Flag of French Guiana

map (opens in new window)


Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU's military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.


Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain

Geographic coordinates:

46 00 N, 2 00 E


total: 547,030 sq km
land: 545,630 sq km
water: 1,400 sq km
note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas administrative divisions

Land boundaries:

total: 2,889 km
border countries: Andorra 56.6 km, Belgium 620 km, Germany 451 km, Italy 488 km, Luxembourg 73 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Spain 623 km, Switzerland 573 km


3,427 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral


mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m

Natural resources:

coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorospar, gypsum, timber, fish

Land use:

arable land: 33.46%
permanent crops: 2.03%
other: 64.51% (2005)

Irrigated land:

26,000 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean

Environment - current issues:

some forest damage from acid rain; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff

Geography - note:

largest West European nation


60,876,136 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

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

Median age:

total: 39.1 years
male: 37.6 years
female: 40.7 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.35% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

11.99 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

9.14 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0.66 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 4.21 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.71 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.69 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 79.73 years
male: 76.1 years
female: 83.54 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.84 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.4% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

120,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 1,000 (2003 est.)


noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women)
adjective: French

Ethnic groups:

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


Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: French Republic
conventional short form: France
local long form: Republique Francaise
local short form: France

Government type:




Administrative divisions:

22 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes
note: metropolitan France is divided into 22 regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and is subdivided into 96 departments; see separate entries for the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion) and the overseas territorial collectivities (Mayotte, Saint Pierre, Miquelon)

Dependent areas:

Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, New Caledonia, Tromelin Island, Wallis and Futuna
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica


486 (unified by Clovis)

National holiday:

Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)


adopted by referendum 28 September 1958, effective 4 October 1958; amended concerning election of president in 1962; amended to comply with provisions of 1992 EC Maastricht Treaty, 1996 Amsterdam Treaty, 2000 Treaty of Nice; amended to tighten immigration laws in 1993; amended in 2000 to change the seven-year presidential term to a five-year term

Legal system:

civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament or Parliament consists of the Senate or Senat (321 seats - 296 for metropolitan France, 13 for overseas departments and territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms; elected by thirds every three years); note - between 2004 and 2010, 25 new seats will be added to the Senate for a total of 346 seats - 326 for metropolitan France and overseas departments, 2 for New Caledonia, 2 for Mayotte, 1 for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, 3 for overseas territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; starting in 2008, members will be indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve six-year terms, with one-half the seats being renewed every three years; and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a single-member majority system to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 26 September 2004 (next to be held September 2008); National Assembly - last held 8-16 June 2002 (next to be held not later than June 2007)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 156, PS 97, UDF 33, PCF 23, RDSE 15, other 7; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 355, PS 140, UDF 29, PCF 21, Left Radical Party 7, Greens 3, other 22

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation (judges are appointed by the president from nominations of the High Council of the Judiciary); Constitutional Council or Conseil Constitutionnel (three members appointed by the president, three appointed by the president of the National Assembly, and three appointed by the president of the Senate); Council of State or Conseil d'Etat

Economy - overview:

France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers. It retains controlling stakes in several leading firms, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales, and is dominant in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. The government has lowered income taxes and introduced measures to boost employment and reform the pension system. In addition, it is focusing on the problems of the high cost of labor and labor market inflexibility resulting from the 35-hour workweek and restrictions on lay-offs. The tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). The lingering economic slowdown and inflexible budget items have pushed the budget deficit above the eurozone's 3%-of-GDP limit; unemployment stands at 10%.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$1.822 trillion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$2.068 trillion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

1.6% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$30,000 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 2.5%
industry: 21.4%
services: 76.1% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

27.72 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 4.1%
industry: 24.4%
services: 71.5% (1999)

Unemployment rate:

10% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

6.5% (2000)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 25.1% (1995)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

32.7 (1995)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

1.9% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

19.4% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $1.06 trillion
expenditures: $1.144 trillion; including capital expenditures of $23 billion (2005 est.)

Public debt:

66.5% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish


machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism

Industrial production growth rate:

0.3% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

536.9 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

433.3 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

72.2 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

6.2 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

76,300 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - consumption:

2.06 million bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

409,600 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - imports:

2.281 million bbl/day (2001)

Oil - proved reserves:

144.3 million bbl (1 January 2002)

Natural gas - production:

1.566 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

43.74 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

1.725 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

40.26 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

14.33 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$30.11 billion (2005 est.)


$443.4 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages

Exports - partners:

Germany 15%, Spain 9.5%, UK 9.4%, Italy 9%, Belgium 7.2%, US 6.7% (2004)


$473.3 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals

Imports - partners:

Germany 19.2%, Belgium 9.9%, Italy 8.8%, Spain 7.4%, UK 7%, Netherlands 6.7%, US 5% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$77.35 billion (2004 est.)

Debt - external:

$2.826 trillion (30 June 2005)

Economic aid - donor:

ODA, $5.4 billion (2002)

Currency (code):

euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

33,870,200 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

44,551,800 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: highly developed
domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay; extensive introduction of fiber-optic cable; domestic satellite system
international: country code - 33; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (with total of 5 antennas - 2 for Indian Ocean and 3 for Atlantic Ocean), NA Eutelsat, 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region); HF radiotelephone communications with more than 20 countries

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 41, FM about 3,500 (this figure is an approximation and includes many repeaters), shortwave 2 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

584 (plus 9,676 repeaters) (1995)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

2,922,040 (2005)

Internet users:

26,214,174 (2005)


479 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 288
over 3,047 m: 13
2,438 to 3,047 m: 28
1,524 to 2,437 m: 96
914 to 1,523 m: 82
under 914 m: 69 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 191
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 72
under 914 m: 116 (2005)


3 (2005)


gas 14,232 km; oil 3,024 km; refined products 4,889 km (2004)


total: 29,519 km
standard gauge: 29,352 km 1.435-m gauge (14,481 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 167 km 1.000-m gauge (2004)


total: 891,290 km
paved: 891,290 km (including 10,390 km of expressways) (2003)


8,500 km (1,686 km accessible to craft of 3,000 metric tons) (2000)

Merchant marine:

total: 54 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,050,735 GRT/600,979 DWT
by type: cargo 4, chemical tanker 6, container 1, liquefied gas 3, passenger 3, passenger/cargo 29, petroleum tanker 7, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 4 (Sweden 3, Turkey 1)
registered in other countries: 151 (Australia 3, The Bahamas 28, Belgium 2, Bermuda 1, Cambodia 1, Cameroon 1, Canada 1, Republic of the Congo 1, French Polynesia 1, French Southern and Antarctic Lands 45, Gibraltar 1, Hong Kong 3, Indonesia 1, Isle of Man 2, Italy 3, South Korea 12, Liberia 3, Luxembourg 9, Malta 8, Mexico 1, Morocco 1, Panama 8, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 8, UK 3, Wallis and Futuna 4) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Bordeaux, Calais, Dunkerque, La Pallice, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, Rouen, Strasbourg

Military branches:

Army (includes Marines, Foreign Legion, Army Light Aviation), Navy (includes naval air), Air Force (includes Air Defense), National Gendarmerie

Disputes - international:

Madagascar claims the French territories of Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island; Comoros claims Mayotte; Mauritius claims Tromelin Island; territorial dispute between Suriname and the French overseas department of French Guiana; France asserts a territorial claim in Antarctica (Adelie Land); France and Vanuatu claim Matthew and Hunter Islands, east of New Caledonia

Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and European synthetics