Service was partially restored within weeks of the incident and full repairs were completed by the following May. France, especially in its northern and northeastern regions, is well provided with navigable rivers and connecting canals, and inland water transportation is of major importance. As of , there were about 8, km 5, mi of navigable waterways, of which 1, km 1, mi was accessible to craft of 3, metric tons.
Kerguelen, an archipelago in the French Antarctic Territory, offers an offshore registry program which is less regulatory than official French registry. More than half of freight traffic to and from French ports is carried by French ships. In there were an estimated airports in France. In , a total of had paved runways, and there were also three heliports. France's national airline, Air France, is government subsidized.
It operates regularly scheduled flights to all parts of the world. The two international airports of Paris, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, both located in Paris, lead all others in France in both passenger and freight traffic. In , about Cave paintings and engravings, the most famous of them at Lascaux, near Montignac in the southwest, attest to human habitation in France as early as 30, years ago. Relics from the period between and bc include some 4, dolmens structures consisting of two vertical stones capped by a horizontal stone , nearly 1, of them in Brittany alone, and more than 6, men-hirs single vertical stones , measuring 1.
There may already have been 2 — 3 million people in France when Phoenician and Greek colonists founded cities on the southern coast around bc. Detailed knowledge of French history begins with the conquest of the region 58 — 51 bc by Julius Caesar. The country was largely inhabited by Celtic tribes known to the Romans as Gauls. Under Roman rule the Gallic provinces were among the most prosperous and civilized of the empire. Roman roads, traces of which still may be seen, traversed the land. Numerous cities were founded. Latin superseded the Celtic dialects. Christianity spread rapidly in Roman Gaul after its introduction there in the 1st century, and by the time the empire began to disintegrate a few hundred years later, the Gauls were a thoroughly Romanized and Christianized people.
The Germanic invaders probably never constituted more than a dominant minority of the population. The first leader to make himself king of all the Franks was Clovis — , who began his reign in , routing the last forces of the Roman governors of the province in Clovis claimed that he would be baptized a Christian in the event of his victory against the Visigoths, which was said to have guaranteed the battle.
Clovis regained the southwest from the Visigoths, was baptized in , and made himself master of western Germany, but after his death the kingdom disintegrated and its population declined under the Merovingian dynasty. In , Charles Martel was able to rally the eastern Franks to inflict a decisive defeat on the Saracens — Muslim invaders who already controlled the Iberian Peninsula — between Poitiers and Tours. He spawned the Carolingian family, as well as his grandson, Charlemagne r. Ruling "by the sword and the cross," he gave the kingdom an efficient administration, created an excellent legal system, and encouraged the revival of learning, piety, and the arts.
He added to the territories under his rule through wide conquests, eventually reigning over an area corresponding to present-day France, the FRG, the Low Countries , and northern Italy. After the death of Charlemagne, the vast Carolingian Empire broke up during a century of feuding, the title of emperor passing to German rulers in the east. The territory of what is now France was invaded anew, this time by pagan tribes from Scandinavia and the north, and the region that later became known as Normandy was ceded to the Northmen in by Charles III "the Simple," r.
At the end of the century, Hugh Capet r. Feudalism was by now a well-established system. At first, their feudal overlordship over the other provinces of France was almost entirely nominal. Some of the largest of these, like the Duchy of Brittany, were practically independent kingdoms. The powers of the French monarchy were gradually extended in the course of the 11th and early 12th centuries, particularly by Louis VI , who died in The power of his son Louis VII r.
Henry's sons, Richard and John, were unable to hold these far-flung territories against the vigorous assaults of Louis's son Philip Augustus r. By , Philip had not only reestablished the French crown's control over the former Angevin holdings in the north and west but also had firmly consolidated the crown's power in Languedoc and Toulouse. Philip's grandson Louis IX St. Louis , in a long reign — 70 , firmly established the strength of the monarchy through his vigorous administration of the royal powers.
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The reign of Louis's grandson Philip IV "the Fair," — marks the apogee of French royal power in the medieval period. He quarreled with the papacy over fiscal control of the French clergy and other aspects of sovereignty. His emissaries arrested Pope Boniface VIII and after his death removed the seat of the papacy to Avignon , where the popes resided under French dominance the so-called Babylonian Captivity until It is estimated that between and the population dropped from 16 million to 11 million, mainly from a series of epidemics, beginning with the Black Death bubonic plague of — In , Henry V of England; taking advantage of civil war between the Gascons and Armagnacs, and the growing insanity of Charles VI; launched a new invasion of France and won a decisive victory at Agincourt.
Charles VI r. Upon Henry's death in , his infant son Henry VI was crowned king of both France and England, but in the same year, Charles's son, the dauphin of France, reasserted his claim, formally assumed the royal title, and slowly began the reconquest. Philip the Fair was succeeded by three sons, who reigned briefly and who left no direct male heirs, ending the Capetian dynasty.
In , his nephew Philip VI in accordance with the so-called Salic Law, under which succession could pass through a male line only mounted the throne as the first of the Valois kings. In , Edward asserted a formal claim to the French crown, shortly thereafter quartering the lilies of France on his shield.
