Overview of France

Overview of France

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Facts and figures:

  • Surface area: 633,186 sq. km.
  • Population 66.6 million
  • Capital city: Paris
  • Official language: French
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • System of government: Republic
  • Founding member of the European Union
  • Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, NATO, OECD, OSCE, G8 and G20
  • Time zone: UTC/GMT + 1 hour in winter - UTC/GMT + 2 hours in summer
  • National day: July 14

Largest cities:

  • Paris: 2,254,262 inhabitants
  • Marseille: 855,393 inhabitants
  • Lyon: 500,715 inhabitants
  • Toulouse: 458,298 inhabitants
  • Nice: 342,295 inhabitants
  • Nantes: 292,718 inhabitants
  • Strasbourg: 275,718 inhabitants
  • Bordeaux: 243,626 inhabitants
  • Lille: 231,491 inhabitants


President & Prime Minister

President of the Republic (Head of State): Mr. Emmanuel MACRON
Prime Minister (Head of Government): Mr. Edouard PHILIPPE


System of government


The President of the Republic is elected for a five-year term by direct election.

The French government comprises the Prime Minister, appointed by the President of the Republic, along with ministers and ministers of state appointed by the President after being put forward by the Prime Minister. Led by the Prime Minister, the French government sets out and implements nationwide government policy.

Central government is represented in France’s regions and départements by Prefects, who hold authority over all the offices of central government in each area of the country.

The French parliament draws up and passes laws, and holds the government to account. The legislature is bicameral: the National Assembly comprises 577 members (députés) elected for a five-year term by direct election; the Senate comprises 343 senators elected for a six-year term via an indirect election in which the main elected representatives from across France’s different regions vote. When agreement cannot be reached between the two chambers, the National Assembly’s decision is final.


Regional and local authorities


France has a variety of local authorities at regional, departmental and municipal level.

At each level, councilors are elected for a six-year term by direct election, and it is they who in turn elect the President of the Regional Council, the President of the Departmental Council, and the local Mayor.

Municipalities (communes) may join forces with each other to form intermunicipal bodies (communautés de communes, or communautés d’agglomération). Since 2014, the latter may be formed in mainland France to jointly conduct economic, transport, university, research, and innovation policy.


Administrative body




Principal responsibilities


Regional Council


  • Lead party in drawing up regional economic development plans
  • Operating lycées (second stage of secondary school)
  • Vocational training, apprenticeships and career guidance
  • Economic development
  • Administering European Union structural funds
  • Managing key infrastructure (ports, airports, waterways)
  • Environment and energy policy
  • Spatial planning and regional development
  • Housing
  • Culture and sport

Departmental Council


including five overseas départements (DOM)

  • Overseeing social work
  • Administering social welfare
  • Maintenance of local roads
  • Operating collèges (middle schools, first stage of secondary schools)
  • Spatial planning and regional development
  • Culture and sport


(or communauté de communes or métropole)


in mainland France and its overseas territories, plus a further hundred in overseas local authorities and in New Caledonia

  • Social work
  • Administering social welfare
  • Managing local roads
  • Public records
  • Operating primary schools
  • Urban planning
  • Culture
  • Sports facilities
  • Road maintenance
  • Maintaining public order


There are five overseas local authorities: Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint-Martin. Each one has its own specific organization and responsibilities.


Right to vote (age of majority)


The legal voting age is 18 years old.

Foreign Nationals from fellow European Union Member States can vote in municipal and European elections.




The climate in mainland France is temperate, with quite significant regional differences. Temperatures are relatively mild, and rainfall occurs throughout the year. Regional variations  occur due to latitude and differences in distance to the sea or mountainous areas. Temperature variations are less remarkable on the French coast than in the rest of the country, but rainfall is higher.


Source: By Lvcvlvs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Telephone calling codes

+ 33 (Mainland France)   + 590 (Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy)
+ 594 (French Guiana)  + 596 (Martinique)
+ 262 (Réunion, Mayotte)) + 508 (Saint Pierre and Miquelon)
+ 681 (Wallis and Futuna)    + 687 (New Caledonia)
+ 689 (French Polynesia)