The French Republic has a population of 65.8 million living on an area of 543,965 square kilometres, making it the largest EU Member State. It has overseas territories in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean covering a total area of 88,969 square kilometres. The capital of France is Paris.
France was a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. The seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg. France is a member of Nato and a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, which is why there are no border controls.
France is a republic. Under the Constitution the president, who is elected every five years, holds a strong position. François Hollande was elected president in May 2012. He heads the executive, appoints the Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, the ministers. The president chairs the Council of Ministers, may dissolve Parliament and submit draft legislation for a referendum on the recommendation of the government or of the Parliament. He is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Manuel Valls, a representative of the right wing of the Socialist Party, has been prime minister since March 2014. The National Assembly has 577 members, who are elected for a term of five years by a majority voting system in two rounds of elections. The governing party is the Socialist Party (PS). The Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), the communists and the Front National are currently in opposition.
The second chamber, the Senate, has 348 members who are elected for a term of six years. Every three years half of the senators are elected indirectly by municipal officials.
Administrative structure: France has a centralised administrative structure comprising 26 regions subdivided into a total of 100 départements.
In 2013 gross domestic product (GDP) in France totalled 2,062 billion euros; per capita BIP was 31,330 euros. France has a broad-based, modern economy. Among other things, the country produces cars, aeroplanes, pharmaceuticals, electronics and wine. Tourism also has a key role to play. In 2013 the country’s trade deficit totalled 61.2 billion euros.
It was France and Germany who conceived of the G7 in 1975. The first meeting, which was called a “world economic summit”, had six participants. It was held in the Château de Rambouillet near Paris in November 1975. Since then France has hosted five more summit meetings: in Versailles in 1982, in Paris in 1989, in Lyon in 1996, in Evian in 2003 and in Deauville in 2011.