The struggle that lasted from to over these rival claims is known as the Hundred Years' War. Actually it consisted of a series of shorter wars and skirmishes punctuated by periods of truce. Under Charles V r. The first part of the Hundred Years' War was essentially a dynastic rather than a national struggle. The English armies themselves were commanded by French-speaking nobles and a French-speaking king.
Although the legitimate succession to the French crown was the ostensible issue throughout the war, the emerging forces of modern nationalism came into play with the campaign launched by Henry V , whose everyday language was English and who, after Agincourt, became an English national hero. France owed no small measure of its eventual success to the sentiment of nationalism that was arising throughout the country and that found its personification in the figure of Joan of Arc. Early in , this young woman of surprising military genius, confident that she had a divinely inspired mission to save France, gained the confidence of the dauphin.
Joan fell into English hands and at Rouen in was burned at the stake as a heretic, but the French armies continued to advance. Paris was retaken in , and Rouen in ; by , when Charles died, the English had been driven from all French territory except Calais, which was recaptured in Louis XI r. His most formidable antagonist, Charles the Bold , duke of Burgundy, who ruled virtually as an independent monarch, commanded for many years far more resources than the king of France himself.
But after the duke was defeated and killed in a battle against the Swiss in , Louis was able to reunite Burgundy with France. When Louis's son Charles VIII united Brittany, the last remaining quasi-independent province, with the royal domain by his marriage to Anne of Brittany , the consolidation of the kingdom under one rule was complete. These wars developed into the first phase of a protracted imperialistic struggle between France and the house of Habsburg. Although the Italian wars ended in a French defeat, they served to introduce the artistic and cultural influences of the Italian Renaissance into France on a large scale.
Meanwhile, as the Reformation gained an increasing following in France, a bitter enmity developed between the great families that had espoused the Protestant or Huguenot cause and those that had remained Catholic. The policy of the French monarchy was in general to suppress Protestantism at home while supporting it abroad as a counterpoise to Habsburg power. Under the last of the Valois kings, Charles IX r. Paris remained a stronghold of Catholicism, and on 23 — 24 August , a militia led by the Duke of Guise slaughtered thousands of Protestants in the Massacre of St.
The Protestant Henry of Navarre was spared because of his royal status and eventually, on the death of Henry III , he acceded to the throne, beginning the Bourbon dynasty. Unable to capture Paris by force, Henry embraced Catholicism in and entered the city peacefully the following year.
In , he signed the Edict of Nantes , which guaranteed religious freedom to the Huguenots. With the aid of his minister Sully, Henry succeeded in restoring prosperity to France. Later, the affairs of state were directed almost exclusively by Cardinal Richelieu, the king's minister. Richelieu followed a systematic policy that entailed enhancing the crown's absolute rule at home and combating the power of the Habsburgs abroad.
In pursuit of the first of these objectives, Richelieu destroyed the political power of the Protestants by strictly monitoring the press and French language through the Academie Francaise; in pursuit of the second he led France in into the Thirty Years' War, then raging in Germany, on the side of the Protestants and against the Austrians and the Spanish. His successor, Louis XIV , was five years old, and during the regency of his mother, Anne of Austria , France's policy was largely guided by her adviser Cardinal Mazarin.
The Peace of Westphalia , which ended the Thirty Years' War, and the Peace of the Pyrenees marked the end of Habsburg hegemony and established France as the dominant power on the European continent. The active reign of Louis XIV began in , the year of Mazarin's death, and lasted until his own death in Louis XIV had served in the French army against Spain before his accession, and married the daughter of the King of Spain in order to bring peace to the region, despite his love for Mazarin's niece. Assisted by his able ministers Colbert and Louvois, he completed Mazarin's work of domestic centralization and transformed the French state into an absolute monarchy based on the so-called divine right of kings.
Industry and commerce were encouraged by mercantilist policies, and great overseas empires were carved out in India , Canada , and Louisiana. By transforming the nobles into perennial courtiers, financially dependent on the crown, the king clipped their wings. Lavish display marked the early period of his reign, when the great palace at Versailles was built, beginning the era of French Classicism. It was a golden age for French culture as well, and French fashions and manners set the standard for all Europe.
Nevertheless, the Sun King, as he was styled, left the country in a weaker position than he had found it. In , he revoked the Edict of Nantes , and an estimated , Huguenots fled the country to escape persecution. Whole provinces were depopulated, and the economy was severely affected by the loss of many skilled and industrious workers. Louis undertook a long series of foreign wars, culminating in the War of the Spanish Succession — 14 , in which England, the Netherlands, and most of the German states were arrayed against France, Spain, Bavaria , Portugal , and Savoy.
In the end, little territory was lost, but the military primacy of the country was broken and its economic strength seriously sapped. The reign of Louis XV — 74 and that of his successor, Louis XVI — 93 , which was terminated by the French Revolution , showed the same lavish display of royal power and elegance that had been inaugurated by the Sun King.
At the same time, the economic crisis that Louis XIV left as his legacy continued to grow more serious. A series of foreign wars cost France its Indian and Canadian colonies and bankrupted the country, including the French and Indian War — Meanwhile, the locus of the economic power in the kingdom had shifted to the hands of the upper bourgeoisie in the Enlightenment , who resented the almost wholly unproductive ruling class that espoused Classicism.
