
flag National emblem
Motto : Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
(" Freedom, Equality, Fraternity ")
Official language French
Capital Paris
Form of government Unified state on the basis of a presidential-parliamentary - constitutional republic
Government system Presidential-parliamentary democracy
Head of state President
Emmanuel Macron
Head of government Prime Minister
Jean Castex
surface 543,965 km² ( France métropolitaine ) or a total of 643,801 or 632,834 km²
population 66,993,000 (January 1, 2019)
Population density 103 inhabitants per km²
Population development   + 0.43% (2014)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 2,781 billion ( 6. )
  • $ 2,970 billion ( 10. )
  • 42,953 USD ( 21. )
  • 45,893 USD ( 27. )
Human Development Index   0.897 ( 21st ) (2016)
currency Euro (EUR)
CFP Franc (XPF) (partly overseas territories )
National anthem La Marseillaise
National holiday July 14th, storming the Bastille , federation festival
Time zone Metropolitan France :
UTC + 2 CEST (March to October)

Overseas territories :
UTC − 10 to UTC + 12

License Plate F.
ISO 3166 FR , FRA, 250
Internet TLD Metropolitan Fri : .fr
overseas territories : .bl , .gf , .gp , .mf , .mq , .nc , .pf , .pm , .re , .tf , .wf , .yt
Telephone code Metropolitan Fri : +33
overseas territories : +262, +508, +590, +594, +596, +681, +687, +689
The information on the area, number and density of inhabitants relate (unless otherwise stated) to the entire French Republic including the overseas territories .
Ägypten Tunesien Libyen Algerien Marokko Mauretanien Senegal Gambia Guinea-Bissau Guinea Sierra Leone Liberia Elfenbeinküste Ghana Togo Benin Nigeria Äquatorialguinea Kamerun Gabun Republik Kongo Angola Demokratische Republik Kongo Namibia Südafrika Swasiland Mosambik Tansania Kenia Somalia Dschibuti Eritrea Sudan Ruanda Uganda Burundi Sambia Malawi Simbabwe Botswana Äthiopien Südsudan Zentralafrikanische Republik Tschad Niger Mali Burkina Faso Jemen Oman Vereinigte Arabische Emirate Saudi-Arabien Irak Iran Kuwait Katar Bahrain Israel Syrien Libanon Jordanien Zypern Türkei Afghanistan Turkmenistan Pakistan Griechenland Italien Malta Frankreich Portugal Spanien Mauritius Réunion Mayotte Komoren Seychellen Madagaskar São Tomé und Príncipe Sri Lanka Indien Indonesien Bangladesch Volksrepublik China Nepal Bhutan Myanmar Kanada Dänemark (Grönland) Island Mongolei Norwegen Schweden Finnland Irland Vereinigtes Königreich Niederlande Belgien Dänemark Schweiz Österreich Deutschland Slowenien Kroatien Tschechische Republik Slowakei Ungarn Polen Russland Litauen Lettland Estland Weißrussland Republik Moldau Ukraine Nordmazedonien Albanien Montenegro Bosnien und Herzegowina Serbien Bulgarien Rumänien Georgien Aserbaidschan Armenien Kasachstan Usbekistan Tadschikistan Kirgisistan Russland Vereinigte Staaten Malediven Japan Nordkorea Südkorea Republik China (Taiwan) Singapur Malaysia Philippinen Thailand Vietnam Laos Kambodscha Indien Venezuela Guyana Suriname Frankreich (Französisch-Guayana) Brasilien Kap Verde Spanien (Kanaren) Dominikanische Republik Puerto Rico Dominikanische Republik Bahamas Jamaika Kuba Mexiko Mexiko Venezuela Guyana Suriname Frankreich (Französisch-Guayana) Brasilien Kap Verde Spanien (Kanaren) Dominikanische Republik Puerto Rico Dominikanische Republik Bahamas Jamaika Kuba Mexiko Mexiko Dänemark (Färöer)Location of metropolitan France in the European Union
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Location of metropolitan France in the European Union
The French Republic and the overseas territories
The French Republic and the overseas territories

France  [ ˈfʁaŋkʁaɪ̯ç ] ( French France ? / I [ fʁɑ̃s ], officially République française [ ʁˈblik fʁɑ̃.ˈsɛz ], German- French Republic ) is a democratic , intercontinental unitary state in Western Europe with overseas islands and territories on several continents. Metropolitan France , d. H. the European part of the national territory, stretches from the Mediterranean to the English Channel and the North Sea and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean . Its mainland is referred to as hexagons ( hexagon ) because of its land shape . In terms of area, France is the largest country in the European Union and the second largest in terms of population (after Germany) . It comprises the third largest national territory in Europe (after Russia and Ukraine ) . Paris is the capital and, as an agglomeration with the Métropole du Grand Paris and the surrounding areas of the Île-de-France region, the country's largest agglomeration, ahead of Lyon , Marseille , Toulouse and Lille . Please click to listen!Play Audio file / audio sample

In the 17th and 18th centuries , France held a leading role and supremacy in Europe. The political and cultural charisma was significant: the court of Louis XIV became the model for absolutist states throughout Europe and the French Revolution with the declaration of human and civil rights , together with occupations by Napoleon Bonaparte in many countries, was the prelude to the repeated of Setbacks interrupted development towards democracy. France twice built a colonial empire overseas . The first included u. a. large parts of North America and was largely lost in the mid-18th century in the Seven Years' War ; the second, with a focus on Africa, was the second largest in the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 21st century, France is with Germany as the driving force of European integration .

The French Republic is declared in its constitution as indivisible, secular , democratic and social . Its principle is: "Government of the people by the people and for the people". France ranks 26th on the United Nations Human Development Index (2019). In terms of nominal gross domestic product , it is the sixth largest economy in the world . The purchasing power per inhabitant was 20,306 euros in 2019, which puts France around 38% above the European average in 15th place. Standard of living, level of education and average life expectancy are considered high. As the most visited country in the world, France receives around 83 million foreign tourists a year.

France has the fifth strongest armed forces in the world and the country is the only nuclear power in the European Union. It is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and had the third highest number of nuclear weapons in the world in 2010 . The country is a founding member of the European Union and the United Nations , a member of the Francophonie , the G7 , the G20 , NATO , the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Latin Union .



Topography of France

The “ metropolitan France ” in Europe (also called Metropolitan France ) has an area of ​​543,965 square kilometers. It is because of its shape as hexagons ( hexagon called).

As one of the largest countries in Europe, France has numerous, sometimes very differently shaped landscapes. The landscape is predominantly characterized by plains or hills. In the southeast and on the border with the Iberian Peninsula , the country is mountainous . The main mountains are the Pyrenees in the southwest, the Massif Central in the center of the southern half of the country and in the east (enumerated from north to south) the Vosges , the Jura and the Alps . The highest mountain in France is the 4810 meter high Mont Blanc in the Alps; it is often regarded as the highest mountain in Europe. The Elbrus in the European-Asian border area is higher, but not clearly assigned to any continent.

France has sea ​​coasts in the south to the Mediterranean, in the west and north to the Atlantic Ocean , the English Channel and the North Sea . It is bordered by Spain and Andorra to the southwest , Belgium , Luxembourg , Germany , Switzerland and Italy to the north and east , and Monaco to the southeast . In addition, France borders on Suriname and Brazil through the overseas department of French Guiana .


France is divided into 18 regions , of which 13 are in Europe and five are French Overseas Territories ( France d'outre-mer (FOM)) - French Guiana , Guadeloupe , Martinique , Mayotte and Réunion . As of December 31, 2015, the European parts of France were divided into 22 regions (France had 27 regions including the five FOM).


The metropolitan region around Paris ( French région parisienne ) is located in the Île-de-France region and has more than twelve million inhabitants. The metropolitan areas around Lyon ( Métropole de Lyon ), Marseille , Bordeaux , Toulouse and Lille have well over a million inhabitants.

The eleven largest cities in France
rank city
City residents
January 1, 2017
Population of the
metropolitan area
January 1, 2016
1. Paris 2,187,526 12,569,000
2. Marseille 863.310 1,756,000
3. Lyon 516.092 2,311,000
4th Toulouse 479,553 1,345,000
5. Nice (Nice) 340.017 1,006,000
6th Nantes 309.346 962,000
7th Montpellier 285.121 608,000
8th. Strasbourg (Strasbourg) 280.966 786,000
9. Bordeaux 254,436 1,233,000
10. Lille 232.787 1,188,000
11. Rennes 216,815 727,000

Nature reserves

Reeds and fisherman's hut on the Gironde , part of a marine nature park and the regional nature park Médoc

France maintains nature reserves of various categories in the European heartland and in the overseas departments. There are


Population development

Population pyramid France 2016
Population density (2009)

The population of France in 1750 was estimated at around 25 million. This made it by far the most populous country in Western Europe. By 1850 the population rose to 37 million; thereafter, a stagnation of population development, unique in Europe at that time, occurred . The reason for this is considered to be the relative prosperity and the advanced civilization of France. Contraceptive sexual behavior was practiced and more widespread than in other countries, while the influence of the Catholic Church was already weakened. The number of inhabitants grew by only three million in just under 100 years: in 1940 France had only around 40 million inhabitants, despite heavy immigration after 1918. This population stagnation is seen as one of the reasons why France struggled to assert itself against its more dynamic neighbor Germany during the two world wars. In addition, during the First World War, the French army suffered the relatively highest losses of any warring state. After the Second World War , the birth rate and population increase again after a long time, which in part was also caused by increased immigration , especially from former French colonies . For the year 1990 56.6 million inhabitants were determined, for the 1st January 2010 the population including the people in the overseas territories was estimated at 64.7 million. 62.8 million of them lived in metropolitan France .

According to the National Statistical Office (INSEE), as of January 1, 2011, a total of 65,027,000 people lived in France. This is the first time that the country has exceeded the 65 million mark.

The reliability of the survey is, however, controversial: In 2004 INSEE switched the method from a total census every five years to a permanent survey based on extrapolation of local data. Thereafter, there were inexplicable leaps in population development. Cities whose population had previously continuously decreased, especially Paris, suddenly increased by leaps and bounds. In other cities, such as Nice and Nîmes , it was the other way around. In 2012, too, the picture was mixed. At the end of July 2012, INSEE itself showed 65.35 million on two of its websites and 64.304 million on the other. Gérard-François Dumont, professor at the University of Paris IV and editor of the journal Population et avenir , attributed this, among other things, to the fact that some people escape the survey due to moving, while others are counted twice.

France is the second most populous country in the European Union after Germany ; In 2010 it was the 21st most populous country in the world . In 2009, 13 percent of all EU citizens were French.

The population grew by 0.5 percent (346,000 people) in 2009. Growth slowed slightly compared to previous years (2006: 0.6 percent, 2007 and 2008: 0.6 percent). The birth balance for 2009 was positive: 275,000 more people were born than died. The migration balance was also positive: 71,000 more people immigrated than emigrated. The French population grew older on average: the proportion of people under the age of 20 fell from 25.8 percent to 24.7 percent between 2000 and 2010 and the proportion of people over 65 increased from 15.8 percent to 16.6 percent.

In 2009 there were 256,000 marriages; ten years earlier it was over 294,000. More French people chose the civil solidarity pact as a form of coexistence. This partnership, called Pacs , was introduced in 1999; In 2009, 175,000 Pacs were closed. The average age of first marriage in 2008 was 31.6 years for men and 29.7 years for women. It has increased by almost two years since 1999. In 2008, the fertility rate in France was in third place in Europe after Ireland and Iceland with 2.0 children per woman; however, it has declined from three children per woman in the 1960s. Child mortality in 2009 was 3.8 per mille, compared to 4.4 per mille in 1999.

