Structure 1 Introduction 2 Political structure 3 Economic structure 4 History in brief 1 Introduction Official name: French Republic Area: 543 965 square kilometres Population: 57,5 Mio. Capital: Paris Language: French Religion: the majority are Catholics the French, 800 000 are Protestant, 2,5 Mio. are Muslims, 550 000 are Jews Government: Democracy Head of State: President Jacques Chirac (RPR) 2 Political structure Legal system Codified Roman law system; constitution of 1958 National legislature Bicameral: Senate of 321 members indirectly elected by local councils for a period of nine years, with one-third retiring every three years; National Assembly of 577 members directly elected from individual constituencies by a two-ballot system for a period of five years; may be dissolved by the president Electoral system Universal suffrage; two-round voting system for the National Assembly National elections Last presidential election held on April 21st and May 5th 2002; next presidential election April- May 2007 Last legislative election June 9th and 16th 2002; next legislative election due by June 2007 Head of state President, directly elected for a five-year term, currently Jacques Chirac (RPR), re-elected in May 2002 National government There is a clear separation of executive and legislative power; constitutionally, the locus of executive power is the Council of Ministers, which is chaired by the president. The prime minister is appointed by the president, who must consider whether the government can obtain the necessary majority in parliament; according to the constitution, the prime minister hands his resignation to the president, but in practice prime ministers have been dismissed by the president. Ministers are similarly appointed and dismissed, but on the prime minister's suggestion; they do not have to be members of parliament; an interim right-of-centre government was appointed in May 2002 and confirmed in office following the legislative election in June of the same year 3 Economic structure The French economy is exceptionally diversified. Agriculture and the agro-food industries account for a larger share of economic activity than in many other west European countries: in 2001 the two sectors accounted for between 5% and 6% of total value added in the economy, and for some 12% of total goods exports.
Much of the output from these two sectors supplies the country's vast number of restaurants and hotels. Tourist-related economic activities-many involving gastronomy-figure significantly in the tertiary sector. The predominance of the services sector in the economy is pronounced even by west European standards, accounting for some 71% of GDP. Although its role has declined in recent years following a wave of privatisation's, the state still plays a leading role not only in the provision of services such as healthcare and education, but also telecommunications (the leading operator, France Télécom, is still majority-owned by the state), and transport (the railways are run as a state monopoly). In 2001 manufacturing, construction, and energy generation accounted, respectively, for 17%, 4%, and 3% of GDP. France's wide-ranging manufacturing base includes steel, aluminium, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles (a sector that exerts a strong cyclical influence on the economy as a whole), rail transport equipment, telecommunications equipment, and aerospace (civil and military).
Manufacturing accounts for most exports of goods and for around three-quarters of total exports of goods and services. In 2001 exports of goods and services amounted to 29% of GDP, a high share for an economy of its size and a measure of its increasing openness. The four largest conurbation's (Paris, Lyon, Marseille /Aix-en-Provence, and Lille) and their respective regions (Ile-de-France, Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d\'Azur, and Nord-Pas-de-Calais) are home to 42% of the population and an even higher share of total economic activity. Paris and its near surroundings host government ministries, national state bodies, leading centres of higher education, the headquarters of most major French companies, the bulk of financial services activity, and a sizeable amount of manufacturing. Lyon has a heavy-industry base and draws on a particularly vigorous culture of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Rhône-Alpes region. The importance of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Nord-Pas-de-Calais regions derives partly from their respective geographical positions, one on the Mediterranean littoral, the other lying at the threshold of northern Europe (with spin-offs from the development of fast transport links compensating for the decline of traditional industry).
The conurbation of Toulouse has overtaken Bordeaux in size and, thanks to Airbus and its 500 or so local sub-contractors, is the centre of a thriving aerospace industry. Largely because of the planned expansion of Airbus\'s manufacturing activities (in particular the assembly of the giant A-380), the population of the department of the Haute-Garonne, with Toulouse at its centre, is projected to rise from 1.05m in 1999 to 1.56m in 2030. 4 History in brief Celts, Greeks and other peoples had colonised Gaul (ancient France) when the Romans politically unified the region in the 1st century BC. Gallo-Roman civilisation endured for almost 500 years before being Germanized, mainly from within.
By the late 5th century AD the Germanic Franks were the dominant power in the region. Christian Merovingian and Carolingian kings (among them Charlemagne) battled to centralise royal control during the early medieval period. Power was finally consolidated under the Capetians (987-1328), who laid the foundations of the modern French state with Paris as its capital. Differences between Protestants and Catholics fuelled a series of civil wars in the late 16th century. The Bourbon Henry IV seized power and issued the Edict of Nantes, promising religious toleration, to end the conflict in 1598. (It was revoked in 1685 leading to the persecution of protestants.
) Over the next two centuries the increasingly autocratic rule of his successors, particularly Louis XIV, transformed France into Europe\'s dominant power, though at great financial cost. Economic and social problems helped spark the French Revolution in 1789, which saw the abolition of the old regime and the declaration of the First Republic. Yet four times in the next century-the Empire of Napoleon, the Bourbon restoration, the reign of Louis-Philippe, and the Second Empire of Napoleon III France reverted to monarchical or absolutist rule. The conquest of Algeria in 1830 heralded the beginning of France's colonial empire. The first world war (1914-18) ravaged northern and eastern France, killing 1.4m young Frenchmen.
France spent the inter-war period seeking to guarantee its security, but Germany invaded again in 1940, forcing France to capitulate and set up the collaborationist Vichy government in the unoccupied southern third of the country. Allied and Free French forces eventually liberated France in 1944, leading to the restoration of democracy under the Fourth Republic. Revolt in its colonies soon shook France, which nearly came to civil war over Algeria's fight for independence. In 1958 Charles de Gaulle, the former Free French leader, returned to politics, quelling the Algeria crisis and establishing the Fifth Republic. He switched French effort towards the European Community. France's 30-year post-war economic boom ended in the mid-1970s, and in 1981 an unprecedented long period of left-wing rule began under François Mitterrand.
France remains a prime mover in fostering European integration.