The intellectual currents of the so-called Age of Reason were basically opposed to the old order. Voltaire attacked the Church and the principle of absolutism alike; Diderot advocated scientific materialism; Jean-Jacques Rousseau preached popular sovereignty. The writer changed from a royal servant into a revolutionary force. In , faced with an unmanageable public debt , Louis XVI convened, for the first time since the reign of Louis XIII, the States-General, the national legislative body, to consider certain fiscal reforms.
The representatives of the third estate, the Commons , met separately on 17 June and proclaimed themselves the National Assembly. This action, strictly speaking, marked the beginning of the French Revolution , although the act that best symbolized the power of the revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a royal prison, by a Paris mob on 14 July — an event still commemorated as a national holiday. With the support of the mob, which forced the king, his wife Marie Antoinette , and his family from the palace at Versailles into virtual imprisonment in the Tuilerie in Paris; the Assembly was able to force Louis to accept a new constitution including The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, providing for a limited monarchy, the secularization of the state, and the seizure of Church lands.
War with Austria, which wished to intervene to restore the status quo ante in France, broke out in Louis XVI was convicted of treason and executed. The radical group of Jacobins under Maximilien Robespierre's leadership exercised strict control through committees of public welfare and a revolutionary tribunal. The Jacobins attempted to remake France in the image of an egalitarian republic. Their excesses led to a Reign of Terror — 94 , carried out indiscriminately against royalists and such moderate republican groups as the Girondins. Manifold opposition to the Jacobins and specifically to Robespierre combined to end their reign in the summer of In , a new constitution of moderate character was introduced, and executive power was vested in a Directory of five men.
The Directory, weakened by inefficient administration and military reverses, fell in turn in , when the military hero Napoleon Bonaparte engineered a coup and established the Consulate. Ruling autocratically as the first consul, Bonaparte established domestic stability and decisively defeated the Austrian-British coalition arrayed against France.
In , he had himself proclaimed emperor as Napoleon I and, until his downfall in , he ruled France in that capacity. Capitalizing on the newly awakened patriotic nationalism of France, Napoleon led his imperial armies to a striking series of victories over the dynastic powers of Europe. By , he was the master of all Europe west of Russia with the exception of the British Isles.
That year, however, the revolt in Spain — upon whose throne Napoleon had placed his brother Joseph — began to tax French military reserves. Napoleon's ill-fated attempt to conquer Russia in was followed by the consolidation of a powerful alliance against him, consisting of Russia, Prussia , Britain , and Sweden. The allies defeated Napoleon at Leipzig in and captured Paris in the spring of He was, however, finally and utterly crushed by the British and Prussian forces at Waterloo 18 June and spent the remaining years of his life as a British prisoner of war on the island of St.
Helena in the South Atlantic. Charles attempted to restore the absolute powers of the monarchy and the supremacy of the Catholic Church.
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In , he was ousted after a three-day revolution in which the upper bourgeoisie allied itself with the forces of the left. In , his regime was overthrown in the name of the Second Republic. Four years later, however, its first president, Louis Napoleon, the nephew of Napoleon I , engineered a coup and had himself proclaimed emperor under the title Napoleon III. The Second Empire, as the period — 71 is known, was characterized by colonial expansion and great material prosperity. The emperor's aggressive foreign policy eventually led to the Franco-Prussian War — 71 , which ended in a crushing defeat for France and the downfall of Napoleon III.
France was stripped of the border provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which once belonged to the Holy Roman Empire and was forced to agree to an enormous indemnity.
A provisional government proclaimed a republic on 4 September and took over the responsibility for law and order until a National Assembly was elected in February Angered at the rapid capitulation to Prussia by the provisionals and the conservative National Assembly, the national guard and radical elements of Paris seized the city in March and set up the Commune.
During the "Bloody Week" of 21 — 28 May, the Commune was savagely dispatched by government troops. Democratic government finally triumphed in France under the Third Republic, whose constitution was adopted in Royalist sentiment had been strong, but the factions backing different branches of the royal house had been unable to agree on a candidate for the throne. The Third Republic confirmed freedom of speech , the press, and association. It enforced complete separation of church and state.
Social legislation guaranteeing the rights of trade unions was passed, and elections were held on the basis of universal manhood suffrage. The Third Republic, however, was characterized by an extremely weak executive. A long succession of cabinets was placed in power and shortly thereafter removed from office by the all-powerful lower house of the national legislature.
Nevertheless, the republic was strong enough to weather an attempt on the part of the highly popular Gen. Georges Boulanger to overthrow the regime in the late s, as well as the bitter dispute between the left-wing and right-wing parties occasioned by the trumped-up arrest and long imprisonment of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a scandal in which Dreyfus's being Jewish was as much an issue as the treason he had allegedly committed. The eventual vindication of Dreyfus went hand in hand with the decisive defeat of the monarchists and the emergence of a progressive governing coalition, with Socialist representation.
Although France, under the leadership of Georges Clemenceau , could claim a major share in the final Allied victory, it was in many respects a Pyrrhic victory for France. Almost all the bitter fighting in the west was conducted on French soil, and among the Allies French casualties — including nearly 1,, war dead — were second only to those sustained by Russia.
The heavily industrialized provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were restored to France under the Treaty of Versailles , and Germany was ordered to pay heavy war reparations. Nevertheless, the French economy, plagued by recurrent crises, was unable to achieve great prosperity in the s, and the worldwide economic depression of the s exacerbated in France by the cessation of German reparations payments was accompanied in France by inflation, widespread unemployment, and profound social unrest.