The life expectancy was 72 years in 1987 for men and 80 years for women and 85.1 years in 2016 for women and 78.7 years for men.


Largest groups of migrants without French citizenship
rank nationality Number
1. PortugalPortugal Portugal 519,000
2. AlgeriaAlgeria Algeria 476,000
3. MoroccoMorocco Morocco 443,000
4th TurkeyTurkey Turkey 216,000
5. ItalyItaly Italy 177,000
6th TunisiaTunisia Tunisia 161,000
7th United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 153,000
8th. SpainSpain Spain 138,000
9. BelgiumBelgium Belgium 095,000
10. China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 094,000

Due to the slow population growth, France was already familiar with the problem of labor shortages in the mid-19th century. Since the beginning of industrialization , guest workers from neighboring countries (Italians, Poles, Germans, Spaniards, Belgians) came to France, for example in the greater Paris area or in the mining and mining areas of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Lorraine . From 1880 onwards, about one million foreigners lived and worked in France; they made up seven to eight percent of the workforce. France was not familiar with the phenomenon of mass emigration that was also prevalent in Germany. During the First World War about three percent of the population of France were foreigners, the first xenophobic tendencies arose, and by 1931 the proportion of foreigners had grown to 6.6 percent. After that, immigration was severely restricted, and refugees from the Spanish Civil War were expelled or interned. After the Second World War, France recruited guest workers, mainly from Spain and Portugal, and maintained a very liberal immigration policy until 1974. Europeans, especially Italians and Poles, made up more than 90 percent of the foreign population in 1931; in the 1970s this proportion was only around 60 percent, with the Portuguese making up the largest proportion.

The proportion of the foreign resident population in 2006 was 5.8 percent, plus 4.3 percent Français par acquisition , i.e. people who were born abroad and have taken French citizenship . In 2008 there were 5.23 million immigrants living in France, which was 8.4% of the total population. Of these, 2.72 million had taken French citizenship. Offspring of immigrants in whom at least one foreign parent was born abroad was estimated to be approximately 10.4% of the total population in 2010. Today, most of the immigrants in France are of North African origin (Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians), followed by southern Europeans (Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards). In recent years, a large number of immigrants have come from the former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean . The highest concentration of immigrants lives in south-east France and in the greater Paris area .


French school system

The Constitution of the Fifth French Republic defines that access to education, training and culture must be equal for all citizens and that the maintenance of a free and secular public school system is the responsibility of the state. Accordingly, the French education system is organized centrally; the local authorities must provide the infrastructure. Private and public institutions coexist, and the mostly Catholic private schools have been the subject of intense political disputes in the past. In contrast to the school systems of the German-speaking countries, in France there is more emphasis on selection and education of elites, or training through education. Since 1967 there is compulsory instruction up to the age of 16; Home schooling is allowed. In France, the mean school attendance of over 25-year-olds was 11.6 years (as of 2015).

The kindergarten is called École maternelle in France and offers pre-school education for children from the age of two. It is attended by a high percentage of children. The visit is all-day and free of charge, only optional additional offers for care during off-peak times and lunch have to be paid for by the parents. The École maternelle is viewed much more as a school in France than is the case with kindergartens in German-speaking and other countries. The supervisors in the Maternelles have been trained as teachers and are employed by the national education authority Éducation nationale , which also sets the curricula.

The École élémentaire , which follows the maternelle and corresponds to the German elementary school, lasts five years. After graduation, the children attend the collège , a four-year comprehensive school , where they graduate from the brevet des collèges .

The elite university École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris is a grand établissement and as such is one of the most prestigious research institutions in the whole country.

The young person then has several options. He can enter a vocational school, which he completes with the Certificat d'aptitude professional ; a dual training system like the one in Germany is very rare. The Lycée roughly corresponds to the grammar school . It leads to the Baccalauréat after twelve school years . A distinction is made between several branches of school, such as scientific, economic or literary. Those attending a Lycée professionnel or a Center de formation d'apprentis can complete a Baccalauréat professionnel after 13 school years . In foreign language lessons, English and Spanish are taught more than German , which is considered an “Intello idiom”.

Academic education is shaped by the coexistence of the grandes écoles and the universities . Compared to the universities in France, the Grandes écoles have a higher reputation, low student numbers and a high level of personal attention. You can usually only visit them after attending the classe préparatoire , which is usually offered by Lycées . Among the more important of the grandes écoles are the École polytechnique , the École normal supérieure , the École nationale d'administration , the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the École Centrale Paris . In the course of the Europe-wide harmonization of degrees within the framework of the Bologna process , the LMD system was also introduced at French universities . LMD means that the license or bachelor (after three years), the master's (after five years) and the doctorate (after eight years) can be obtained one after the other. The traditional national diplomas ( DEUG , License , Maîtrise, DEA and DESS ) are to be dropped as part of this process. At the end of 2009, around 2.25 million students were studying at French universities.

In the 2015 PISA ranking , French students ranked 26th out of 72 countries in mathematics, 16th in science and 19th in reading comprehension. France is thus in the middle among the OECD countries.


Distribution of regional languages

The French language evolved from francien , which was spoken in the Middle Ages in what is now the Île-de-France region . It spread roughly as the French kings expanded their territory. In 1539 King Francis I decided that the French language should be the only language of his kingdom. Even so, only about half of the subjects of the French kings spoke French in the 18th century. After the revolution , the regional languages ​​were actively opposed; only a law passed in 1951 allowed teaching in regional languages. Even today, Article 2 of the 1958 Constitution makes French the sole official language of France. It is not only the language commonly spoken in France, but also the carrier of French culture in the world. The regional languages ​​spoken in France threaten to die out due to internal migration and the almost exclusive use of French in the media. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages has indeed signed, but not ratified France. Among other things, the Constitutional Council ruled in 1999 that parts of the Charter were incompatible with the French Constitution. Since 2008, Article 75-1 of the Constitution has mentioned regional languages ​​as France's cultural heritage.

Regional languages ​​spoken in France are the Romance Oïl languages in northern France, some of which are viewed as French dialects, such as Picard , Norman , Gallo , Poitevin-Saintongeais , Walloon and Champenois , Franco-Provençal in French and (western ) Swiss Alps and Jura, Occitan in the south of France, Catalan in the Pyrénées-Orientales department , Alsatian and Lorraine in the north-east of France, Basque and its dialects in the extreme south-west, Breton in the north-west, Corsican in Corsica and Flemish in the north of the country. Furthermore, various languages ​​such as Creole languages , Polynesian languages or Kanak languages ​​are spoken in New Caledonia in the overseas holdings .

Unlike z. B. in Italy there are no regional official languages ​​in France. Even with the place names and place names to regional influences reflect only partly reflected. German-language names are still very common in Alsace , but not in Lorraine . Similarly, in Corsica, the Italian names remained largely unchanged even after the annexation to France, but this is not the case in the areas on the mainland ( Savoy , County of Nice and Alpes-Maritimes ), which were previously associated with Italy. The place name Nice comes from the Italian, but only the French name Nice is the officially used locally . In the far north of France, in the border areas with Flanders , there are some Dutch place names, whereas Basque and Catalan influences can be seen in the border areas with Spain.

French is the working language at the United Nations , the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe , the European Commission and the African Union . In order to protect the French language from being taken over by Anglicisms , the Loi Toubon was passed in 1994 . The 1996 implementing decree established a mechanism for the introduction of new words, controlled by the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France and the Commission générale de terminologie et de neologie . This decree obliges the authorities to use the new creations published in the Official Journal and in the FranceTerme dictionary .

Immigrants from various nations, especially from Portugal , Eastern Europe , the Maghreb and the rest of Africa , brought their languages ​​with them. In contrast to the traditional languages, these speaking communities are particularly concentrated in the big cities, but cannot be assigned to any specific geographical area.


The Notre-Dame Cathedral
of Reims in Reims is one of the most architecturally significant Gothic churches in France and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

France is officially a secular state, which means that the state and religious communities are completely separate from one another. Since the state does not collect any data on the religious affiliation of the inhabitants, all information on the denominational composition of the population is based on estimates or the information provided by the religious communities themselves and therefore often deviate considerably from one another, which is why the following figures should be treated with caution. In a survey by Le Monde des religions , 51 percent of the French said they were Catholic , 31 percent said they did not belong to any religion, and about 9 percent said they were Muslim . 3 percent described themselves as Protestants . Almost all Protestant churches in France, of which the United Protestant Church of France is the largest, work together in the Federation of French Evangelical Churches . 1 percent described themselves as Jews . Extrapolated to the population, this corresponds to 32 million Catholics, 5.7 million Muslims, 1.9 million Protestants and 600,000 Jews as well as 20 million non-religious people. 6 percent gave different or no information. According to surveys, only a small proportion of Catholics are actually believers and practicing, but conversely, currents of Catholic traditionalism are also strongly represented in France. In addition, due to immigration from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, there are around 1 million Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches , around 600,000 Buddhists and a larger number of Hindus in France .

According to recent polls, 58 percent of the French believe in a God (other polls put this percentage much lower); however, the proportion of young people who believe in life after death has risen from 31 percent in 1981 to 42 percent. According to a study by the PewResearch Center , only a minority of 27 percent of the French describe themselves as "religious" and 10 percent as "very religious". Both are very low values ​​in a global comparison.

Estimates by the Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation (SMRE) published in 2018 are for the period 2000 (1996-2005) of 51.7% Catholics, 2.3% Protestants, 0.2% Orthodox, 0.5% Jews, 0.5 % Muslim, 44.2% non-religious and 0.6% other. For the period 2010 (2006–2015), the SMRE estimates 40% Catholics, 1.7% Protestants, 0.3% Orthodox, 0.8% other Christians, 0.3% Jews, 5.1% Muslims, 50.5% people without religious affiliation and 1.3% others.

Christian denominations

Historically, France has long been a Catholic-dominated state. Since Louis XI. († 1483) the French kings carried the title of roi très chrétien (most Christian king) with the consent of the Pope . During the Reformation, France always remained predominantly Catholic, even if there were strong Protestant minorities ( Huguenots ). But they had to give up hope of a Protestant France at the latest after Bartholomew's Night in 1572. When the Protestant Henry of Navarra became heir to the throne of France, he converted to the Catholic faith for political and tactical reasons ( "Paris vaut bien une messe" , "Paris is worth a fair"), but at the same time guaranteed Protestants special rights in the Edict of Nantes in 1598 and especially freedom of religion. The Edict of Nantes was repealed under Louis XIV in 1685 , which, despite severe threats of punishment, led to a mass exodus of the Huguenots to neighboring Protestant countries. It was only shortly before the French Revolution that Protestants were granted limited freedom of belief. The French Revolution then lifted all restrictions on freedom of belief. In the years after the revolution in the French First Republic there was a brief phase of violent hostility to the Church, as the Catholic Church was seen as the representative of the Ancien Régime . Not only the privileges of the church, but even the Christian calendar and worship services were abolished and replaced by a revolution calendar or a " cult of the supreme being ". Under Napoleon Bonaparte , however, the Concordat of 1801 brought about a balance between the Catholic Church and the state. Under the Bourbon restoration after 1815, the Catholic monarchist ideas regained the upper hand: The Bourbon troops sent to Spain in 1823 to suppress the liberal revolution were referred to as the “ 100,000 sons of St. Louis ” and the Jesuit mission overseas was promoted.

In the Third Republic there was another conflict between church and state. Ultimately, this conflict was part of the clashes between the republican, “liberal” forces on the one hand and restorative, conservative currents that were striving for an authoritarian restructuring of the state through to the re-establishment of the monarchy on the other. The Catholic Church as an institution was ranked among the last, and many Republicans took very anti-clerical positions. With the law on the separation of church and state passed on December 9th, 1905, church property was largely expropriated and the strict separation of church and state enshrined. Since the present three departments of Moselle , Haut Rhin and Bas Rhin belonged to the German Empire at that time as the Reichsland Alsace-Lorraine , the law was not applied there and was not applied there later, when Alsace-Lorraine returned to France after the First World War in 1918 introduced. The regulation of 1801 is still in effect there today. Catholic priests, Protestant pastors and Jewish rabbis are paid by the French state in these three departments, and Catholic and Protestant religious instruction is offered at public schools. In addition, the church holidays, Good Friday and Boxing Day, are still non-working holidays there.

Judaism and Islam

The Great Synagogue in Paris

The Jewish community in France has an eventful history. Jews have lived in France since Roman times. However, they were in two waves in 1306 under Philip IV and 1394 under Charles VI. all expelled from the country. For many centuries thereafter, there was hardly any Jewish life in France. The only exceptions were the areas in the east of the country acquired in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially Alsace, which had a special status for a long time. The French Revolution finally granted the Jews civil equality. France remained a country with a comparatively small Jewish population until the beginning of the 20th century. After the First, but especially after the Second World War, there was a strong immigration from Eastern Europe and the Arab Mediterranean region, so that France today is the country in Europe with the largest Jewish population. In connection with a rapidly growing anti-Semitism and the stagnating economy, there are thousands of Jewish emigrants every year. It is believed that more than 100,000 Jews left the country between 2010 and 2015, leaving only about 400,000 Jews in France.

Also since the end of the Second World War there has been a sharp increase in the proportion of Muslims, which is due to immigration from the former colonies. The French central state promotes a "Gallicanization of Islam"; he believes it is capable of reform and demands that Islam designate a body as the central point of contact for the state.


Prehistory to the early Middle Ages

Map of Gaul at the time of Caesar (58 BC)

It is estimated that present-day France was settled around 48,000 years ago. Significant rock paintings from the Paleolithic Age have been preserved in the Lascaux cave . From 600 BC Chr. Founded Phoenician and Greek traders bases on the Mediterranean coast, while Celts settled from the Northwest the land which later by the Romans as Gaul was called. The Celtic Gauls with their Druidic religion are now often seen as the ancestors of the French and Vercingetorix is glorified as the first national hero of France, although hardly any Gallic elements have remained in French culture. (See also Celtomania )

Between 58 and 51 BC Caesar conquered the region in the Gallic War ; the Roman provinces Gallia Belgica , Gallia cisalpina and Gallia Narbonensis were established. In a period of prosperity and peace, these provinces adopted Roman advances in technology, agriculture, and justice; large, elegant cities emerged. From the 5th century, more and more Germanic peoples immigrated to Gaul, who founded their own empires in 476 after the fall of the Roman Empire. After a temporary dominance of the Visigoths , the Franks under Clovis I founded the Merovingian Empire . They took over numerous Roman values ​​and institutions, u. a. the Catholic (496). In 732, at the Battle of Tours and Poitiers , they succeeded in putting a stop to the Islamic expansion emanating from the Iberian Peninsula . The Carolingians followed the Merovingians. Charlemagne was crowned emperor in 800 , in 843 the Franconian Empire was divided among his grandchildren with the Treaty of Verdun ; its western part corresponded roughly to today's France.

middle Ages

Joan of Arc. Anonymous miniature painting, second half of the 15th century

The French Middle Ages were shaped by the rise of kingship in the constant struggle against the independence of the high nobility and the secular power of the monasteries and religious orders . The Capetian set, starting from today's Ile-de-France , the idea of a unitary state by participating in various crusades substantiated this. The Normans repeatedly invaded Normandy , which is where it got its name; in 1066 they conquered England. A long series of armed conflicts with England began under Louis VII , after Ludwig's divorced wife Eleanor of Poitou and Aquitaine married Heinrich Plantagenet in 1152 and about half of the French territory fell to England. Philip II August was able to largely oust England together with the Hohenstaufen from France by 1299; the English King Henry III. also had to Ludwig IX. recognize as liege lord . From 1226 France became a hereditary monarchy ; in 1250 was Louis IX. one of the most powerful rulers in the West .

After the death of the last Capetian, Philip of Valois was elected the new king in 1328 and founded the Valois dynasty . The population of France is estimated at 15 million at this time. The country had significant cultural achievements with the scholastic , Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Claims to the throne Eduard III. Plantagenet , King of England and Duke of Aquitaine , lead the Hundred Years War in 1337 . After the great initial success of England, which conquered the entire north-west of France, France was initially able to push back the invaders. A rebellion of Burgundy and the assassination of the king meant that England was even able to occupy Paris and Aquitaine. Only the national resistance sparked by Jeanne d'Arc led to the reconquest of the lost territories (with the exception of Calais ) by 1453. In addition to the Hundred Years War, the plague of 1348 killed about a third of the population.

Early modern age

The "Sun King" Louis XIV is probably the best-known Bourbon.

With the incorporation of Burgundy and Brittany into the French state, the kingship was at a preliminary peak of its power, but was threatened by Habsburg in this position during the Renaissance - the Habsburg emperor Charles V ruled an empire whose lands were around France grouped. From 1540, through the work of John Calvin, Protestantism spread to France. The French Calvinists , known as Huguenots , were severely suppressed in their religious practice, the Huguenot Wars and especially the Bartholomew Night in 1572 led to the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Huguenots. It was not until the first ruler of the Bourbon family , Henry of Navarre , that the Huguenots were granted religious freedom in the Edict of Nantes in 1598.

The Renaissance period was also characterized by greater centralization, with the king becoming independent from the church and the nobility. The leading ministers and cardinals Richelieu and Jules Mazarin succeeded in establishing an absolutist state . At Richelieu's instigation, France actively intervened in the Thirty Years' War in Central Europe in 1635 ; in connection with this it came to war against Spain . In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 France was granted territories in Alsace ; the Holy Roman Empire and Spain were weakened. The era of French dominance in Europe began. All the rulers of Europe based themselves on the example of French culture. French became the dominant language of education. The expensive wars and the aristocratic opposition, however, led to national bankruptcy and an uprising ( Fronde ). With the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685, the religious freedom of the Huguenots was repealed. Hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled again despite severe threats of punishment. Under Louis XIV , the so-called Sun King , who was enthroned at the age of four in 1643 and ruled until 1715, absolutism reached its climax. During this time the Palace of Versailles was built.

Age of Revolutions

The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789

The wars that the absolutist kings waged (such as the War of Devolution , the Dutch War , the War of the Palatinate Succession , the War of the Spanish Succession , the Seven Years War , participation in the American War of Independence ), their expensive court rulings and poor harvests triggered a major financial crisis that King Louis XVI. forced to convene the Estates General . The National Assembly drafted a constitution, restricted the king's power and ended the ancien régime . The further deteriorating living conditions of the people led to the French Revolution in 1789, with the declaration of human and civil rights as a central achievement. The church was expropriated and a new calendar was even introduced. The constitution passed in 1791 made France a constitutional monarchy . After the king tried to escape , he was arrested and executed in 1793, and the First Republic was proclaimed. The first experience of republican rule, based on the principle of equality, ended in chaos and the reign of terror under Robespierre .

Emperor Napoleon III. hands over his sword to King Wilhelm of Prussia.

In this situation Napoleon Bonaparte seized power as First Consul with a coup in 1799 ; In 1804 he crowned himself emperor. In the following coalition wars he brought almost all of Europe under his control. However, his Russian campaign in 1812 was a failure, the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in 1813 sealed the defeat of the French troops. During the exile in Elba ruled with Louis XVIII. a Bourbon again, Napoleon returned in 1815 and ruled for another hundred days. After his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo , he was banished for good. The Restoration brought the Bourbons back to the throne, who set about rebuilding the lost colonial empire . In France the Industrial Revolution was taking place at the same time , and a working class slowly emerged. The July Revolution of 1830 overthrew the despotic ruling Charles X , who by the citizen king Louis-Philippe I was replaced. Another bourgeois revolution brought France the Second Republic in 1848 .

Louis Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President of the Second Republic , who already in 1852 as Napoleon III. was crowned emperor. During his reign the opposition was violently suppressed, but foreign policy undertakings such as the acquisition of Nice and Savoy , the incorporation of Equatorial Africa and Indochina into the colonial empire and the construction of the Suez Canal succeeded . His rule coincides with the formation of the nation state in Germany under the leadership of the North German Confederation . The Franco-Prussian War that Napoleon III. began to prevent a powerful competitor for hegemony in Europe, ended in defeat, Wilhelm I had himself proclaimed German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles . The Paris Commune , an uprising against surrender, was put down with violence and numerous deaths.

Imperialism, Colonialism, World War I and World War II

J'accuse , a bang from Émile Zola in the Dreyfus affair

The Third Republic lasted from 1871 to 1940. During this time, the French colonial empire expanded to an area of ​​7.7 million square kilometers. The industrialization of France led to an economic boom: in 1878, 1889 and 1900 world exhibitions took place in Paris .

There was a race for Africa between France and the United Kingdom . Both countries practiced imperialism . The climax of the "race" was the Faschoda crisis in 1898 between the two countries. The United Kingdom had set itself the goal of conquering a north-south belt of colonies in Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to Cairo (" Cape-Cairo Plan "). France, on the other hand, wanted an east-west belt from Dakar to Djibouti . The claims of the two states finally collided in the small Sudanese town of Faschoda . France finally gave in without a fight; the two countries defined their areas of interest in March 1899 (" Sudan Treaty "). The Third Republic experienced three major crises within ten years: the Panama scandal (1889–1893), the Faschoda crisis and the Dreyfus affair (1894–1905).

The Roman Catholic Church in France practiced an anti-modernist stance for decades ; For this reason, among other things, France - also in the course of the Dreyfus affair - became a distinctly secular state ("Law on the Separation of Religion and State " in the " Law on the Separation of Church and State " of December 1905).

In 1904 France and the United Kingdom joined the " Entente cordiale " and entered the First World War in 1914 with the aim of regaining Alsace-Lorraine and decisively weakening Germany. After the war, France was on the winning side, but northern France was largely devastated. In addition to the 1.5 million soldiers who fell, 166,000 were victims of the Spanish flu in 1918/19.

The inter-war period in France was primarily characterized by political instability. In the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany was obliged to pay high reparations to the victorious powers. Above all, the French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Poincaré insisted on the uncompromising and punctual fulfillment of the services. The French military took delays in deliveries as an opportunity to move into unoccupied territory. For example, on March 8, 1921, French and Belgian troops occupied the cities of Duisburg and Düsseldorf in the demilitarized zone . As a result, even the Ruhr area was temporarily occupied .

The 2 e division blindée drives on August 26, 1944 on the Champs Elysées and is cheered by people for the liberation of Paris

The “ Popular Front ”, which ruled from 1934, was primarily concerned with maintaining the status quo , so that France was poorly prepared for the Second World War : In their western campaign , the German troops bypassed the Maginot Line and marched into an undefended Paris. Marshal Pétain had to sign the " second armistice of Compiègne " (in France: Armistice de Rethondes ) on June 22, 1940 . France was divided into a zone occupée and a zone libre , with the German-dependent conservative-authoritarian Vichy regime ruling in the latter . Resistance groups formed shortly after the armistice was signed, and Charles de Gaulle founded the government-in-exile Forces françaises libres in London . In Operation Overlord , carried out by the Allies , northern France was retaken in 1944. A month after Paris was liberated in August 1944, de Gaulle formed a provisional government . Among other things, this decided in October 1944 women's suffrage , which French women had been denied until then. It was used for the first time in the local elections on April 29, 1945 and at the national level in the elections to the National Assembly on October 21, 1945.

Post-war era and European unification

Founding members of the European Economic Community

The Constitution of the Fourth Republic had already been passed by referendum on October 13, 1946 . France, which found itself on the side of the victorious powers , became a founding member of the United Nations and received a veto right in the Security Council . France received support from the Marshall Plan to promote reconstruction ; It is controversial among economists whether these had any noteworthy economic effects. The long post-war economic boom that began after the Second World War was known as the Trente Glorieuses. In 1949 France was a founding member of NATO ; In 1951 the first step towards European integration was taken with the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community . In March 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed; On January 1, 1958, the European Economic Community (EEC) was founded, which has meanwhile become the European Union and of which France is an active and important member.

The post-war period was also marked by the collapse of the colonial empire . The first Indochina War (1946–1954) ended with the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ and the loss of all French colonies in Southeast Asia. The Algerian War (1954–1962), which was fought with great severity and at the end of which Algeria had to be granted independence, meant an even deeper cut . Hundreds of thousands of pied noirs fled to France, where their integration into French society did not always go smoothly (see also decolonization of Africa ).

Domestically, the unstable Fourth Republic was replaced in October 1958 by the Fifth Republic, which provided for a strong president who was largely independent of the legislature . This Fifth Republic was badly shaken in May 1968 , which led to long-term cultural, political and economic reforms in France (there was also the 1968 movement in Germany ). Around 1971, before the oil price crisis of 1973, France decided to make itself more independent of oil by using nuclear energy (see Nuclear energy in France ).

Another turning point was the takeover of power by the Socialist Party in 1981 and the presidency of François Mitterrand , which lasted until May 1995 . During this period, among other things, massive nationalizations were promoted , the death penalty abolished, the 39-hour week introduced and the Maastricht Treaty ratified in 1992 . Mitterrand's successor Jacques Chirac implemented the introduction of the euro and refused to participate in the Iraq war in 2002/2003 .

Scene of the Republican March on Place de la Republique in response to the January 2015 Paris attacks

Nicolas Sarkozy ( UMP ), who was in office from 2007, was followed by François Hollande ( Parti socialiste ) in 2012 and Emmanuel Macron , who was a minister under Hollande in 2017 , but left the government in 2016 and founded his own party, En Marche .

In the context of the euro crisis , France's net new debt, government ratio , reform capability and other things have been critically discussed since around 2010 .

In 2015 Paris was hit by several Islamist terrorist attacks: On January 7th, twelve people were killed in an attack on the editorial staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo . On January 9, four people were murdered in a kosher supermarket while being held hostage at Porte de Vincennes . On the evening of November 13, terrorists carried out attacks in six different locations in the city, killing 130 people. The terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS) claimed responsibility for these attacks . A state of emergency was declared the following day . After being extended six times, the state of emergency was officially ended on November 1, 2017. In its place came a new anti-terror law that gives the security forces more powers.


Organizational chart of the political system of the Fifth French Republic

Since the adoption of a new constitution on October 5, 1958, France has spoken of the Fifth Republic. This constitution makes France a centrally organized democracy with a semi-presidential system of government . Compared to previous constitutions, the role of the executive, and especially that of the president, has been largely strengthened. This was in response to the extreme political instability in the Fourth Republic . Both the President and the Prime Minister play an active role in political life, with the President only responsible to the people. The power of parliament was restricted in the Fifth Republic.

The constitution does not contain a catalog of fundamental rights , but refers to the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights of 1789 and the fundamental social rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Fourth French Republic of 1946.

Graduates of the ENA elite university , founded in 1946, were able to assert themselves in political offices, in key positions in administration and in the management of large French companies.

In the 2019 Democracy Index, France ranks 20th out of 167 countries and is considered a “complete democracy”.


The Élysée Palace is the official seat of the President of the French Republic .
Acting French President Emmanuel Macron

According to the constitution , the president, directly elected by the people, is the highest state organ. It is above all other institutions. It monitors compliance with the constitution, ensures the functioning of public authorities, the continuity of the state, independence, the inviolability of national territory and compliance with agreements concluded with other states. He acts as an arbitrator in disputes between state institutions. He promulgates laws (Art. 10) and has the right to submit them to the Constitutional Council for examination. He may refer laws or parts of them back to parliament for new deliberations, but has no right of veto . Decrees and ordinances are adopted by the Council of Ministers , chaired by the President; the President has a suspensive veto over these. When it comes to foreign and security policy, the President has both the authority to issue guidelines and to ratify , so that he can shape foreign policy and enter into international agreements that are binding for France. This practice emerged during de Gaulle's reign and is not necessarily to be found in the constitution . At the request of the government or parliament, the president may initiate referendums . He appoints members of key bodies, about three of the nine members of the Constitutional Council , all members of the Supreme Council for the Judiciary, and the prosecutors. The state president is not subject to any control by the judiciary; he is only responsible to parliament in the event of high treason. The President also orders the armed forces and the use of nuclear weapons ; in the event of a state of emergency the president has almost unlimited authority. The President's Office is at the side of the President as an advisor and supporter.

The president passes on the authority conferred on him to the prime minister and the government , whereby the government has to implement the guidelines given by the president. This requires close cooperation between the president and prime minister, which can be difficult in cohabitation , i.e. when the president and prime minister come from two opposing political camps. The President formally appoints a Prime Minister and, on the Prime Minister's proposal, the members of the Government, without any restrictions. As a result, the government depends on the confidence of parliament; the president cannot formally dismiss a government once it has been appointed. The government consists of ministers, ministers of state, ministres délegués , i.e. ministers with special tasks, and state secretaries. Members of the government are not allowed to hold any other state office, other professional activity or parliamentary mandate in France. In their function they are responsible to Parliament.

legislative branch

The Palais Bourbon , seat of the National Assembly

The Parliament of the Fifth Republic consists of two chambers. The National Assembly ( Assemblée Nationale ) has 577 members, who are directly elected for five years. The Senate has 348 members (since 2011, as of 2015). These are indirectly elected for a six-year term. The election of the Senate is carried out at the level of the départements , with the electoral college made up of the deputies of the département, the general councils and municipal representatives. The elections to the National Assembly in 1967, 1973, 1978, 1986, 2002 , 2007 , 2012 and 2017 took place according to schedule, the others were early elections.

The initiative for legislation can come from the Prime Minister or one of the two chambers of parliament. After the debate in the chambers, the text of the law must be passed by both chambers with the same wording, with the passing of the text being referred to as navette . Once passed by parliament, the president has only one right to reject a legislative text. Parliament also has the task of controlling the work of the government through questions and debates. The National Assembly has the option to overthrow the government. Parliament does not have the power to politically challenge the president. The President, however, may dissolve the National Assembly; this right has been used repeatedly in the past to end difficult phases of cohabitation . A frequent occurrence is the accumulation of offices: many senators and members of parliament are also active as mayors in local politics. This should no longer be legal from 2017.

State budget

1974 was the last time the state budget had any new borrowing; he was balanced. In 2016 it comprised expenditures of $ 1,369 billion, compared to revenues of $ 1,288 billion. So the budget deficit was $ 81 billion or 3.3 percent of gross domestic product .

The national debt in 2010 was 1,591 billion euros or 82.3 percent of GDP. This means that new indebtedness and the national debt ratio in France were well above the upper limits of three percent per year and 60 percent ( Art. 126 TFEU) specified in the EU convergence criteria (“Maastricht criteria” ). In 2011 new debt was 5.2 percent of GDP. The national debt this year was 1,717.3 billion euros.

At the end of 2012 the debt level rose to around 89 percent of the gross domestic product. The largest item in the 2012 budget was interest payments: a total of around 48.8 billion euros. The treasury (see also Agence France Trésor ) has the authority to issue government bonds worth 179 billion euros to finance the debt burden. As part of the euro crisis , France was downgraded several times from 2012 by the rating agencies Standard & Poor's, Moodys and Fitch; President Sarkozy had announced that he would save around 65 billion euros in the budget over the next five years if he had been re-elected in the 2012 French presidential election . Under President François Hollande , the national debt continued to rise. At the beginning of 2015, the European Commission announced that it would also tolerate budget deficits above the ceiling of 3% set out in the Maastricht Treaty in 2015 and 2016 . In 2015, France had a deficit of 3.5 percent of GDP; only four of the 28 EU countries had higher rates. France will not meet the deficit ceiling in 2016 and 2017 either.

France's debt according to Eurostat
year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
National debt in% 59.8 63.9 65.5 67.0 64.4 64.5 68.8 83.0 85.3 87.8 90.6 93.4 94.9 95.6 98.0 98.4 98.4
Budget balance in% −3.1 −3.9 −3.5 −3.2 −2.3 −2.5 −3.2 −7.2 −6.8 −5.1 −4.9 −4.1 −3.9 −3.6 −3.5 −2.8 −2.5

Share of government expenditure (as a percentage of gross domestic product):

Political parties

The French party landscape is characterized by a high degree of fragmentation and high dynamics. New parties emerge and existing parties often change their names. The names of the parties give only limited information about their ideological orientation, because there has been a certain alienation of the terminology. French parties tend to have relatively few members and a weak organizational structure, often focusing on Paris as the place where most decisions are made.

The political left is ruled by the socialist Parti socialiste (PS). She provided the long-time President François Mitterrand and several prime ministers; From 2012 to 2017, François Hollande, another PS politician, was President of the State. Other important parties to the left of the center are the Parti radical de gauche and the left-wing party Parti de Gauche . The historically significant French Communist Party , which in the first few years of the 21st century had slipped almost to the point of insignificance, formed the Front de gauche electoral alliance with the Parti de Gauche from 2009 , but in which it was unable to build on the successes of earlier decades. The green party in France is called Europe Écologie-Les Verts , although green politics in France tend to be less popular than in the German-speaking countries.

The conservative camp is dominated by the Gaullist party, which has changed its name several times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic and has been called Les Républicains since 2015 . In addition to Charles de Gaulle , in the Fifth Republic she provided Presidents Georges Pompidou , Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy . It shares the occupation of the bourgeois camp with various centrist parties, including the party alliance Union des démocrates et indépendants (UDI) and the Mouvement démocrate party (MoDem). The Front National is located much further to the right of the political center . Since it was gradually realigned by Marine Le Pen in 2011 , it has developed into a strong third camp, culminating in Le Pen's participation in the runoff election for President 2017 .

Domestic politics

Distribution of seats in the National Assembly
  • FI: 17 seats
  • GDR: 15 seats
  • NG: 31 seats
  • REM: 313 seats
  • Modem: 47 seats
  • LC: 35 seats
  • LR: 100 seats
  • NI: 18 seats
  • Foreign and Security Policy

    Session room of the UN Security Council , France is a UN veto power
    The European Parliament in Strasbourg. France is one of 27 EU member states.
    The French language worldwide
  • native language
  • Administrative language
  • Second or lingua franca
  • Francophone minority
  • France is a nuclear power and a veto power in the UN Security Council and pursues an active foreign policy. With embassies in 160 countries, France had the third highest number of foreign embassies in 2017, behind the United States and the People's Republic of China.

    After the Second World War , Germany and France gave up their hereditary enmity that had existed since 1870/71 ; among other things against the background of the Cold War. Close relations developed between the two countries . Both countries were founding members of the European Union . At times, a “ two-speed Europe ” was discussed with Germany, France and a few other countries in a core Europe.

    In general, however, France's basic interests in the EU follow the intergovernmental approach , which initially does not provide for the transfer of further competences to the EU level. The central goal of French European policy is to consolidate France's leading role in Europe. However, this position is being weakened in part by new, pragmatic approaches. France is increasingly leading the way in European positions, particularly in climate and energy, economic and financial as well as security and defense policy. The basic focus on national interests remains, however.

    In the euro crisis , France and Germany largely advocated common positions. This is reflected in frequent bilateral talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and François Hollande , also in the run-up to official summits. An important concern of France at EU level is (as of 2008) the development of a European security and defense policy .

    Another pillar of French foreign policy is international cooperation in the field of security policy and development cooperation while maintaining French sovereignty. France is also a member of numerous security policy organizations such as the OSCE and takes part in the Eurocorps . So far (as of October 2016) France has not announced that it will forego the potential of its nuclear weapons ( force de frappe ).

    France is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council with the right to veto . It coordinates its international development cooperation and humanitarian engagement through the United Nations.

    France was a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty ( NATO ) in 1949 and received military protection from the United States . When de Gaulle came to power in 1958, relations with the United States and with the US-dominated NATO changed to the point that France gave up its military integration into the structures of NATO in 1966 and remained exclusively politically integrated. In March 2009, President Sarkozy announced the full return of France to the NATO command structure. The French parliament confirmed this move on March 17, 2009 by expressing confidence in Sarkozy.

    Under de Gaulle's leadership, France in 1960 became a nuclear power and decreed in 1965 with the force de frappe on nuclear forces , the first 50 with nuclear weapons (bombs) equipped aircraft in service reported. In 1968 France had already set up 18 launch pads for medium-range missiles , which were equipped with nuclear warheads in 1970 and 1971. In the 1970s, France expanded its nuclear power at sea. Four nuclear submarines each carry 16 nuclear -armed medium-range missiles.

    French cultural policy and the promotion of Francophonie are also of great importance for French foreign relations . Internationally, the French language has a high priority with around 140 million speakers. This is supported by the French Foreign Ministry with a sub-department called AEFE, whose 280 schools in around 130 countries are attended by around 16,000 young people. The services of the almost 1000 locations of the Agence française are used by around 200,000 students all over the world.

    In addition, there is a commitment even after the end of colonial rule in Africa , where France has remained the decisive regulatory power in some countries to this day.


    Examples of the French military . Above left: aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle , above right: Rafale fighter aircraft , below right: Chasseurs alpins (mountain fighters ), below left:
    Leclerc battle tank

    France has one of the highest armaments budgets in the world and is one of the leading military powers as well as one of the official nuclear weapon states . The French armed forces (Les forces armées françaises) have been a professional army since the late 1990s and comprise 350,000 men and women. In 2017, France spent almost 2.3 percent of its economic output or 57.8 billion dollars on its armed forces and was thus in 6th place worldwide. 20,000 soldiers are stationed in the overseas departments and territories, another 8,000 in African countries, with Defense agreements were agreed. The armed forces are divided into three classic sectors: Army ( Armée de Terre ) , Air Force ( Armée de l'air ) , and Navy (Marine nationale) . France's nuclear force (Force de dissuasion nucléaire) with around 348 to 350 warheads provides the navy and, to a lesser extent, the air force. Furthermore, the Gendarmerie nationale , a central police authority, is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. The French Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère) is the military and popular cultural figurehead of the French military .

    Administrative structure

    Data status, unless expressly stated otherwise: January 1, 2012

    France has been in effect since Louis XIII at the latest . and Cardinal Richelieu as the epitome of the centralized state. Although decentralization measures were taken later, these were more intended to bring central power closer to the citizen. It was only after the administrative reform of 1982 and 1983 that competencies were shifted from the central government to the local authorities.

    The 18 regions of France, since the 2016 reform.

    At the top level, France has been divided into 18 regions (régions) since January 1, 2016 , previously there were 27. Regions only existed since 1964, and since 1982/83 they have had the status of a collectivité territoriale ( local authority ). Each region has a popularly elected regional council ( Conseil régional ), which in turn elects a president. Furthermore, the prefect of the capital appointed by the French president is also prefect of the entire region, which puts him above the other prefects of the départements. Regions are responsible for the economy, the infrastructure for vocational and high school education and are financed through taxes that they are allowed to levy and through transfer payments from the central government. Corsica has a special status among the regions and is known as the Collectivité territoriale . Five regions ( Guadeloupe , Martinique , French Guiana , Mayotte and Réunion ) are located overseas and had the status of an overseas department until the constitutional amendment in 2003 . The regions form the European statistical level NUTS -2 (on the superordinate level NUTS-1 there are 8 + 1  Zones d'études et d'aménagement du territoire (ZEAT, spatial planning and planning zones )).

    96 of the 101 French departments are in Europe. The regions show the division of France before the 2016 reform.

    A region is itself divided into departments . Départements replaced the traditional provinces in 1790 in order to break the influence of the local rulers. Of today's 101 departments , 96 are in Europe. The high number of these relatively small administrative units is always the subject of discussions. Départements elect a Départementrat ( Conseil départemental ), which elects a President as the executive body. However, the first man in the department is the prefect appointed by the French president . Départements have the task of looking after the social and health services, the colleges , cultural and sports facilities, department roads and social housing. They are allowed to collect taxes and receive transfer payments from the central government. The departments make up the European statistical level NUTS -3.

    The 335 arrondissements , 13 of them overseas, do not represent a separate legal personality. They primarily serve to relieve the administration of the department, with a sous-prefecture in each arrondissement .

    Likewise, the 2054 cantons (cantons), 72 overseas, (numbers from 2014) only serve as constituencies for the election of the departmental councils . The arrondissements of the cities of Paris, Lyon and Marseille have the status of cantons.

    The smallest and oldest organizational unit of the French state, the municipalities ( communes ). They followed the parishes and towns in 1789 . The enormously high number of municipalities has decreased slightly in recent years. While there were 36,700 municipalities in 2012, the number fell to 35,498 at the beginning of 2017, 129 of them overseas. Despite the high number of communities, most of which have very few inhabitants, efforts to reform the community are making very slow progress. Each municipality elects a municipal council ( Conseil municipal ), which then elects a mayor from among its members. Since 1982 the municipalities have had significantly more rights and are less patronized by the state. At the community level, primary education, town planning, waste disposal, sewage treatment and cultural activities are organized; They also finance themselves through their own taxes and transfer payments.

    Special administrative status applies to the départemental corporation ( Collectivité départementale, ) Mayotte , the local authority ( Collectivité territoriale ) Saint-Pierre and Miquelon , the overseas territories ( Territoires d'outre-mer , TOM) French Polynesia , New Caledonia , Wallis and Futuna , Saint-Barthélemy , Saint-Martin and the French Southern and Antarctic Lands ( Terres australes et antarctiques françaises, TAAF) as well as the Îles Éparses and the Clipperton Island .

    France and its overseas regions and departments as well as Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin are part of the EU. The remaining overseas territories are not EU members. Laws enacted in France only apply in the TOM (Territoires d'outre-mer) if this is expressly mentioned.


    Palais de Justice (Palace of Justice) in Paris

    After a checkered history of law in France, today, in the Fifth Republic, the constitutional council ( Conseil constitutionnel ) assumes the control function within the political system. In a non-renewable mandate, the President and the Presidents of the National Assembly and the Senate each appoint three MPs for a nine-year term. The council reviews laws on request, monitors the legality of elections and referendums . 60 members of the National Assembly (10.4% of the members) or 60 members of the Senate (18.1% of the Senators) are required to review laws.

    The death penalty was abolished in France in 1981.



    France is part of the European single market . Together with 18 other EU member states (blue) it forms a monetary union, the euro zone .
    In the background La Défense , a high-rise district in western Paris, which is one of the most important business locations in Europe.

    State actors in France traditionally pursue an intensive economic and industrial policy ; there is comparatively strong state intervention. The ideas of mercantilism - especially Colbertism - continue to have an effect in France to this day.

    After the First World War , the “mixed company” type was created. This partnership between private and public capital was intended to enable national industry to penetrate areas in which private capital alone did not dare (oil industry: Compagnie Française des Pétroles (CFP) . Chemistry). Previously, in similar cases in France, the state had granted an exclusive concession to a single company .

    In 1946, the then government of France began a system of planification . In 1981, François Mitterrand became the first socialist president to take office; he ruled until May 1995 and carried out numerous nationalizations .

    France is a managed economy . A state-set minimum wage , the SMIC , ensures employees a gross hourly wage of 9.67 euros (as of 2016).

    French exports come largely from mechanical engineering , the automotive industry , aerospace technology , the pharmaceutical industry , electronics , viticulture and the food industry . Also, the tourism and the luxury goods industry play a major role.

    The gross domestic product (GDP) rose in the years 1995 to 2005 by an average of 2.1 percent annually and in 2005 reached the value of 1,689.4 billion euros. In comparison with the GDP of the European Union, expressed in purchasing power standards , France achieved an index of 107 in 2014 ( EU-28 : 100).

    According to a study by Bank Credit Suisse from 2017, France was the country with the sixth largest national total wealth in the world. The total French holdings of real estate, stocks, and cash totaled $ 12,969 billion. The wealth per adult person is 263,399 dollars on average and 119,720 dollars in median (Germany: 203,946 and 47,091 dollars, respectively). The Gini coefficient for wealth distribution was 72.0 in 2016, which indicates a medium wealth inequality.

    The structure of the workforce has changed fundamentally compared to the past. In 2003, only four percent of those in work were working in agriculture, forestry and fishing, in industry it was 24 percent and in the service sector 72 percent.

    In 2016, France exported 16.1 percent of its export volume to Germany, which in turn contributed 19.6 percent to imports. Germany has been France's most important trading partner for many years. In 2016, France imported goods worth around 517.2 billion euros and exported goods worth around 452.8 billion euros and thus has a trade deficit . In 2001 the deficit was only 5.8 billion euros; In 2016 it was 64.7 billion euros. The EU Commission published a report in February 2016, according to which France has lost a quarter of its export market share since the turn of the millennium; its competitiveness has deteriorated.

    France's participation in the European Union is important in terms of economic policy . The country has been a founding member of all previous EU institutions since the 1950s. With a total of around 500 million inhabitants, the European Union generated a nominal gross domestic product of 17.6 trillion US dollars in 2011, making  it the largest domestic market in the world. France is also part of the euro zone , a monetary union of a total of 19 EU countries with around 330 million inhabitants. The official currency in the euro zone is the euro ; its monetary policy is controlled by the European Central Bank . The previous currency until 2002 was the French franc .

