France, or, officially, the French Republic, is the largest country in Europe. It is more than twice bigger than the UK and Germany. France includes several small islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Bay of Biscay. The population is 53 million people. France has "overseas departments and territories": Guiana, the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia. France may be called the Atlantic and Mediterranean country. Maritime borders of the country have greater extent than the land borders. In the north France is separated from England by the narrow English Channel and the Pas de Calais. In the west it is washed by the waters of the Bay of Biscay of the Atlantic. And in the south France is washed by the Mediterranean Sea. Many parts of the coast, especially in Brittany and Provence, are a very jagged. They have many bays, suitable for anchorage (Prosser, 2005).
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Convenience of sea and land relations, the position at the crossroads of international routes strengthened economic position of France for a long period of time. The country’s location contributed to the development of its economy, the growth of cultural and trade relations with other countries. For many centuries, France played an important role in the global economy and in international relations. However, such a geographical position was one of the reasons why France was repeatedly found in the centre of imperialist contradictions. Different parts of the country in different periods of history were more than once turned into battlegrounds. This continued during the whole period of the XIX-XX centuries. Particularly severe consequences for France brought the neighborhood with militaristic Germany.
France is known as a country of talented and hard-working people that have written many glorious pages in the history of mankind's struggle for freedom and democracy, made a great contribution to the world of science, culture and art. Modern France is one of the most industrially developed capitalist countries. Rates of the gross national product and volumes of industrial production are among the highest in the world.
As for the state system, France is a bourgeois republic. The political regime of modern France, which is usually called the Fifth Republic, was established in 1958 when General de Gaulle came to power. Constitution gives the President virtually unlimited powers. Elected for seven years, he has the right to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and other ministers, dissolve the National Assembly, issue decrees, having the force of law in fact. Under certain conditions, he has the right to take on his own emergency measures. The President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Legislative power is carried out by the Parliament, consisting of two chambers: the National Assembly (490 members) and the Senate (316 senators). The National Assembly is elected for five years by direct universal suffrage in two rounds. The Senate is elected for nine years by an electoral college consisting of the National Assembly and members of the boards of departments and municipalities, and the Senate is updated every three years. In departments power is exercised by the prefects appointed by the President.
Administratively, the French Republic is divided into 22 economic regions, which, in turn, are divided into 96 departments. All the regions are characterized by very peculiar landscapes. Paris is a separate department. There is also a division on 37 historic provinces. The anthem of France is "La Marseillaise". It was written in Strasbourg in 1792, and on July 14 it was proclaimed the national anthem. The motto of the country is three well-known words: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". French flag is blue, white and red. White symbolizes royal power and blue and red are the colors of the National Guard of Paris badge.
France is a relatively ethnically homogeneous country. About 9/10 of the population is the French. French is a national language. It belongs to the Romance group of the Indo-European languages. Church and state are separated, but the Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of religion. In France, the predominant religion is Catholicism. Catholics account for 90% of French people, including those who broke with the religion, but with the birth baptized in the Catholic rite. About 5% are Muslims, 3% of the French are Protestants, 1.3% are Jews, the rest of the believer population belongs to the different sects. There are about 5 million registered foreigners in France, mostly immigrants from Africa, overseas possessions (Martinique) and Indochina. In France men usually associate themselves with marital bonds to 26 years, and women - to 23. Statistics show that the strength of marriage weakens. The number of divorces increases rapidly. The difference in income of bourgeois elite of society and the general population is extremely high. The housing problem is very acute. There is a very large number of unemployed, especially young people and women. Inflation, rising prices for food and utilities seriously affect a life of French people (Prosser, 2005).
Modern France is one of the most industrially developed capitalist countries. It ranks the fourth place after the U.S., Japan and Germany on the size of the gross domestic product and industrial production. However, France continues to lag significantly behind these countries on the degree of concentration, size of enterprise and investment, as well as the share of industry in the economy of the country. France ranks the fifth place in terms of industrial production and forty-ninth on the export of capital. The leading industry of the country is food. GNP of France is estimated at approximately 1.300 billion and puts France on the fourth place in the world in terms of economic development and exports. 9 French companies are reckoned among the 100 largest companies in the world. French industry is on the fifth place in the world. It provides 30% of employment, 40% of investments and 80% of exports. The public sector provides 20% of turnover and 30% of exports. Medium and large enterprises (over 500 employees) occupy a dominant position - 46% of employment, 56% of the market, and 72% of exports. There are many places of interest in France that are worth seeing (Gofen & Reymann, 2003).
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