Rightand extreme left-wing elements caused major disturbances on 6 February Blum nationalized certain war industries, carried out agricultural reforms, and made the hour week mandatory in industry.
In a futile attempt to secure peace, Daladier acquiesced in British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain 's policy of appeasement toward Hitler. Hitler was not to be appeased, however, and when Germany invaded Poland in September , France joined the United Kingdom in declaring war on Germany. On 10 May , the Germans launched a great invasion of the west through the Low Countries and the heavily wooded and sparsely defended Ardennes region. In less than a month, German forces outflanked the French Maginot Line fortifications and routed the French armies between the Belgian frontier and Paris.
With the exception of a triangular zone with its northern apex near Vichy, all France was placed under the direct occupation of the Germans. The Vichy regime ended the Third Republic and proclaimed a constitution based on the slogan "labor, family, fatherland," as opposed to the traditional republican "liberty, equality, fraternity.
Charles de Gaulle , a brilliant career officer who had escaped to London on 18 June to declare that France had "lost a battle, not the war. The Free French forces took part in the fighting that followed the Allied invasion of North Africa in , and in a provisional French government was established at Algiers. Regular French units and resistance fighters alike fought in the campaign that drove the Germans from France, and shortly after the liberation of Paris, de Gaulle's provisional government moved from Algiers to the capital.
France's postwar vicissitudes have been political rather than economic. De Gaulle resigned as head of the government early in over the issue of executive powers, and in spite of his efforts the Fourth Republic, under a constitution that came into effect in December , was launched with most of the weaknesses of the Third Republic. Almost all powers were concentrated in the hands of the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, and there were numerous warring political parties. Although the people of metropolitan France overwhelmingly approved de Gaulle's program for eventual Algerian independence, some French army officers and units attempted to overthrow the government by terrorism, which de Gaulle suppressed by temporarily assuming emergency powers.
Peace negotiations were successfully concluded with Algerian rebel leaders, and Algeria gained independence on 1 July By then, nearly all of France's former African territories had attained independence. France has continued to provide economic assistance, and its ties with most of the former colonies have remained close.
Almost continuous fighting overseas in French colonies, first in Indochina, which was lost in , and later in Algeria, the scene of a nationalist rebellion among the Muslims, placed a heavy burden on France and led, especially after the Suez expedition of , to disillusionment on the part of elements in the French army, which felt that its work was being undermined by a series of vacillating parliamentary governments.
In May , extremists among the French settlers in Algeria, acting with a group of army officers, seized control of Algiers. Sympathetic movements in Corsica and in metropolitan France raised the specter of a right-wing coup. The government found itself powerless to deal with the situation, and on 1 June, Gen. He ended the threat peaceably, and in the fall of , he submitted to a national referendum a new constitution providing for a strong presidency; the constitution won overwhelming approval. Elections held in November swept candidates pledged to support de Gaulle into office, and in December , he was officially named the first president of the Fifth Republic.
During the mids, de Gaulle sought to distance France from the Anglo-American alliance. France developed its own atomic weapons and withdrew its forces from the NATO command; in addition, de Gaulle steadfastly opposed the admission of the United Kingdom to the EEC, of which France had been a founding member in The political stability of the mids ended in the spring of , with student riots and a month-long general strike that severely weakened the Gaullist regime. In April , Gen. In June, Georges Pompidou, a former premier in de Gaulle's government, was elected the second president of the Fifth Republic.
Between and , the Gaullist grip on the French populace continued to weaken, at the end of which time de Gaulle was forced to accept the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark into the EC, and to work within the economic constraints of the "Snake Mechanism" which, starting in , linked EC currencies. Giscard strengthened relations with the United States but continued to ply a middle course between the superpowers in world affairs. The European Currency Unit ECU was born in from the economic stresses of the s, leading eventually to the introduction of the common currency, the euro, in Mitterrand launched a program of economic reforms, including the nationalization of many industrial companies and most major banks.
However, three devaluations of the franc, high unemployment, and rising inflation led to the announcement of an austerity program in March In foreign policy, Mitterrand took an activist stance, opposing the US attempt in to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline between the former USSR and Western Europe , committing French troops to a peacekeeping force in Lebanon , and aiding the Chadian government against domestic insurgents and their Libyan backers. In July , Mitterrand accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy and named Laurent Fabius to replace him, signaling his intention to stress economic austerity and modernization of industry.
In foreign affairs, the government attempted some retrenchment during , withdrawing peacekeeping troops from Lebanon and announcing a "total and simultaneous" withdrawal of French and Libyan troops from Chad. However, Libyan troops did not actually withdraw as envisioned, and fighting there prompted a return of French troops in A major scandal was the disclosure in that French agents were responsible for the destruction in New Zealand , with the loss of a life, of a ship owned by an environmentalist group protesting French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.
In March elections, the Socialists lost their majority in the National Assembly, and Mitterrand had to appoint a conservative prime minister , Jacques Chirac, to head a new center-right cabinet. This unprecedented "cohabitation" between a Socialist president and a conservative government led to legislative conflict, as Chirac, with backing from the National Assembly, successfully instituted a program, opposed by Mitterrand, to denationalize 65 state-owned companies. Chirac encountered less success late in as he sought to deal with a wave of terrorist violence in Paris.