    In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, France ranks 22nd out of 137 countries (as of 2017). In 2017, the country ranks 72nd out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .

    To the economic situation

    In France, the real gross domestic product ( GDP ) grew by an average of 2 percent in France between 1999 and 2008 (for comparison: Italy plus 1.2 percent, Germany plus 1.5 percent). In the crisis year 2009 it fell by 2.9 percent; In 2007 and 2008 it grew by 2.4 percent each. In 2012 GDP grew by 0.01 percent and in 2013 by 0.27 percent. The average growth in the period 2005–2010 was 0.6%. Unemployment in July 2014 was 3.3 million people at 10.2%, an all-time high since the record began in 1955. In 2014, a good 500,000 more people were unemployed than in 2004. In June 2018, unemployment was still 9.2%. In 2017, youth unemployment was 23.6%. In 2016, 2.8% of the total workforce worked in agriculture, 20% in industry and 77.2% in the service sector. The total number of employees is estimated at 30.68 million for 2017; 47% of them are women. The national debt in 2014 was 2.018 trillion euros. The national debt rose from 2008 to 2014 64% to 94% of the gross domestic product. Since the introduction of the euro, France's exports have lost a third of their world market share. The industrial share of the French gross domestic product fell from 18% to 12.6%. France's share of world exports has fallen from more than 6% in 2000 to 4% in 2012. The share of government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product in France was 57% in 2012. They are among the highest in industrialized countries. 23% of all employees in France work in the public sector. The French automotive industry is (as of 2013) in a difficult position. In 2013, almost 1.8 million vehicles were sold, as many units as in 1997. The EU gives the industry massive support. The rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded France's creditworthiness from AAA to AA + in 2012 and from AA + to AA in November 2013 . The new President Emmanuel Macron, elected in 2017, promised structural reforms to increase the country's competitiveness again.

    Key figures

    Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real
    year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
    Change in% yoy 2.4 2.4 0.2 −2.9 2.0 2.1 0.2 0.6 0.9 1.1 1.1 2.3 1.7 1.3
    Development of the gross domestic product (GDP), nominal
    absolute (in billion euros) per inhabitant (in thousands of euros)
    year 2015 2016 2017 2018 year 2015 2016 2017 2018
    GDP in billions of euros 2,198 2.234 2,295 2,353 GDP per inhabitant (in € thousand) 33.0 33.3 34.2 35.0
    Development of foreign trade and its change compared to the previous year
    2016 2017 2018
    Billion euros % yoy Billion euros % yoy Billion euros % year-on-year
    import 505.3 −0.4 539.5 +6.8 560.8 +3.9
    export 442.9 −0.8 464.0 +4.8 482.3 +3.9
    balance −62.4 -75.5 −78.5
    Main trading partner of France (2018)
    Export to (in percent) Import from (in percent)
    GermanyGermany Germany 14.7 GermanyGermany Germany 15.5
    United StatesUnited States United States 8.0 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 8.9
    SpainSpain Spain 7.8 ItalyItaly Italy 7.7
    ItalyItaly Italy 7.5 BelgiumBelgium Belgium 6.7
    BelgiumBelgium Belgium 7.2 SpainSpain Spain 6.5
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 6.8 United StatesUnited States United States 6.3
    China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 4.3 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 3.7
    other countries 43.7 other countries 44.7


    The automotive industry plays an important role in the French economy. A Citroën C5 from PSA

    List of the 15 largest French companies by turnover (all data refer to the 2016 financial year).

    rank Surname Headquarters Revenue
    ($ billion)
    ($ billion)
    Employee Branch
    1. AXA Group Paris 143.722 6.446 97,707 Insurance
    2. Total Courbevoie 127.925 6,196 102.168 oil and gas
    3. BNP Paribas Paris 109.026 8.517 184,839 Banks
    4th Carrefour Paris 87.112 0.825 384.151 retail trade
    5. Crédit Agricole Paris 80.258 3,915 70,830 Banks
    6th Electricity de France Paris 78.740 3.153 154,808 Supplier
    7th Engie Paris 73.692 −0.459 153.090 Supplier
    8th. Groupe BPCE Paris 70.517 4,410 102,827 retail trade
    9. Société Générale Paris 69.335 4.284 151.341 Banks
    10. Peugeot Paris 59.749 1.913 175.341 Automobiles
    11. Auchan Croix 58.862 0.652 342,709 retail trade
    12. Renault Boulogne-Billancourt 56.667 3,781 124,849 Automobiles
    13. Finatis Paris 48.154 0.688 232.503 retail trade
    14th CNP Assurances Paris 47,804 1.327 5,035 Insurance
    15th orange Paris 45.249 3.246 155.202 telecommunications

    Creative and cultural industries

    In France, the cultural industry has a significantly larger share than in other countries. The total volume is 74 billion euros (as of 2012), of which 61.4 billion are generated directly. The French cultural industry, with its direct revenues, is larger than the automotive industry or the producers of luxury goods and is only just behind telecommunications.

    In key areas of culture, large companies are based in France, for example Universal Music Group is the largest music publisher in the world, Groupe Lagardère (formerly Hachette ) are number two of the book publishers and Ubisoft is the third largest provider of computer games. France ranks second among the film production countries and is the fourth largest art market in the world.


    Production of electrical energy in France:
  • Hydropower
  • Nuclear energy
  • fossil fuels
  • other renewable energies
  • France's energy sector employed 194,000 people (0.8% of the labor force) in 2008 and contributed 2.1% of GDP. France used to have rich coal reserves. Coal production reached its peak in 1958 with the production of 60 million tons; then began a period of cheap oil and a coal crisis . In 1973, 29.1 million tons were mined, and in 2004 the last coal mine in France, La Houve in Lorraine , was closed . Today (2008) coal is mainly imported from Australia, the USA and South Africa and used in the steel industry and thermal power plants (6.9 GW installed capacity).

    France has very little oil and gas ; arithmetically, they could cover the country's total consumption for two months. In addition to the almost one million tonnes of oil produced in France itself in 2008, crude oil was imported from the Middle East (22%), the North Sea countries (20%), Africa (16%) and the former Soviet Union (29%) . France consumed a total of 82 million units of oil in 2008 , almost half of which was for transport. The country's 13 refineries can process 98 million tons of oil annually. 22 percent of energy consumption is covered by natural gas, especially in residential areas and in industry. In 2008 France imported natural gas mainly from Norway, Russia, Algeria and the Netherlands; France paid 26 billion euros for this.

    Nuclear energy

    The oil price shocks of the 1970s prompted the government to initiate a nuclear program , also known as the Messmer Plan after Pierre Messmer . Work on the first three nuclear power plants Tricastin , Gravelines and Dampierre began in 1974. The La Hague reprocessing plant was handed over to the state-owned company Cogema in 1976 to recycle spent fuel elements using the PUREX process . Construction of the Georges Besse I gas diffusion plant began in 1975 and operations began in 1979. Fifteen years later, 56 reactors were in operation. Of the 44 million oil units of energy that France produced in 1973, nine percent came from nuclear power plants. In 2008, 137 million units of oil were produced, 84 percent of which were from nuclear power plants. At the beginning of 2009, 21 nuclear power plants with 59 reactors and a total output of 63.3 GW were on the grid in France .

    Location of nuclear facilities in France

    France's nuclear power plants are based on four different designs. The first are power plants of the type CP0, CP1 and CP2, which have a capacity of around 900 MWe and were mainly built between 1970 and 1980. Compared to the CP0 and CP1 series, the redundancy of the CP2 series has been increased; from CP1 onwards, water can also be sprayed into the containment in emergencies . This type of reactor was exported several times, for example for the Koeberg and Hanul nuclear power plant ( Uljin until 2013 ) or the Chinese CPR-1000 reactor series. The following series P4 and P'4 deliver around 1300 MWe of power, the Cattenom nuclear power plant belongs to this type. The N4 design was modified from this in Civaux and Chooz with 1450 MW. The latest series is the EPR , which differs from the P4 and N4 power plants with its core catcher, double containment and increased burn -up. Because of the high proportion of nuclear power of around 80 percent, the nuclear power plants must also be operated in medium load operation. France therefore has one of the largest pipeline networks in Europe; several power plants can thus jointly balance out fluctuations in demand.

    The Agence Nationale pour la Gestion des Déchets Radioactifs is responsible for the disposal of radioactive waste . For this, Électricité de France charges 0.14 cents / kWh on the nuclear power price, which is comparable to other European countries. The disposal of low and medium level radioactive waste takes place in Soulaines and the Morvillier repository in the Aube department , which can hold around 650,000 cubic meters. For the disposal of the highly radioactive waste (mainly glass canisters from reprocessing), the claystone near the village of Bure is examined in the rock laboratory of the same name .

    France also plays a leading role in nuclear research: it participates in the Generation IV International Forum and is also working on the commercial exploitation of rapid fission and nuclear fusion . The activities are mainly concentrated in Cadarache . A further development of the reprocessing technology is also being worked on in order to be able to separate off other actinides in the future .

    According to a report by the Court of Auditors from January 2012, the research, development and construction of the French nuclear power plants cost a total of 188 billion euros. These costs have so far been amortized by around 75% through the sale of the electricity. Since most of the power plants are still in operation, these costs will probably be covered, but there are hardly any provisions for follow-up costs and the consequences of the final disposal of the nuclear waste, which are difficult to estimate . Due to the high proportion of nuclear power, France benefits significantly from EU emissions trading . Of the 442 TWh of electrical energy generated in France in 2008, 65 percent was used in private households and in the service sector , and another 27 percent in industry (excluding the steel industry ).

    At the end of November 2011, the French Institute for Nuclear Safety drew attention to the need to renovate all nuclear power plants stationed in France. This is the only way to survive possible natural disasters without major disaster. As a result, calls for a complete nuclear phase-out were loud from the green and socialist sides . According to the agreement, 24 of the 58 nuclear reactors should go offline by 2025. The newly elected President François Hollande in 2012 wants to reduce the share of nuclear power from around 75 percent today to 50 percent. In surveys, a large majority of the French are in favor of expanding renewable energies. In an annual representative survey by the French environment and energy authority ADEME, approval for the expansion of renewable energies in France was 96 percent (2011).

    Electricity trading balance

    The market leader in the generation of electrical energy is the state-dominated Électricité de France group . France is an annual average net electricity exporter, 50 TWh were sold to neighboring countries in 2008, Italy and Great Britain being the largest buyers. Since there are a lot of electrical heating systems installed in France , the demand for electricity rises sharply during the cold season; During the cold spell in 2012 , the demand for electricity reached a peak of 102.1 GW, of which almost half of the demand was for electric heating. During the cold spell in Europe in January 2017 , the country imported large amounts of electricity from Germany and other neighboring countries, especially since several French nuclear power plants were shut down due to technical problems. Among other things, power plants in Germany were ramped up from the cold reserve and redispatch measures were carried out in order to be able to guarantee security of supply in France.

