France’s economy combines extensive private enterprise (nearly 2.5 million companies registered) with substantial (though declining) government intervention (see dirigisme). The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunications firms. It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly selling off holdings in France Télécom, Air France, as well as the insurance, banking, and defence industries.
A member of the G8 group of leading industrialized countries, it is ranked as the fifth or sixth largest economy by nominal GDP depending on source. France joined 11 other EU members to launch the Euro on January 1, 1999, with euro coins and banknotes completely replacing the French franc in early 2002.
According to the OECD, in 2004 France was the world’s fifth-largest exporter and the fourth-largest importer of manufactured goods. In 2003, France was the 2nd-largest recipient of foreign direct investment among OECD countries at $47 billion in the same year, French companies invested $57.3 billion outside of France, ranking France as the second most important outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the United States ($173.8 billion) , and ahead of the United Kingdom ($55.3 billion) , Japan ($28.8 billion) and Germany ($2.6 billion).
In the 2005 edition of OECD in Figures, the OECD also noted that France leads the G7 countries in terms of productivity (measured as GDP per hour worked). In 2004, the GDP per hour worked in France was $47.7, ranking France above the United States ($46.3), Germany ($42.1), the United Kingdom ($39.6), or Japan ($32.5).
La Défense, Paris is the heart of the French economy. Despite figures showing a higher productivity per hour worked than in the US, France’s GDP per capita is significantly lower than the US GDP per capita, being in fact comparable to the GDP per capita of the other European countries, which is on average 30% below the US level. The reason for this is that a much smaller percentage of the French population is working compared to the US, which lowers the GDP per capita of France, despite its higher productivity. In fact, France has one of the lowest percentages of its population aged 15-64 years at work among the OECD countries. In 2004, 68.8% of the French population aged 15-64 years was in employment, compared to 80.0% in Japan, 78.9% in the UK, 77.2% in the US, and 71.0% in Germany. This phenomenon is the result of almost thirty years of massive unemployment in France, which has led to three consequences reducing the size of the working population: about 9% of the active population is without a job; students delay as long as possible their entry into labour market; and finally, the French government gives various incentives to workers to retire in their early 50s, though these are now receding.
With 79.1 million foreign tourists in 2006, France is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world, ahead of Spain (55.6 million in 2005) and the United States (49.4 million in 2005). This figure 79.1 million excludes people staying less than 24 hours in France, such as northern Europeans crossing France on their way to Spain or Italy during the summer.
France has an important aerospace industry led by the European consortium Airbus, and is the only European power (excluding Russia) to have its own national spaceport (Centre Spatial Guyanais). France is also the most energy independent Western country due to heavy investment in nuclear power. Large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and EU subsidies have combined to make. France is the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe. Wheat, poultry, dairy, beef, and pork, as well as an internationally recognized foodstuff and wine industry are primary French agricultural exports. EU agriculture subsidies to France total almost $14 billion.
The first completed Airbus A380 at the "A380 Reveal" event in Toulouse on 18 January 2005. Airbus is a symbol of the globalization of the French and European economy.
|Air France - source|
Since the end of the Second World War the government made efforts to integrate more and more with Germany, both economically and politically. Today the two countries form what is often referred to as the "core" countries in favour of greater integration of the European Union.
The monarchy ruled France until the French Revolution, in 1789. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed, along with thousands of other French citizens. After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799, making himself First Consul, and later Emperor of what is now known as the First Empire (1804–1814). In the course of several wars, his armies conquered most of continental Europe, with members of the Bonaparte family being appointed as monarchs of newly established kingdoms.
|Napoleon Bonaparte - source|
Following Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the French monarchy was re-established, but with new constitutional limitations. In 1830, a civil uprising established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848. The short-lived Second Republic ended in 1852 when Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte proclaimed the Second Empire. Louis-Napoléon was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.
France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century until the 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire was the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. At its peak, between 1919 and 1939, the second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 square kilometres (4,767,000 sq mi) of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 square kilometres (4,980,000 sq mi) in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world’s land area.
France suffered enormous human and material losses that weakened it for decades to come, though won in the World War I. The 1930s were marked by a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government. At the start of World War II, France held a series of unsuccessful rescue campaigns in Norway, Belgium and The Netherlands from 1939 to 1940. Upon the May-June 1940 Nazi German blitzkrieg and its Fascist Italian support, France’s political leadership disregarded Churchill’s proposal of a Franco-British Union and signed the Second Armistice at Compiègne on 22 June 1940. The Germans established a puppet regime under Marshal Philippe Pétain known as Vichy France, which pursued a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The regime’s opponents formed the Free French Forces outside of France and the French Resistance inside. France was liberated with the joint effort of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Free French Forces and the French resistance in 1944. Soon the Nouvelle Armée Française ("new French army") was established with the massive help of US-built material and equipment, and pursued the fight along the Allies in various battles including the campaign of Italy.
The Fourth Republic was established after World War II and struggled to maintain its economic and political status as a dominant nation state. France attempted to hold on to its colonial empire, but soon ran into trouble. The half-hearted 1946 attempt at regaining control of French Indochina resulted in the First Indochina War, which ended in French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Only months later, France faced a new, even harsher conflict in Algeria.
The debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria, then home to over one million European settlers wracked the country and nearly led to civil war. In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which contained a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War and Franco-French civil war that resulted in the capital Algiers, was concluded with peace negotiations in 1962 that led to Algerian independence.
In recent decades, France’s reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of the evolving European Union, including the introduction of the euro in January 1999. France has been at the forefront of the European Union member states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to create a more unified and capable European Union political, defence, and security apparatus. However, the French electorate voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May 2005.
