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France National Information – Population Religion  Rd Travel

France Population The population of France is just under 64m The Capital is Paris with a population of approximately 2,155,000 in its central area and of the city. Greater Paris has a population of 10 million. Another 2 million live within the immediate commuter belt.

French Language The official language is French though in areas close to the German borders German is not uncommon.

Religions In France Roman Catholicism is followed by 90%,of the population. The Muslim faith is practised by 3%, Protestants 2%, Jewish 1%, Unaffiliated 4%.

French Currency The French unit of currency is the euro. In 2007 French police issued advice for tourists that a large number of counterfeit Euro notes were in circulation. Tourists should be careful when accepting these notes from places other than established banks and Bureaux de Changes.

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France Geography

Land areas in Northern and Western France are predominantly low level. In Southern and Eastern areas the land is noticeably higher with the South Eastern which forms the French Alps mountainous. Here Mount Blanc at 4,808m high is the highest point in France. The delta area of the Rhone River is France lowest area at 2m below sea level. Around about 30% of the land is suitable for farming though only 6% of this used for permanent crops. Pastures and forests constitute around 45% of French land.

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France Economy

The economy in France grows annually by about 2%. The annual rate of Inflation is also 2% Unemployment has increased in recent years peaking at around 10% in 2006. In November 2007 it had fallen back to 8.1%. In some suburban areas youth unemployment is around 20% and street riots occur occasionally. French workers are generally employed for 35 hours a week. Industrial disputes & strikes increased in 2007 due to protests about proposed changes to employees terms & conditions.

The major industries in France are Aerospace, automotive, pharmaceuticals, industrial plant , agricultural food and alcoholic drink and tourism. Frances major trading partners are the EU, (particularly Germany & the United Kingdom ) and the United States.

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France Political Structure

The present French Constitution ( the fifth in France’s history) was established by Charles de Gaulle in 1958. It defines France as a secular democratic Republic deriving its sovereignty from the French people. Under the constitution there is provision for a President and a Parliament. It also provides a High Court, a Constitutional Council, and an Economic and Social Council. The entities within the constitution are obliged to debate international treaties such as European Union agreements before they can be ratified by France as an EU Member State.

The Constitution may itself be amended by a ‘referendum’ or by Parliament if the proposal of the parliament has the approval of the President. Under French Law the results of a referendum are deemed as ‘overiding’ as they are the ‘will of the people’ the principal on which the constitution is based.

Phone Codes & Time Zone International telephone codes for Franc 33. The time Zone is CET (Central European Time) which is plus1 hour GMT.

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France Travel

Paris – London By Eurostar / Paris Local Transport

France by Rail French Railways (SNCF) for many countries are a benchmark of how a rail service should function. The network covers 34,200km (21,250 miles) though surprisingly only a third of it is electrified. For more info on SNCF see their website. The international reputation of French Railways is largely attributed to the TGV Service (train à grande vitesse). This service operates from Paris to Brittany and on to southwest France at speeds up to 300kph (186mph). Between Paris to Lyon and southeast France it travels at 270kph (168mph). On the fastest stretch of line to Strasbourg and eastern France speeds reach 320kph (199mph). Other services into and outside Paris are provided by RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens). For more information on RATP & rail service in Paris see the Paris transport page.

France Road Travel You have to be at least 18 to drive a car in France is 18. You can if you over 15 drive a motorcycle provided it is under 125cc. Visitors driving in France must carry their national driving licence along with the cars registration document. If you are not the owner you should carry a letter of authority authorising you to drive the vehicle with contact details. EU nationals driving their own cars in France are advised to have a Green card. Motorways (known in France as autoroutes) are identified by the prefix ‘A’. National roads (routes nationale) are identified by the prefix ‘N’.

Speed limits are 50kph (31mph) in urban districts and 90kph (56mph) outside these areas. On dual carriageways the limit is 110kph (68mph) on motorways its is 130kph (81mph) on motorways. Under French law visitors who have not held a driving licence two years cannot exceed 80kph (56mph) on suburban roads, 100kph (62mph) on dual carriageways and on motorways 110kph (68mph). The maximum legal alcohol to blood ratio is 0.5g lower than in the UK. French Police regularly carryout random breath tests on drivers throughout the year.

All passengers in a car must wear seat belts and children under 10 cannot travel in the front seats. All drivers must have a triangular red warning sign to use in case of a breakdown. If you breakdown dial 17 from the roadside telephones. Drivers from the UK must set their headlamps in order to drive in France.