    In winter, the country therefore imports more net electricity from other countries such as Germany than it exports there, especially during the annual peak load. In 2012, France imported a balance of 8.7 terawatt hours from Germany. At peak load times, electricity from German photovoltaic systems is cheaper for France than from its own, often overloaded nuclear reactors. The “Center for Strategic Analysis” ( Center d'analyse stratégique , CAS), which is subordinate to the French government, came to the conclusion in 2012 that the expansion of renewable energies in Germany would safeguard Germany's energy independence in addition to climate protection.

    energy transition

    Renewable energy sources have only played a role in France in the field of hydropower ; the use of wind energy and photovoltaics have only been promoted politically in recent years. In 2009, 5.5 percent of primary energy was obtained from hydropower plants , 8.7 percent from wood , 2.1 percent from other biomass , 1.2 percent from waste and 0.49 percent from wind energy. In 2012, the share of wind energy was 2.7 percent. In 2017, wind turbines with a nominal output of around 13.8 GW were installed. In 2011, France supplied 15% (44.8 TWh) of the total hydropower generated in the EU countries among the member states of the European Union . Around 13% of the electrical energy came from renewable energy sources. The Roselend Dam hydropower plant produces 1070 GWh annually. The pumped storage power plant at the Grand-Maison dam is one of the largest in the world with a pump capacity of 1200 MW.

    In October 2014, an energy transition law was passed in the French National Assembly with 314 votes to 219 . It plans to reduce the share of nuclear energy in the electricity mix from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025. The total output of the nuclear power plants was capped to a maximum of 63.2 gigawatts. In addition, the building insulation is to be greatly improved, a million charging stations for electric cars are to be created and renewable energies are to be greatly expanded. This should reduce CO 2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Total energy consumption is to be halved by 2050.


    Road traffic

    Motorway network in France (2012)

    A dense motorway network primarily connects the greater Paris area with the regions. When it was created in the 1960s, the network of national roads leading to Paris was initially expanded. Gradually, in recent times, cross-connections have also been created between the individual large areas. The roads in France belong to the state, but most of the motorway routes have been privately operated since 2006, and all users have to pay tolls at toll stations . Only a few sections are toll-free, for example the new A75 or the Alsatian A35 . Also, the features Brittany through a network toll-free highway similar highways . In addition, the motorways in the area of ​​large metropolitan areas are usually not subject to tolls; However, there is again the exception that certain, particularly complex sections also cost tolls within the metropolitan area (e.g. the north bypass of Lyon or the A14 in the Paris area and the double-decker tunnel in the western part of the A86 ).

    Road traffic in the country is considered largely safe. In 2013 there were a total of 5.1 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in France. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. The country has a high rate of motorization by global standards. In 2014 there were 578 vehicles for every 1000 inhabitants in the country.

    Rail transport

    The TGV network

    Local public transport is extremely well developed in large centers. No place in Paris is more than 500 meters away from a metro station. The subways are also being expanded at great expense in other cities , for example in Lyon , Lille , Marseille and Toulouse . Outside the major centers, however, local transport is only sparse. France was also a center of the tram renaissance from the 1980s and 1990s - within a few years the three networks that had survived the waves of shutdowns of earlier decades grew to several dozen - a trend that continues today and also to other European countries as well as radiating to North America and North Africa.

    The network of the high-speed train Train à grande vitesse (TGV) has been consistently expanded across the country since the early 1980s . The network is being expanded and is increasingly reaching neighboring countries. For Germany, the new construction of the Ligne à grande vitesse (LGV, German: high-speed line ) Est européenne towards Strasbourg and southern Germany or towards Saarbrücken and Mannheim is particularly relevant. The Thalys connects Paris with Brussels , Aachen and Cologne , partly via Düsseldorf , Duisburg and Essen to Dortmund .

    Since 2003, the national railway Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF) has to face private competition. In fact, it still has an almost monopoly nationwide.

    air traffic

    Terminal 1 of Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle
    Nice airport

    Air traffic is highly centralized in France: the two airports in the capital Paris ( Charles de Gaulle and Orly ) together handled 87.1 million passengers in 2008. Charles de Gaulle is the second largest airport in Europe and the central hub of Air France . It handles practically all long-haul traffic. The largest airports outside Paris are Nice with ten million passengers, followed by Lyon and Marseille . Air France, which is a leading member of the SkyTeam alliance , merged with KLM to become Air France-KLM in 2004 and has since become one of the largest airlines in the world. The inner-French traffic is exposed to strong competition from the high-speed rail traffic and the opening of a new LGV often leads to the cancellation of flights within a few months or years due to declining passenger numbers.


    France has developed and expanded the natural and artificial inland waterways (rivers and canals) for economic and military reasons in its history. The waterway network reached its heyday in the 19th century with a length of 11,000 kilometers. Due to competition from rail and road, it has dropped to around 8,500 kilometers to date. It is largely managed and operated by the state waterway administration Voies navigables de France (VNF).

    In 2007, cargo shipping on France's waterways carried goods with a total weight of 61.7 million tons. If the distance is included in the statistics, the result is a value of 7.54 billion ton-kilometers. Over the last ten years this means an increase of 33 percent. The passenger shipping today only tourist importance, but is an emerging economy.

    The Canal Seine-Nord Europe (CSNE) was the project of a 106 kilometer long canal in a south-north direction through northern France between the catchment areas of the rivers Seine and Scheldt . The project was included in the European Union 's transport infrastructure plan, but was discontinued in 2013.


    France also derives its position in Europe and the world from the peculiarities of its culture, which is also defined by language (language protection and care legislation). France does not see itself as a grande nation . In media policy, one's own culture and language are promoted through quotas for films and music. In the European Union, UNESCO and the World Trade Organization (WTO), France is vigorously pursuing its concept of defending cultural diversity (“diversité culturelle”): culture is not a commodity that can be freely traded without barriers. The cultural sector is therefore an exception to the rest of the economy (“ exception culturelle ”).

    Nationwide maintenance and preservation of the rich material cultural heritage is seen as a task of national importance. This understanding is effectively conveyed to the public through state-organized or funded measures that contribute to the formation of a national cultural awareness. Days of national heritage, music or cinema that are firmly anchored in the annual cultural calendar, for example, are very popular with the population. Generously tailored cultural events correspond to the self-image of France as a cultural nation and Paris as a cultural metropolis. The promotion of a cultural profile for the regional centers in the province will be continued.


    Paul Bocuse , highly decorated chef

    French cuisine ( Cuisine française ) has been considered the most influential national cuisine in Europe since the early modern era . It is world famous for both its quality and its versatility and looks back on a long tradition. Eating is an important part of everyday life in France and taking care of the kitchen is an indispensable part of the national culture. In 2010, the “French gastronomic meal” was recognized as an intangible world cultural heritage by UNESCO.


    One of the most famous buildings in France is the Eiffel Tower .
    The renaissance castle of Montsoreau (1453) is the only one of the Loire castles built on the Loire riverbed .
    The largest cathedral in France is the Amiens Cathedral .

    The Romans left the oldest architectural traces in France, especially in south-east France, such as the amphitheater of Nîmes or the Pont du Gard . After the fall of Roman rule, no buildings were built that have survived to this day. Above all, sacred buildings have survived from the Middle Ages, such as the Saint-Jean baptistery from the Carolingian era , churches in Romanesque style such as St-Sernin de Toulouse , Ste-Foy de Conques or Ste-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay and churches in Gothic style Style like the Cathedral of Amiens or the Cathedral of Beauvais . Fortress towns such as Carcassonne or Aigues-Mortes were also built.

    The Louvre with its glass pyramid combines the historical and the modern.

    When the Renaissance began to emerge in France, French architects interpreted this art form in their own way and built numerous castles across the country. The Ancy-le-Franc Castle remained the only structure entirely built by Italians. The absolutism led to the classical Baroque in France was decisive to the power to symbolize the king. The Louvre and Palace of Versailles are among the most important buildings of this time, and these also became models for buildings abroad, such as the Sanssouci Palace . Technical progress made it possible to erect buildings like the Panthéon , which for the time required very little building material in relation to the space it occupied.

    In the period after the French Revolution, classicism reigned with cool, disciplined and elegant architecture; Examples of this are the Arc de Triomphe or the La Madeleine church in Paris. In 1803 the Académie des Beaux-Arts was founded, French architecture was again imitated in numerous countries, especially in the USA, at the same time new building materials were introduced in France; monuments such as the Eiffel Tower or the Paris central market Les Halles were built and the restoration of monuments began.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, Art Nouveau first appeared, from which Art Deco quickly developed in France . Numerous entrances to metro stations in Paris and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées have been preserved in these styles . The international style , which was largely supported by Le Corbusier , was characterized by undecorated geometric shapes, an example is the Villa Savoye . After the Second World War, some prestigious buildings in France were first realized by foreigners, such as the Center Pompidou or the pyramid in the Louvre . Finally, recent French architectural achievements include the Institut du monde arabe (1987) and the Bibliothèque Nationale François Mitterrand (1996).


    French advertising poster from 1896: It does not advertise a single film, but the experience of the film showing.

    France is considered the birthplace of the film. In 1895, the Lumière brothers held the first commercial film screening in Paris. Industrialists such as Charles Pathé and Léon Gaumont invested large sums in technology and production, so that French companies dominated the world market for films; In 1907 there were already more than 100 screening halls in Paris, and in France there were more than 4,500 in 1920. The practice of distributing films, which is still common today, goes back to Pathé, since he decided in 1907 not to sell films by the meter. The outbreak of the First World War and the resulting flight of numerous filmmakers to the USA, as well as the introduction of the sound film technology, which was initially not introduced in France, meant that the focus of film production shifted to the United States.

    The 1930s are considered the golden age of French cinema. The global economic crisis caused low budgets, young directors like Jean Renoir , René Clair and Marcel Carné and stars like Jean Gabin , Pierre Brasseur and Arletty produced very creative and sometimes very political works ( poetic realism ). Even after the outbreak of World War II, the film flourished; the Vichy government founded the Comité d'organisation de l'industrie cinématographique, the predecessor organization of today's CNC . Despite the shortage economy, censorship and emigration, around 220 films were made, which mainly focused on the aesthetics of what was shown.

    After 1945, the French government set itself the goal of rebuilding the film industry. In order to break the dominance of American films, the Blum-Byrnes Agreement sets import quotas. The Cannes International Film Festival is founded, a collaboration with Italy is agreed and legal and financial support is agreed. In the 1950s, primarily literary adaptations were produced with great attention to quality ( cinéma de papa ) , until in 1956 female sexuality was made filmable with the appearance of a new star, Brigitte Bardot .

    The Nouvelle Vague , which was worn by a generation of young directors such as Jean-Luc Godard , François Truffaut , Jacques Rivette , Claude Chabrol and Louis Malle from the end of the 1950s , brought anti-heroes to the screen, thematized their intimate thoughts High-paced, open-ended films. New technology enabled a new aesthetic and allowed semi-professionals to make films on a low budget. The creativity of the Nouvelle Vague was extremely influential internationally and was further encouraged by the establishment of the Cinémas d'art et d'essai . The protagonists of numerous films of the Nouvelle Vague, especially Jean-Pierre Léaud and Jean-Paul Belmondo , also gained popularity . The year 1968 also brought a turning point in French film, which led to heavily political films and a stronger presence of women in the profession. At the same time, television caught on; this brought with it new structures in the financing and distribution of films.

    In the 1980s the new socialist government invested heavily in culture; Film production budgets rose while American domination was fought. There were extensive film adaptations of literary classics. At the same time, the current of the apolitical cinéma du look emerged , in which colors, shapes and style covered the plot.


    Enthusiasm for football in France, European Championship game in the Prinzenparkstadion (2016)

    With the establishment of a ministry for youth and sport (1958) during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle under the minister Maurice Herzog , popular and elite sport in France enjoyed a considerable upswing, supported by the state. Unlike in many other European countries, football in France is still not the undisputed number one sport. Rugby in particular is more popular in the south-west of the country. The interest in football is very much related to the performance of French teams at international level. The French national football team is seen as an identity-creating bond between the various social and ethnic groups in France . The Équipe Tricolore (usually called les Tricolores in France) usually plays its home games at the Stade de France in Saint Denis near Paris. In 1998, the World Cup was held in France . The hosts won the tournament in the final against Brazil . In 2016, France hosted the European Football Championship for the third time after 1960 and 1984 . In 2018 France won the World Cup for a second time.

    Rugby is very popular in France. Here France - Tonga 2011 RWC

    Rugby Union is just as popular as football . Rugby is actually by far the most popular sport, especially in the southern and southwestern regions . The highest league is the top 14 . The championship final takes place annually at the Stade de France . The national team , called Les Bleus by the fans , which was later transferred to the football team, has been considered one of the best teams in the world for decades and has made it to at least the quarter-finals of every World Cup. Overall she was runner-up three times and came third once. As in football, the Stade de France in St. Denis near Paris is considered the national stadium. In 2007 the Rugby World Cup took place in France for the first time . Here, there were Les Bleus to the main favorites for the title. However, they did not get beyond fourth place. South Africa became world champion.

    Tour de France (2006)

    Other popular sports are cycling (especially in July, during the three-week Tour de France ), athletics , Formula 1 ( French Grand Prix in Magny Cours ), pétanque ( Mondial la Marseille à Pétanque ), judo , handball , basketball and alpine skiing .

    Great popularity also enjoys the sport of tennis . France won the Davis Cup every year from 1927 to 1932, and more recently in 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2017. In 1997 and 2003 the French tennis women won the Fed Cup . The French Open , which has taken place in Paris since 1891 , is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments and is one of the highlights of the international tennis season.

    The Olympic Games have already taken place several times in France : Summer Games in 1900 and 1924 in Paris, Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924 , Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992 . The Summer Olympic Games in 2024 previously held like 100 years in Paris.

    In motorsports , the legendary 24-hour race are also worth mentioning Le Mans , the MotoGP Grand Prix of Le Mans, the former Formula 1 circuit Paul Ricard circuit of Le Castellet near Avignon and the grass runway of Marmande and the dirt track Morizes , where the French Grand Prix is ​​held as part of the World Long Track Championships.


    French music first flourished in the Baroque era and brought important composers such as Jean-Baptiste Lully , Marc-Antoine Charpentier (17th century), François Couperin , Jean-Philippe Rameau (18th century), Hector Berlioz , Charles Gounod and Georges Bizet emerged. French classical music, however, was considered to be heavy on technology and form. Debussy best embodies the transition to modernity from a socio-political and musical perspective ; continue to be Maurice Ravel and the equally experimental researchers Erik Satie in this period significantly. The beginning of the avant-garde in music is particularly initiated by the Groupe des Six . The main character in contemporary music is Pierre Boulez .

    Popular music has been on the rise since the beginning of the 20th century. The best-known native genre is the chanson , a genre of songs with a strong focus on the text. The most important artists of the chanson include Charles Trenet , Édith Piaf , Gilbert Bécaud , Boris Vian , Georges Brassens , Charles Aznavour and Yves Montand . Foreign music styles are echoed in France: After the end of the First World War, jazz began to influence French music, with Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli , France also provided important jazz artists.

    In rock and pop music, for example, Daft Punk and Étienne de Crécy shaped the French house , Gotan Project is a pioneer of so-called Electrotango and St Germain stands for a combination of jazz and house . A well-known representative of ambient music is Air . The rap was adapted in France, the most successful representative of French hip-hop is MC Solaar .

    Popular local music styles are Breton music , the most important artist of which is Alan Stivell , or Corsican music with bands such as I Muvrini . Numerous African and Maghreb artists live and work in France, so there is a lively Raï scene and numerous events with African music.

    The five musicians who sold the most records in France between 1955 and 2009 are Claude François , Johnny Hallyday , Sheila , Michel Sardou and Jean-Jacques Goldman . Samedi soir sur la Terre by Francis Cabrel is the most successful album by a French musician in his home country, with more than four million copies sold.


    In the 2017 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , France was ranked 39th out of 180 countries.

    The most important French print media are the national daily newspapers Le Figaro (conservative, circulation: 315,400 copies), Le Monde (left-wing liberal, print run 2009-2010: 285,500 copies), Liberation (left-oriented, 111,700 copies), La Croix (Catholic, 95,100 copies), L'Humanité (communist, 50,000 copies), Les Échos and La Tribune (economy, 120,400 and 68,100 copies respectively) and L'Équipe (sport, 310,000 copies). The main news magazines in France are L'Obs (400,000 copies), L'Express (438,700 copies), Le Point (407,700 copies) and Marianne . The largest regional newspaper is Ouest-France with a print run of 758,500 copies. The investigation and satire newspaper Le Canard enchaîné , which appears every Wednesday, is also important with a circulation of 550,000 copies.

    The only completely German-language newspaper is the " Riviera-Côte d'Azur-Zeitung " in Nice, which is aimed primarily at tourists. In Alsace and Lorraine, all German-language daily and weekly newspapers had to give up because they had lost readers in the past due to many government restrictions. Until 1984, the publication of publications with a German title or entirely German content was prohibited under penalty of punishment in eastern France. However, there has recently been a slight renaissance of the native language press in Alsace. The most important printed source of information for German-speaking Alsatians is currently the daily multi-page German-language supplement to the newspapers L'Alsace (Mulhouse) and Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace (Strasbourg).

    As in many other European countries, there is a coexistence of public and private television channels in France . France Télévisions , a public broadcaster founded in 1992, includes the channels France 2 , France 3 , France 4 , France 5 and France Ô.

    Furthermore, with TV5 Monde and Arte, there are two other broadcasters in which France Télévisions is involved. TV5 Monde is a French-speaking community program for France, Belgium , the French-speaking part of Canada and Switzerland . ARTE is a German-French broadcaster operated by ARTE France together with the German broadcasters ARD and ZDF . France Télévisions is also involved in the news channel Euronews .

    The largest television broadcaster in France is the private broadcaster TF1 , which was still under public law until 1987. TF1 is also the sole shareholder of the sports channel Eurosport . The French news channel France 24, produced by TF1 and France Télévisions , has been broadcasting since December 2006 .

    The public service Radio France faces a large number of commercial providers. Both Radio France and the commercials offer national and regional or local services.

    In 2016, 86.4 percent of the population used the Internet. The use of social media is playing an increasingly important role. The gross reach of social networks as of January 2011 was 24.8 million people.

    The libraries are largely media libraries and have doubled their number of users in the past 15 years (2005: 21 million; 1989: 10.5). More than 40 percent of French people over the age of 15 are registered library users and 90 percent borrow books. Usually CDs and DVDs and internet access are also on offer.

    public holidays

    Map of the French regions (since January 1, 2016)

    List of nationally uniform holidays. For details and additional regional holidays, see

    January 1st New Year (Jour de l'An)
    Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
    1st of May Labor Day / May Day (Fête du travail)
    8th of May Victory Day (Fete de la Victoire) (Surrender of Nazi Germany 1945)
    Ascension of Christ (Jour de l'Ascension)
    Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte)
    July 14th Day of July 14th (Fête nationale) - Anniversary of the storm on the Bastille in 1789
    15th of August Assumption of Mary (Assomption)
    November 1st All Saints' Day (Toussaint)
    November 11th Armistice of Rethondes (Armistice 1918) to end the First World War
    25 December Christmas Day (Noël)

    See also

    Portal: France  - Overview of Wikipedia content on France


    • France. (= Information on political education . Issue 285). with maps, Bonn 2004. (with literature, internet references)
    • Ernst Hinrichs , Heinz-Gerhard Haupt , Stefan Martens, Heribert Müller , Bernd Schneidmüller , Charlotte Tacke: Little history of France. BpB, Bonn 2010, ISBN 978-3-89331-663-2 . (Contents until 2005. First in 1994, then continuously updated as RUB in 2000 No. 9333, 2006 No. 10596 and 2008 No. 17057.)
    • Adolf Kimmel, Henrik Uterwedde (ed.): Country report France. History, politics, economy, society. Textbook. 2nd, updated and revised edition. Springer VS , Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-14631-9 .
    • Andrea Kother: Everyday life in France. Emigrate, live and work Conbook Verlag, Meerbusch 2011, ISBN 978-3-934918-79-5 .
    • Günter Liehr: France - a country portrait. 2nd updated edition. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-86153-728-1 .
    • Wilfried Loth : History of France in the 20th century. Fischer, Frankfurt 1995, ISBN 3-596-10860-8 .
    • Wilfried Loth: From the 4th to the 5th Republic. In: Adolf Kimmel, Henrik Uterwedde (ed.): Country report France. BpB, Bonn 2005, ISBN 3-89331-574-8 , pp. 63-85.
    • Robert Picht u. a. (Ed.): Strange friends. Germans and French before the 21st century. Piper, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-492-03956-1 . (57 essays by 52 authors on terms from Franco-German history, politics, culture and economy, including Hans Manfred Bock , Freimut Duve , Étienne François .)
    • Alfred Pletsch, Hansjörg Dongus, Henrik Uterwedde: France. Geography, history, economics, politics. 2nd Edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-11691-7 .
    • Alfred Pletsch: Economic Spatial Structures in France. In: Adolf Kimmel , Henrik Uterwedde (ed.): Country report France. BpB, Bonn 2012, ISBN 978-3-8389-0264-7 , pp. 16-32.
    • Bernhard Schmidt, Jürgen Doll, Walther Fekl, Siegfried Loewe, Fritz Taubert: France Lexicon. Key terms for economy, society, politics, history, culture, press and education. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Schmidt, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-503-07991-2 .
    • Karl Stoppel (Ed.): La France. Regards sur un pays voisin. A collection of texts on French studies. Sources and original texts, in French, vocabulary. Reclam, Ditzingen 2000. (2nd, revised edition, Stuttgart 2008. Reclams Universalbibliothek, RUB No. 8906, series of foreign language texts.)
    • Ludwig Watzal (responsible): France. Special issue from From Politics and Contemporary History , supplement to “The Parliament”, 38, Bonn, September 17, 2007 ISSN  0479-611X .

    Web links

    Further content in the
    sister projects of Wikipedia:

    Commons-logo.svg Commons - multimedia content
    Wiktfavicon en.svg Wiktionary - Dictionary entries
    Wikisource-logo.svg Wikisource - Sources and full texts
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    Wikinews-logo.svg Wikinews - News
    Wikidata-logo.svg Wikidata - knowledge database
    Wikivoyage-Logo-v3-icon.svg Wikivoyage - Travel Guide
    Wikimedia Atlas: France  - geographical and historical maps

    References and comments

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    184. Strongly changed new edition in 2012 only at the Federal Agency for Civic Education, see note on Loth on the omitted essays.
    185. Not in the 3rd edition 2012. Apart from Loth's essay, the 3rd edition 2012 (compared to 2005) completely omitted: Marieluise Christadler on political culture; Dietmar Hüser on history politics and the culture of remembrance; Patrick Cabanel on religion and secularism ; Laurence Barthelmess to the legal system, this does not emerge once again as a cue right on the index. Cabanel's contribution to religion is available online in a supplemented form, namely with numerous images and web links.
    186. Also in the 2nd edition 2005, see Loth.

    Coordinates: 46 °  N , 3 °  E