The French Republic is a unitary semi-presidential republic with strong democratic traditions. The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by referendum on 28 September 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to parliament. The executive branch itself has two leaders: the President of the Republic, who is elected directly by universal adult suffrage for a 5-year term (formerly 7 years) and is the Head of State, and the Government, led by the president-appointed Prime Minister.
The French parliament is a bicameral legislature comprising a National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and a Senate. The National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies and are directly elected for 5-year terms. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the cabinet, and thus the majority in the Assembly determines the choice of government. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 6-year terms (originally 9-year terms), and one half of the seats are submitted to election every 3 years starting in September 2008. The Senate’s legislative powers are limited; in the event of disagreement between the two chambers, the National Assembly has the final say, except for constitutional laws and ,,lois organiques" (laws that are directly provided for by the constitution) in some cases. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.
French politics are characterized by two politically opposed groupings: one left-wing, centre around the French Socialist Party, and the other right-wing, centre previously around the ,,Rassemblement pour la République" (RPR) and now its successor the Union for a Popular Movement. The executive branch is currently composed mostly of the UPM.
Head of state: Nicolas Sarkozy (UPM) - President
Head of Goverment: François Fillon (UPM) - Prime Minister
Last national elections: 2007
Last European Parliament election June 2009
French, the official language, is the first language of 88% of the population. Most of those who speak minority languages also speak French, as the minority languages are given no legal recognition. 3% of the population speak German dialects. Flemish is spoken by around 90,000 people in the northeast, which is 0.2% of the French population. Near the Italian border, roughly 1.7% of the population, speaks Italian.
Basque is spoken by 0.1% and mainly along the French-Spanish border.
Catalan dialects are spoken in the French Pyrenees by around 260,000 people or 0.4% of the French population.
The Celtic language, Breton, is spoken by 1.2% and mainly in the north west of France. These three languages have no official status within France.
Arabic, the third largest minority language, is spoken by around 1.7% of the population throughout the country.
French Family Values
The family is the social adhesive of the country and each member has certain duties and responsibilities.
The extended family provides both emotional and financial support.
Despite their reputation as romantics, the French have a practical approach towards marriage.
Families have few children, but parents take their role as guardians and providers very seriously.
Relationships - Public vs. Private
The French are private people and have different rules of behaviour for people within their social circle and those who are not.
Although the French are generally polite in all dealings, it is only with their close friends and family that they are free to be themselves.
Friendship brings with it a set of roles and responsibilities, including being available should you be needed. Friendship involves frequent, if not daily, contact.
The French educational system is highly centralised, organised, and ramified. It is divided into three different stages:
primary education (enseignement primaire);
secondary education (enseignement secondaire);
higher education (enseignement supérieur).
Primary and secondary education is predominantly public (private schools also exist, in particular a strong nationwide network of primary and secondary Catholic education), while higher education has both public and private elements. At the end of secondary education, students take the baccalauréat exam, which allows them to pursue higher education. The baccalauréat pass rate in 1999 was 78.3%.
If you want to know more about education in France go to : www.wikipedia.org
The handshake is a common form of greeting.
Friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek.
First names are reserved for family and close friends. Wait until invited before using someone’s first name.
You are expected to say ’bonjour’ or ’bonsoir’ (good morning and good evening) with the honorific title Monsieur or Madame when entering a shop and ’au revoir’ (good-bye) when leaving.
Relationships & Communication
French business behaviour emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality.
Trust is earned through proper behaviour.
Creating a wide network of close personal business alliances is very important.
If you do not speak French, an apology for not knowing their language may aid in developing a relationship.
It is always a good idea to learn a few key phrases, since it demonstrates an interest in a long-term relationship.
The way a French person communicates is often predicated by their social status, education level, and which part of the country they were raised.
In business, the French often appear extremely direct because they are not afraid of asking probing questions.
Written communication is formal. Secretaries often schedule meetings and may be used to relay information from your French business colleagues.
Business Meetings Etiquette
Appointments are necessary and should be made at least 2 weeks in advance.
Appointments may be made in writing or by telephone and, depending upon the level of the person you are meeting, are often handled by the secretary.
Do not try to schedule meetings during July or August, as this is a common vacation period.
If you expect to be delayed, telephone immediately and offer an explanation.
Meetings are to discuss issues, not to make decisions.
Avoid exaggerated claims, as the French do not appreciate hyperbole.
The figure 79.1 million excludes people staying less than 24 hours in France, due to France is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world. France features cities of high cultural interest (Paris being the foremost), beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquillity (green tourism). Aside of casual tourism France attracts a lot of religious pilgrims to Lourdes, a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées département that hosts a few million tourists a year. Popular tourist sites include: (according to a 2003 ranking visitors per year) : Eiffel Tower (6.2 million) , Louvre Museum (5.7 million) , Palace of Versailles (2.8 million) , Musée d’Orsay (2.1 million) , Arc de Triomphe (1.2 million) , Centre Pompidou (1.2 million) , Mont-Saint-Michel (1 million) , Château de Chambord (711,000) ,Sainte-Chapelle (683,000) , Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg (549,000) , Puy de Dôme (500,000) , Musée Picasso (441,000) , Carcassonne (362,000).
|Carcassonne - source|
The City of Lights. And of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre, Saint-Germain, the Opéra and hundreds of attractions for every taste known to civilized mankind. A visit to Paris should include a day-trip to Versailles where French royalty brought the classical French style to its apex.
|The Eiffel tower at sunrise - source|