France is a modern country that views itself as a leader among European nations. It is famous the world over for its cuisine, fashion and culture. It is also a major power in international affairs, giving the world democratic ideals through the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and paying a heavy price in terms of blood and treasure during two world wars. It has a long tradition of a flexible separation of powers between Parliament and Government, and has a national identity forged through the French Resistance in World War Two.
The largest city in France is Paris, and it is a global financial hub with a well-developed high-tech industry and a burgeoning creative scene. Tourism is a large sector of the economy. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most popular landmarks in the world, and it is a symbol of Paris. The Notre-Dame cathedral is another popular attraction that epitomizes Medieval French Gothic architecture. The French are also known for their cheeses, and they make more than a thousand distinct varieties.
One of the most modern countries in the world, France has a highly developed social security system that provides generous benefits for all citizens. France’s unemployment rate is very low and it has a very high standard of living.
In a parliamentary democracy, the President of the Republic is directly elected by the people, but the legislative branch of the state – called the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale) and the Senate – has the right to reject presidential appointments. The constitutional system provides for the appointment of judges to the Court of Cassation – the highest appeals court in the country.
The current President of the Republic is Emmanuel Macron, who won the 2017 election with enough votes to overcome a Gaullist-Republican/Socialist hold on the presidency. He gained a broad range of support from both centre-right and centre-left with his “En Marche!” movement, which is based on deregulation and modernisation of the economy. In 2022, he won a second term with reduced support, as his economic plans met with opposition from the left and far-right.
In addition to the CIA World Factbook’s page on France, the BBC has a country profile, and Freedom House has research on political freedom. Human Rights Watch has research and advocacy on rights issues, and Reporters sans Frontieres is an international NGO that defends journalists’ freedom around the globe.