Chirac then resigned, and Mitterand formed a minority Socialist government. Economic and social problems as well as government scandals strained relations between the Socialist Mitterrand, the Conservative PM Eduard Balladur in the second cohabitation, and a center-right government. Unemployment remained high and new legislation increased police powers to combat illegal immigration.
Several prominent politicians were the subject of corruption charges and in legal proceedings were instituted against former primer minister, Laurent Fabius , related to an HIV-infected blood scandal. A prominent Socialist prime minister , Pierre Beregovoy, committed suicide in May over media allegations of financial improprieties. In May , Jacques Chirac was elected president, winning The National Assembly had elected an RPR-Gaullist majority in , setting the country firmly in the grips of the type of conservatism that had been ousting socialist and Social Democrats in much of Western Europe during the mid-to-late s.
Chirac immediately set about instituting austerity measures to rein in government spending in the hope of meeting certain rigid monetary guidelines so that France would be ready to join the European Monetary Union EMU in The EMU would create a single European currency, the "euro," to replace member countries' individual currencies. The idea of a monetary union had never been widely popular in France and the Maastricht Treaty, which set down conditions for EMU membership passed by only a slim margin.
Many of Chirac's attempts to reduce public spending and limit — or even erode — France's welfare state met with stern resistance. With the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty of , Chirac sensed the need for a reaffi rmation of his commitment to meet austerity measures for EMU membership.
Chirac dissolved the National Assembly, calling for parliamentary elections in , one year earlier than constitutionally mandated. In doing so, the French president believed he would demonstrate that the majority of the population believed in responsible cutbacks in government spending and anti-inflammatory monetary policy, despite the adverse effects they might have on the country's already quite high inflation. In May and June of , elections were held and Chirac's plan badly backfired with the Socialists winning a commanding majority, along with the Communists.
After the elections, a demoralized Chirac appointed Socialist leader Lionel Jospin prime minister, beginning the third cohabitation government. Jospin, a halfhearted supporter of monetary union, called for a program of increased government spending to create , jobs, a reduction in the work week from 39 to 35 hours, and made a broad pledge to protect the welfare state. The euro was successfully launched in , and the currency was circulated in January Presidential elections were held on 21 April and 5 May In the first round, Chirac won The strong showing by Le Pen sent shock waves throughout France and Europe, as his extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant, xenophobic party demonstrated its popularity.
Jospin announced he was retiring from politics; for the first time since the Socialists did not have a candidate in a presidential runoff, marking a major defeat for the French left. In the second round of voting, Chirac overwhelmingly defeated Le Pen, taking It was the largest majority since direct presidential elections were first introduced, and was preceded by a major popular campaign against Le Pen. Chirac named centrist Jean-Pierre Raffarin to be prime minister. In elections for the National Assembly held in June , the center-right coalition Union for the Presidential Majority consisting of Chirac's Rally for the Republic and the Liberal Democracy party and created on the wake of the first round on the ashes of the short-lived Union en Mouvement won a landslide victory, taking The Socialist Party finished second with Le Pen's National Front failed to win a single seat.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin started out by governing through ordinances, and eventually obtained a majority from his party that was large enough to carry him through the legislative elections. His political line exhibited a peculiar communicative style and enforced reforms with unflagging certainty — his adversaries would term this style "neo-liberalism.
Raffarin's popularity rate began to plummet; this, combined with the sharp electoral defeat sustained at the regional elections, was blamed on his social policies. As a consequence, the prime minister dissolved the government, and handpicked Jean-Louis Borloo as minister of social affairs. However, the prime minister had to handle both the former's social agenda — sustaining rent-controlled housing, backed up by President Chirac — and Sarkozy's extremely conservative managing of the finances.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin then faced even more criticism especially from Dominique de Villepin.
Raffarin's term of office came to a brisk end after the "no" vote to the referendum held on 29 May , on whether to adopt the project of the European Constitutional Treaty. He offered to resign on 31 May , and was immediately replaced by Dominique de Villepin. Dominique de Villepin had been named minister of foreign affairs in , upon the reelection of President Chirac. In — 03, France was confronted with a major foreign policy dilemma. Throughout , the United States and United Kingdom were committing troops to the Persian Gulf region, positioning themselves against Iraq and accusing its leader, Saddam Hussein , of possessing weapons of mass destruction.
In the event that Iraq would not disarm itself of any weapons of mass destruction it might possess, it was evident that the United States and United Kingdom might use those troops to force a regime change in Iraq. The UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution on 8 November , calling upon Iraq to disarm itself of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons or weapons capabilities, to allow the immediate return of UN and International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA weapons inspectors, and to comply with all previous UN resolutions regarding the country since the end of the Gulf War in The United States and United Kingdom indicated that if Iraq would not comply with the resolution, "serious consequences" might result, meaning military action.
The other three permanent members of the Security Council , France, Russia, and China , expressed their reservations with that position. France was the most vocal opponent of war, and threatened to use its veto power in the Security Council if another Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force was called for.
The United States and United Kingdom abandoned diplomatic efforts at conflict resolution in March , and on 19 March, the coalition went to war in Iraq. Once coalition forces defeated Iraq and plans for reconstruction of the country were being discussed in April, France stressed the need for a strong role to be played by the UN in a postwar Iraq. In his inaugural speech, he gave himself days to earn the trust of the French people and to give France its confidence back.
He was increasingly perceived as a potential presidential candidate, an opinion reinforced by his acting as head of state during the cabinet meeting held on 7 September and for the 60th session of the UN General Assembly held on 14 — 15 September while President Chirac suffered from a cerebral vascular complication. The eruption of rioting in many parts of France in fall posed the most serious challenge to government authority since the student riots that took place in Paris in The government imposed a state of emergency. Thousands of vehicles were set on fire in nearly towns; more than 1, people had been arrested by mid-November , when the violence began to subside.
Areas with large African and Arab communities were most affected France has Europe's largest Muslim population and over half the country's prison population is Muslim , where anger among many immigrant families over unemployment and discrimination has long been simmering. The unrest caused politicians to rethink their social and economic policies. Under the constitution of the Fifth Republic , as subsequently amended, the president of the republic is elected for a five-year term changed from a seven-year term following a referendum on 24 September by direct universal suffrage.
If no candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes cast, a runoff election is held between the two candidates having received the most votes. If the presidency falls vacant, the president of the Senate assumes the office until a new election can be held within 20 — 35 days. The president appoints the prime minister and, on the prime minister's recommendation, the other members of the cabinet. The president has the power to dissolve the National Assembly, in which event new elections must be held in 20 — 40 days.
When the national sovereignty is gravely menaced, the president is empowered to take special measures after consultation with the premier and other appropriate officials. The National Assembly, however, may not be dissolved during the exercise of exceptional powers. The president promulgates laws approved by the legislature, has the right of pardon, and is commander of the armed forces. The bicameral parliament consists of two houses, the National Assembly and the Senate. Under a system enacted in , the National Assembly is composed of deputies, each representing an electoral district.
If no candidate receives a clear majority, there is a runoff among those receiving at least All citizens aged 18 or over are eligible to vote. The deputies' term of office, unless the Assembly is dissolved, is five years. The Senate consisted, as of , of members indirectly elected to nine-year terms, one-third being chosen every three years.
Of the total, represented metropolitan France, 13, overseas departments and territories, and 12, French citizens residing abroad; all are chosen by electoral colleges. In addition, European elections are held to choose 87 French deputies out of in the European Parliament every five years, with proportional representation. To become law, a measure must be passed by parliament. Parliament also has the right to develop in detail and amplify the list of matters on which it may legislate by passing an organic law to that effect. Regular parliamentary sessions occur once a year, lasting nine months each amended in from two shorter sessions a year.
A special session may be called by the prime minister or at the request of a majority of the National Assembly. Bills, which may be initiated by the executive, are introduced in either house, except finance bills, which must be introduced in the Assembly. These proceedings are open to the public, aired on television, and reported.
The prime minister and the cabinet formulate national policy and execute the laws. No one may serve concurrently as a member of parliament and a member of the executive. Under certain circumstances, an absolute majority in the National Assembly may force the executive to resign by voting a motion of censure.
Under the new law of , members of the government are liable for actions performed in office deemed to be crimes or misdemeanors, and tried by the Court of Justice. French political life has long been ruled both by considerations of political theory and by the demands of political expediency. Traditional issues such as the separation of church and state help to distinguish between right and left, but otherwise the lines separating all but the extremist political parties are diffi cult to draw.
One result of this has been the proliferation of political parties; another, the assumption by political parties of labels that seldom indicate any clear-cut platform or policy. Broadly, since the late s, French politics has been dominated by four political groups: the Gaullists, an independent center-right coalition, the Socialists, and the Communists. After the parliamentary elections of 23 and 30 November , the first to be held under the constitution of the Fifth Republic, the largest single group in the Assembly was the Union for the New Republic UNR , which stood for the policies of Gen.
Only 16 members were elected by the center groups and only 10 were Communists. In the first presidential elections held by direct universal suffrage in December , President de Gaulle was reelected on the second ballot with Following nationwide strikes and civil disturbances by workers and students in the spring of , new parliamentary elections were held in June, in which de Gaulle's supporters won a sweeping victory.
On 28 April , following the defeat in a national referendum of a Gaullist plan to reorganize the Senate and regional government, President de Gaulle resigned. During the Pompidou administration, Gaullist control was weakened by an alliance between the Communist and Socialist parties. The Communists and Socialists increased their representation to 72 and , respectively.
The remaining seats were won by the RI 55 and by centrists, reformists, and unaffiliated candidates On 2 April , President Pompidou died. However, as neither had won a majority, a run-off election was held on 19 May. Giscard, with the help of Gaullist votes, defeated Mitterrand by a margin of The Socialists and Communists, who ran on a common platform as the Union of the Left, together won seats Socialists , Communists 86 and Independents, with the remaining 3.
In the presidential elections of 26 April and 10 May , Mitterrand received Within weeks, Mitterrand called new legislative elections: that June, the Socialists and their allies won In return for concessions on various political matters, four Communists received cabinet portfolios, none relating directly to foreign affairs or national security. The sweeping victory of the left was, however, eroded in March when Socialist and Communist officeholders lost their seats in about 30 cities in municipal balloting.
Meanwhile, the Communists had become disaffected by government policies and did not seek appointments in the cabinet named when a new Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius, was appointed in July The National Assembly elections held in March represented a major defeat for the Socialist Party and their allies. The Communists also suffered losses, securing only 24 seats. Minor parties and independents won 26 seats. The Socialists lost of the Socialist seats that were at stake.
As a result, the Socialists introduced a new system of proportional voting aimed at reducing their losses in the forthcoming general election of 16 March The Communists, suffering a historic defeat, split the remaining 70 seats evenly with the far-right National Front, which won representation for the first time.
Following his defeat by Mitterand in the May presidential election, Chirac resigned and a minority Socialist government was formed. In , one year before they were scheduled, Chirac called for new parliamentary elections, hoping to achieve a mandate to inaugurate his policy of fiscal austerity. Instead, the Gaullists suffered a stunning defeat by the Socialists and Communists, leading to the appointment of Jospin as prime minister.
In those elections, held 25 May and 1 June , the Gaullists saw their parliamentary presence decline from seats to ; the Socialists and related splinter groups went from 75 seats to ; the Communists from 24 to 38; the Greens from no seats to 8; and the far-right National Front maintained its single seat. The Greens held only three seats. Its first test occurred in March , during the cantonal and regional elections. While suffering a devastating loss, it managed, through alliances, to secure a relative majority of the votes.
Its second test was the European elections, also held in The UDF's relative success was largely caused by the attractive alternative that it offered voters that were unhappy with the government's take on social and European issues. The relative slump of the right can also be explained by the rise of popularity of the National Front and the unpopularity generated by the Raffarin governments. In , parliament approved a code of regional reforms that had been rejected when proposed previously by President de Gaulle in Under this law, the 96 departments of metropolitan France were grouped into 22 regions.
Regional councils composed of local deputies, senators, and delegates were formed and prefects appointed; in addition, regional economic and social committees, made up of labor and management representatives, were created. This system was superseded by the decentralization law of 2 March , providing for the transfer of administrative and financial authority from the prefect to the general council, which elects its own president; the national government's representative in the department is appointed by the cabinet.
The law like-wise replaced the system of regional prefects with regional councils, elected by universal direct suffrage, and, for each region, an economic and social committee that serves in an advisory role; the national government's representative in each region, named by the cabinet, exercises administrative powers. The first regional assembly to be elected was that of Corsica in August ; the first direct assembly elections in all 22 regions were held in March Each of the 96 departments and four overseas: Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion and French Guiana is further subdivided for administrative purposes into arrondissements , cantons, and communes municipalities.
The basic unit of local government is the commune, governed by a municipal council and presided over by a mayor. A commune may be an Alpine village with no more than a dozen inhabitants, or it may be a large city, such as Lyon or Marseille. The majority, however, are small. As of , France had 36, communes. Most recently the trend has been for the smallest communes to merge and create larger urban communities, or to come together as communal syndicates to share responsibilities. Municipal councilors are elected by universal suffrage for six-year terms.
Each council elects a mayor who also serves as a representative of the central government. Several communes are grouped into a canton, and cantons are grouped into arrondissements, which have little administrative significance. As of 1 January , France had 36, communes of them overseas. There are two types of lower judicial courts in France, the civil courts tribunaux d'instance and tribunaux de grande instance in , including overseas departments and the criminal courts tribunaux de police for petty offenses such as parking violations, tribunaux correctionnels for criminal misdemeanors.
The most serious crimes, for which the penalties may range to life imprisonment, are tried in assize courts cours d'assises ; these do not sit regularly but are called into session when necessary. They are presided over by judges from the appeals courts.
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In addition, there are special commercial courts tribunaux de commerce , composed of judges elected among themselves by tradesmen and manufacturers, to decide commercial cases; conciliation boards conseils de prud'hommes , made up of employees and employers, to decide their disputes; and professional courts with disciplinary powers within the professions. Special administrative courts tribunaux administratifs deal with disputes between individuals and government agencies.
From the lower civil and criminal courts alike, appeals may be taken to appeals courts cours d'Appel , of which there were 27 in Judgments of the appeals courts and the courts of assize are final, except that appeals on the interpretation of the law or points of procedure may be taken to the highest of the judicial courts, the Court of Cassation in Paris. If it finds that either the letter or spirit of the law has been misapplied, it may annual a judgment and return a case for retrial by the lower courts.
The High Court of Justice Haute Cour de Justice , consisting of judges and members of parliament, is convened to pass judgment on the president and cabinet members if a formal accusation of treason or criminal behavior has been voted by an absolute majority of both the National Assembly and the Senate. The death penalty was abolished in The Conseil Constitutionnel, created by the constitution, is now the only French forum available for constitutional review of legislation.
Challenges to legislation may be raised by the president of the republic, the prime minister, the president of the Senate, the president of the National Assembly, 60 senators, or 60 deputies of the National Assembly during the period between passage and promulgation signature of president. Once promulgated, French legislation is not subject to judicial review. The French judiciary is fully independent from the executive and legislative branches. The judiciary is subject to European Union mandates, which guide national law. This has been the case in the Court of Cassation since , in the Council of State since , and now even in the civil courts.
In there were , active personnel in the French armed services. An additional , served in the Gendarmerie Nationale, which is heavily armed. Reserves totaled 21, from all services. France's strategic nuclear forces in had 4, active personnel, of which 2, were Navy personnel, 1, Air Force, and 41 Gendarmarie Nationale. The French have the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world with a suspected total of weapons. The Army in numbered , military and 28, civilian personnel. Included were 7, members of the Foreign Legion, a 14, member marine force and an estimated 2, Special Operations Forces, as part of the French Army.
Equipment included main battle tanks, 1, reconnaissance vehicles, armored infantry fighting vehicles, 4, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces towed. The French Navy numbered 46, active personnel and 10, civilians in For that year, the Navy was equipped with 10 modern submarines 4 SSBNs and 6 SSNs , 34 principal surface combatants including one CVN and one CVH or helicopter carrier , and 85 other ships for mine warfare, amphibious operations, and logistics and support.
France had 6, naval aviation personnel. There were also 2, naval marines, including commandos. The Navy also provided coast guard services and fishery protection. The French Air Force numbered 65, active members, plus 5, civilians, and operated combat capable aircraft. France maintains substantial forces abroad in a number of countries, current and former possessions, and protectorates. These forces are supported by aircraft and naval ships in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and in the Carribean.
Troops are also deployed on peacekeeping missions in several different regions and countries. France joined the WTO in France is also a founding member of the European Union. In December , the country announced an intention to increase participation in the NATO military wing once again. France is one of the most richly endowed countries of Europe. The favorable climate, extensive areas of rich soil, and long-established tradition of skilled agriculture have created ideal conditions for a thriving farm economy.
Agriculture and the agro-food industries account for a larger share of economic activity than in many other west European nations. Large deposits of iron ore, a wellintegrated network of power plants, important domestic reserves of natural gas , good transport, and high standards of industrial workmanship have made the French industrial complex one of the most modern in Europe. After World War II , France's economy was stronger than it had been in the period between the two world wars. But on the debit side were the extremely high costs of France's colonial campaigns in Indochina and North Africa; the periodic lack of confidence of French investors in the nation's economy, resulting in the largescale flight of funds; and the successive devaluations of the franc.
Through most of the s and early s, the French economy expanded steadily, with GDP more than doubling between and Further oil price increases in — 80 marked the beginning of a prolonged recession, with high inflation, high unemployment, balance-of-payments deficits, declining private investment, and shortages in foreign exchange reserves. However, GDP grew by an annual average of 2. By the late s, however, the economy began to record higher growth rates. In the French economy grew by 3. Unemployment, however, remained high at To combat this, the Socialist-led coalition of Lionel Jospin enacted legislation cutting the work week to 35 hours in However, France's exports increased at a greater rate than imports, fueling the economy.
France in fell from being the world's fourth-largest industrialized economy to fifth, being replaced by the United Kingdom. In , real GDP growth was 1. In , real GDP growth was expected to slow to 1. France and the United States are the world's top two exporting countries in defense products, agricultural goods, and services.
Taxes remain the highest in the G-8 industrialized countries, and the tax structure is seen as a hindrance to business activity. The fastest-growing sectors of the economy have been telecommunications, aerospace, consulting services, meat and milk products, public works, insurance and financial services, and recreation, culture, and sports.
Although the government has privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, it still controls large sectors of the economy, including energy, transportation, and the defense industry. The French social model, characterized by heavy state involvement in the economy, a tax on wealth, and generous benefits for workers, has proved to be a strong disincentive to growth and job creation.
File:Tarascon (Bouches-du-Rhône, Fr) soi-disante maison de Tartarin.JPG
Unemployment, at 9. The pension system and rising healthcare costs strain public finances. Attempts to liberalize the economy have met strong resistance from labor unions and the left. Pension reforms proposed by the government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin in early were met by huge protests and strikes in France. Discontent with the economy played a large role in France's rejection of the EU constitution in May Violent unrest in hundreds of towns erupted in the fall of , triggered by frustration over high unemployment among urban youth.
The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity PPP rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1. The average inflation rate in was 1. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings.
It was estimated that for the period to household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1. It was estimated that in about 6. In , the French workforce was estimated at In the latest year for which data was available , Workers freely exercise their right to strike unless it is prohibited due to public safety. Many unions are members of international labor organizations. Collective bargaining is prevalent. It is illegal to discriminate against union activity. This amount provides a decent standard of living for a family. The standard legal workweek is set at 35 hours with restrictions on overtime.
Children under age 16 are not permitted to work, and there are restrictions pertaining to employment of those under Child labor laws are strictly enforced. The labor code and other laws provide for work, safety, and health standards. Agriculture remains a vital sector of the French economy, even though it engages only about 3. In , France's fulltime farm labor force of , was still the second-highest in the EU. France is one of the leaders in Europe in the value of agricultural exports — chiefly wheat, sugar, wine, and beef.
Tropical commodities, cotton, tobacco, and vegetable oils are among the chief agricultural imports. About There were , farms in France in , of which only , were managed by full-time farmers. Since the s, the number of farms has declined and the size of individual holdings has increased. By there were about 1. Average farm size had grown to around 50 hectares acres in Related sponsored items Feedback on our suggestions - Related sponsored items.
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