WWF France The World Wide Fund For Nature in
Parc national de la Vanoise Vanoise is France's first national park.
Regional Nature Parks
|Background: 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. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most
modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations.
Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the
instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent
years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central
to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in
January 1999. Presently, 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.
Government type: republic
Currency: 1 French franc (F) = 100 centimes; euro (EUR)
Geography of France
Location: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel,
between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between
Italy and Spain.
People of France
Since prehistoric times, France has been a crossroads of trade, travel, and invasion. Three basic European ethnic stocks--Celtic, Latin, and Teutonic (Frankish)--have blended over the centuries to make up its present population. France's birth rate was among the highest in Europe from 1945 until the late 1960s. Since then, its birth rate has fallen but remains higher than that of most other west European countries. Traditionally, France has had a high level of immigration. About 90% of the people are Roman Catholic, less than 2% are Protestant, and about 1% are Jewish. More than 1 million Muslims immigrated in the 1960s and early 1970s from North Africa, especially Algeria. At the end of 1994, there were about 5 million persons of Muslim descent living in France.
Education is free, beginning at age 2, and mandatory between ages 6 and 16. The public education system is highly centralized. Private education is primarily Roman Catholic. Higher education in France began with the founding of the University of Paris in 1150. It now consists of 69 universities and special schools, such as the Grandes Ecoles, technical colleges, and vocational training institutions.
The French language derives from the vernacular Latin spoken by the Romans in Gaul, although it includes many Celtic and Germanic words. French has been an international language for centuries and is a common second language throughout the world. It is one of five official languages at the United Nations. In Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the West Indies, French has been a unifying factor, particularly in those countries where it serves as the only common language among a variety of indigenous languages and dialects.
Population: 60,656,178 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State