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France: a country that has marked European history

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France (République française/French Republic) is a semipresidential republic, where the President of the Republic is the Head of State and has also executive power, while the Parliament is divided into the National Assembly and the Senate, which exercise legislative power. France is divided into metropolitan France, overseas regions and overseas collectivities.

Metropolitan France is the historic part of France. It is divided into 22 administrative regions, which are in turn divided into 96 departments. The overseas regions and overseas collectivities are all what remains under French control, which used to be the vast colonial empire, which France had until after the Second World War. They are islands, archipelagos and small territories scattered over different continents.


The overseas regions are five, two are located in the Caribbean on the Lesser Antilles and are the island of Guadeloupe and its dependencies and the island of Martinique. In South America lies the territory of French Guiana, while in the Indian Ocean are the volcanic island of Réunion and Mayotte.

The overseas collectivities are six. Of these three are in Oceania (New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna), two in the Caribbean (Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin), and one is located in North America near the island of Newfoundland (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon).

Metropolitan France, which is part of the European Union, occupies a privileged position in Western Europe. It extends from the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, including in it a wide variety of areas and landscapes and finally also including Corsica. The country is one of the most important states of Europe and marked European history from the Middle Ages to the present.


The northern and western part of the French territory is mostly made ​​up of plains and low hills. In these areas flow some of the great French rivers, all entering the Atlantic Ocean. The best known are the Seine, which also passes through the capital Paris and flows into the English Channel, the Loire, which comes from the mountains of the Massif Central and flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes and the Gironde/Garonne, which passes through the city of Bordeaux before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Another major river in France, the Rhone, crosses the south-eastern part of the country and ends with a big delta in the Mediterranean Sea. The Rhine only marginally touches France, marking the eastern border with Germany.

The central, southern and eastern part of France is covered by some of the major mountain ranges of the European continent: the Alps to the south-east and the Pyrenees to the south, while the Massif Central occupies the central southern part of the country.


Among these mountain ranges the Alps are the highest. Here is the highest point of the country: the Mont Blanc with 4,810 meters on the border with Italy. The Pyrenees along the border with Spain reach considerable heights surpassing the 3,400 meters with the Pico de Aneto (3,404 meters). But this mountain belongs to Spain. Only the seventh highest summit of the Pyrenees the Vignemale with 3,298 meters is on the French side of the Pyrenees. The Massif Central, formed by some volcanic cones, has only smaller heights. Its highest mountain is the Puy de Sancy with 1,886 meters.

Among the cities besides the national capital Paris, where 20% of the French population live, we can mention Lyon, Marseilles and Nice between the Rhone and the Alps, Toulouse and Bordeaux between Aquitania and the Pyrenees, Nantes, Brest and Le Havre on the Atlantic coast and Lille, Rouen, Nancy, Metz in the north and Strasbourg along the Rhine.

The climate of France.

French government page.

English text correction by Dietrich Köster. 

  • Area: 543,965 sq km
  • Population: 60,327,000
  • National Capital: Paris
  • Official Language: French is the official language. German, Breton, Corsican and Basque are also spoken.
  • Religion: Roman Catholics 51%, Muslims 4,5%, Protestants 1,5%, Jews 1% and Armenians 0,2%.
  • Money: Euro (EUR)
  • Time Zone: Central European Time UTC+1. From the end of March until the end of October time in France is one hour ahead by changing UTC+1 to Summer Daylight Saving Time UTC+2.



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