Coach Services in France These are not as extensive, especially on long distance journeys as they are unable to compete with French Railways. However some routes are served by the eurolines group see our European coach page. French railways do in some areas provide coach services where rail services are not viable.

Air Travel In France You are not spoilt for choice when it comes to short haul flights with in France. Internal flights therefore can be expensive. Low cost international flights to numerous destinations across France are very competitive. Ryanair and easyJet though not cheap- as they once were are key players in this area.

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Recent French History

Hitlers Invasion of Poland with whom the French had a defence treaty resulted in France declaring war on Germany. Following the declaration France chose to prepare itself for a possible German invasion rather than launch attacks on its eastern neighbour. Within a few weeks Poland fell. Critics of the French Government policy at the outset of the war said that it was ‘Drole de guerre – the phony war and that the policy amounted to appeasement.

In May 1940 Germany attacked France and in the ensuing six weeks over 130,000 French soldiers died and around 7.5 million civilians fled from their homes. On June 24 with 60% of the country under German military control France surrendered. In the unoccupied territory in South Eastern France a new Vichy pro Nazis government headed by French WW1 veteran Phiippe Petain was established.

After the fall of France a soldier Charles de Gaulle broadcasting from London declared himself the leader of the French Government in exile in an appeal for assistance from France’s colonies. His declaration was endorsed by the British Government who provided him with offices and staff and later the American Government.

The Vichy government implemented the Nazis policy of deporting French Jews to the concentration camps in Germany and Poland before its own territory was occupied by German troops in November 1942 who correctly anticipated that the Allies would attack German occupied land from Southern Europe.

On D -Day 6 June 1944 the allied forces dominated by American and British forces landed on the Normandy beaches leading later in the year to the liberation of France. When French troops entered Paris led General Leclerc Charles de Gaulle followed. At the end of the war the latter who led a provisional government demanded that Germany pay France compensation to France to compensate the French people for their suffering during Nazis occupation.

Post War France

On October 13th 1946 a new (the Fourth) French Constitution was introduced. For the next 16 years the country was run by several coalition governments. Outside France, the former French Colonial Empire gradually fractured due to the Indo -China war. Vietnam was divided into two countries and Cambodia and Laos were given independence. These losses of power were compensated to an extent by the French involvement in the common market – for runner of the EEC & EU. see also Paris recent history.

Post WW2 The Cold War & French Foreign Policy

Successive French governments have been staunch supporters of NATO especially during the cold war. In the nineties, the French Government was a key player in preventing further genocide in the former Yugoslavian – Balkan regions through the EU & NATO. In other areas of Foreign Policy it has been more pragmatic.

For many years, particularly when Charles de Gaulle was it’s President it stopped the British application to join the Common Market – and was not a firm advocate of increasingly the number of member states significantly. Many commentators argued that this was because they did not want to loose their dominance that they held in the original institution.

The French Government actively supported in the War in Afghanistan in 2002, but were leading critics at the United Nations of the plans to and subsequent Invasion of Iraq, which severely damaged relations between France and America.

Generally in international crises the French are renowned and respected for their willingness to use the tools of diplomacy and often act as backroom intermediaries.

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France – Founder Member Of The European Union

At the end of the war the allies had dismantled many parts of what remained of Germany’s heavy industries and placed its coal industry under international supervision to prevent Germany from becoming a threat to European peace ever again. In 1946, the cost of WW2 in human life and economic terms resulted in the British Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill calling for a ‘United States of Europe’. This sentiment was echoed across Europe and in 1949 the Netherlands became part of the new Council For Europe.

The following year the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed that European peace would be assured if Europe’s coal and steel industries ((essential tools of war) were commonly managed. This proposal was accepted by Holland, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Italy and West Germany who in 1951 signed the Treaty of Paris founding the European Coal and Steel Community.

In 1952 the ECSC assumed responsibility for the Ruhr area of West Germany and eased the postwar controls on its industrial production. This responsibility which was defined as the ‘International Authority for the Ruhr created Europe’s first common institutions – The High Authority which eventually became the European Commission and the Common Assembly known now as the European Parliament.

Following The Treaty of Paris the member states discussed without agreement the creation of common defence and political systems. They reached an accord on economic unity and in 1957 signed the Treaty of Rome which founded the European Economic Community later renamed European Union

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