France

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The French Republic, or France, is a country located in western Europe.

The roots of France as a separate entity started with Charlemagne dividing his Frankish empire into an eastern and a western part. The eastern part can be regarded the beginnings of what is now Germany, the western part that of France. A variety of descendents of Charlemagne ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, a duke, was crowned King of France. His descendents, the Capetian dynasty, ruled France until 1789, when the French overthrew their monarchic structure during the French Revolution.

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. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy (known as the Fifth Republic) resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. Today, France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European defense and security apparatus.

Economy - overview: France's economy combines modern capitalistic methods with extensive, but declining, government intervention. The government retains considerable influence over key segments of each sector, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunication firms. It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly selling off holdings in France Telecom, in Air France, and in the insurance, banking, and defense industries. Meanwhile, large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer in Western Europe. Persistently high unemployment continues to pose a major problem for the government; a 35-hour work week is being introduced. France has shied away from cutting exceptionally generous social welfare benefits or the enormous state bureaucracy, preferring to pare defense spending and raise taxes to keep the deficit down. France joined 10 other EU members to launch the euro on 1 January 1999.

The French anthem, La Marseillaise, concerns the overthrow of tyranny. The national motto is liberty, equality, fraternity.

The capital city, Paris, is home to the Eiffel Tower, a tower of girdered steel constructed in 1889. The language is primarily French, with a Basque speeking region in the south west.

Cities and major towns include:

Abbeville, Ajaccio, Albertville, Albi, Amiens, Aurillac,
Bastia, Besancon, Bordeaux, Barcelonnette, Bayonne, Belfort, Brest,
Brive,
Caen, Cahors, Cannes, Carcassonne, Chamonix, Charlesville-Mezieres,
Clermont-Ferrand, Colmar,
Deauville,Dieppe, Dignes-les-Bains, Dijon, Dole, Dreux, Dunkerque,
Evreux, Firmini,Foix, Grenoble,
La Baule, La Rochelle Le Havre, Lille,Lyon,
Marseille, Mende, Metz, Mont-de-Marsan, Montauban, Montpellier,
Nantes, Nice, Nimes, Orleans,
Paris, Paux, Perigueux, Perpignan, Poitiers, Quimper,
Reims,Rennes, Rochefort, Rodez,Roubaix,
Saint-Gaudens, Saint-Etienne, Saint-Giron, Saint-Nazaire, Saint-Raphael,
Saint-Tropez, Sete, Strasbourg,
Tarbes,Tavaux, Toulon, Toulouse, Tourcoing, Valence

From the CIA World Factbook 2000.


See also: