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After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in , making himself First Consul , and later Emperor of what is now known as the First Empire — 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. Following Napoleon's final defeat in at the Battle of Waterloo , the French monarchy was re-established, but with new constitutional limitations.

In , a civil uprising established the constitutional July Monarchy , which lasted until France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century until the s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire was the second largest in the world behind the British Empire.

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Including metropolitan France , the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,, square kilometres 4,, sq mi in the s and s, which is 8. Though ultimately a victor in World War I , France suffered enormous human and material losses that weakened it for decades to come. The s were marked by a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government. The Fourth Republic was established after World War II and struggled to maintain its economic and political status as a dominant nation state.

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France attempted to hold on to its colonial empire , but soon ran into trouble. 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 , 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 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 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.

The French electorate voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May , but the successor Treaty of Lisbon was ratified by Parliament in February 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 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 Head of State and is elected directly by universal adult suffrage for a 5-year term formerly 7 years , and the Government, led by the president-appointed Prime Minister.

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 The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament. The executive branch is currently composed mostly of the UMP.

The basic principles that the French Republic must respect are found in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. France uses a civil legal system; that is, law arises primarily from written statutes; judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it though the amount of judge interpretation in certain areas makes it equivalent to case law.

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Basic principles of the rule of law were laid in the Napoleonic Code. In agreement with the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen law should only prohibit actions detrimental to society. As Guy Canivet , first president of the Court of Cassation , wrote about the management of prisons:. That is, Law should lay out prohibitions only if they are needed, and if the inconveniences caused by this restriction do not exceed the inconveniences that the prohibition is supposed to remedy.

In practice, of course, this ideal is often lost when laws are made. French law is divided into two principal areas: private law and public law. Private law includes, in particular, civil law and criminal law. Public law includes, in particular, administrative law and constitutional law.

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However, in practical terms, French law comprises three principal areas of law: civil law; criminal law and administrative law. France does not recognise religious law , nor does it recognise religious beliefs or morality as a motivation for the enactment of prohibitions.

As a consequence, France has long had neither blasphemy laws nor sodomy laws the latter being abolished in France is a member of the United Nations and serves as one of the permanent members of the U. Security Council with veto rights. In France received a request from the United Nations to pick a coat of arms that would represent it internationally.

Thus the French emblem was adopted and is currently used on passports.

French foreign policy has been largely shaped by membership of the European Union , of which it was a founding member. In the s, France sought to exclude the British from the organisation, seeking to build its own standing in continental Europe. Since the s, France has developed close ties with reunified Germany to become the most influential driving force of the EU, but consequently rivaling the UK and limiting the influence of newly-inducted East European nations.

France is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation , but under President de Gaulle, it excluded itself from the joint military command to avoid the supposed domination of its foreign and security policies by US political and military influence. In the early s, the country drew considerable criticism from other nations for its underground nuclear tests in French Polynesia.

France vigorously opposed the invasion of Iraq , straining bilateral relations with the US and the UK. France retains strong political and economic influence in its former African colonies and has supplied economic aid and troops for peace-keeping missions in the Ivory Coast and Chad.

Nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The French armed forces are divided into four branches:. Since the Algerian War , conscription was steadily reduced and was finally suspended in by Jacques Chirac. The total number of military personnel is approximately , France spends 2. A significant part of French military equipment is made in France.

Mille milliards de pas (TERRES FRANCE) (French Edition)

Examples include the Rafale fighter, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Exocet missile, and the Leclerc tank. France is a major arms seller as most of its arsenal's designs are available for the export market with the notable exception of nuclear powered devices.

Some French equipments have been largely modified to fit allied countries' requirements like the Formidable class frigates based on the La Fayette class or the Hashmat class submarines based on the Agosta class submarines. The railway network of France, which stretches 31, kilometres 19, mi is the most extensive in Western Europe. Rail connections exist to all other neighbouring countries in Europe, except Andorra. Intra-urban connections are also well developed with both underground services and tramway services complementing bus services.

The Paris region is enveloped with the most dense network of roads and highways that connect it with virtually all parts of the country.

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French roads also handle substantial international traffic, connecting with cities in neighboring Belgium, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. There is no annual registration fee or road tax; however, motorway usage is through tolls except in the vicinity of large communes. There are approximately airports in France, including landing fields.

The Charles de Gaulle International Airport located in the vicinity of Paris is the largest and busiest airport in the country, handling the vast majority of popular and commercial traffic of the country and connecting Paris with virtually all major cities across the world. Air France is the national carrier airline, although numerous private airline companies provide domestic and international travel services.

There are ten major ports in France, the largest of which is in Marseille , which also is the largest bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The lands making up the French Republic, shown at the same geographic scale. The 22 regions and 96 departments of metropolitan France includes Corsica Corse , lower right. Paris area is expanded inset at left. France is divided into 26 administrative regions. The regions are further subdivided into departments which are numbered mainly alphabetically.

This number is used in postal codes and vehicle number plates amongst others. Four of these departments are found in the overseas regions and are simultaneously overseas regions and overseas departments and are an integral part of France and the European Union and thus enjoy a status similar to metropolitan departments. The departments are subdivided into arrondissements which are, in turn, subdivided into 4, cantons.

These cantons are then divided into 36, communes , which are municipalities with an elected municipal council.