France is a country in western Europe that is also referred to by its official names of the French Republic, French France, and the French Republic. France, historically and culturally one of the most important nations in the Western world, has also played a highly significant role in international affairs. With former colonies in every region of the world, France has had a presence in almost every aspect of modern-day life. France has, for a very long time, served as a geographical, economic, and linguistic bridge between northern and southern Europe by virtue of its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Alps and the Pyrenees. It is one of the leading industrial powers in the world as well as the country that produces the most agricultural goods in Europe.
France is one of the world’s oldest nations and was formed in the Middle Ages through the consolidation of a number of duchies and principalities under the authority of a single monarch. Despite the fact that in more recent decades a degree of autonomy has been granted to each of the 21 régions of the country, central authority continues to be vested in the state as it was during that era. The French people look to the state as the primary protector of their freedom, and in return, the state provides a generous program of amenities for its citizens, including free education, health care, and retirement plans. Even so, this tendency toward centralization frequently comes into conflict with one of the French nation’s other long-standing themes: the insistence on the supremacy of the individual. In reference to this topic, the French historian Jules Michelet once made the following observation: “England is an empire; Germany is a nation, a race, and France is a person.” A pluralist outlook and a significant amount of curiosity about the wider world go hand in hand with this tendency toward individualism.
Louvre Museum in Paris, France, Source
At the same time that it is universal and specific, the culture of France has made its way around the world and has had a significant impact on the evolution of both art and science, most notably in the disciplines of anthropology, philosophy, and sociology.
France has also been influential in government and civil affairs, giving the world significant democratic ideals during the age of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and inspiring the growth of reformist and even revolutionary movements for generations. France’s influence can be seen all over the world today. Since its promulgation on September 28, 1958, the current Fifth Republic has, on the other hand, enjoyed a notable level of stability. This stability can be attributed to the tremendous growth in private initiative and the rise of centrist politics. Despite the fact that France has been involved in protracted conflicts with other European powers (and, on occasion, with the United States of America, which has been its ally for a very long time), it has emerged as a leading member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors. However, beginning in 1995, France was represented on the NATO Military Committee, and in 2009 French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the country would rejoin the organization’s military command. From 1966 until 1995, France did not participate in the integrated military structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), maintaining full control over its own air, ground, and naval forces. France, as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, has the right to exercise its veto over any resolutions that are brought before the council. The other four permanent members are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and China.
A Brief Overview of the History of France
The Gauls were a Celtic people that lived in what is now France during the Iron Age. They were known as the Celts. The Roman Empire defeated the Gauls in the year 51 B.C. and maintained control over Gaul up to the year 486. The Germanic Franks ruled the region for hundreds of years, eventually establishing the medieval Kingdom of France, and they caused trouble for the Gallo-Romans by raiding and migrating into their territory. Since the late Middle Ages, France has been one of the most influential countries in Europe. The country’s success in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) contributed significantly to the consolidation of the French state and paved the way for a future centralized absolute monarchy. During the time of the Renaissance, France had a period of significant cultural progress and took the initial steps toward establishing a global colonial empire. Religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, often known as Huguenots, dominated the history of Europe throughout the 16th century.
The reign of Louis XIV elevated France to the position of preeminent cultural, political, and military power in Europe; yet, the French Revolution in the late 18th century resulted in the collapse of the monarchy. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is one of the oldest documents on human rights in the world. This declaration, which continues to convey the nation’s aspirations to this day, is one of the legacies left behind by the revolution. Napoleon, who controlled European politics and had a profound and enduring effect on Western culture, declared France to be an empire after the country had been ruled as one of the first republics in history up to that point. After his defeat, France went through a turbulent succession of governments, starting with the restoration of an absolute monarchy, which was followed by the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1830, followed by a brief period of a Second Republic, and then by a Second Empire, which lasted until 1870, when the more stable French Third Republic was established.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, France owned the second-largest colonial empire in the world. During this time, France’s colonial empire reached its pinnacle of worldwide significance and was the most powerful in the world. France, as a member of the Triple Entente nations that fought against Germany and the Central Powers in World War I, was considered to be one of the primary victorious countries. France was a member of the Allied Powers during World War II, but in 1940, it was occupied by Nazi Germany. Despite this fact, France was still an Allied Power. Immediately after its liberation in 1944, Algeria underwent the establishment of a Fourth Republic, which was subsequently abolished due to the Algerian War. In 1958, Charles de Gaulle took the helm of the newly formed Fifth Republic, which is still in existence and functioning to this day. After the end of World War II, the majority of the French colonial empire attained its independence, ushering in the era of decolonization.
Government of France
The French state is a republic, and its governing institutions are spelled out in the French Constitution, more specifically in the constitution that is in effect at the moment, which is that of the Fifth Republic. Since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, the Constitution has been amended on multiple occasions. The most recent time this occurred was in July 2008, when the “Congress” of France, which is a joint convention of the two chambers of Parliament, approved constitutional amendments proposed by President Sarkozy with a majority vote that was one vote higher than the required 60 percent.
The Fifth Republic was established in 1958, and was largely the work of General de Gaulle – its first president, and Michel Debré his prime minister. It has been amended 17 times. In comparison to other western democracies, the French constitution is a parliamentary document; however, it grants a significant amount of power to the executive branch, which consists of the President and the Ministers.
As in many western developed countries, the French government system consists of three distinct branches: the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The Executive Branch of Government
The President of France, who is chosen through a system of universal suffrage, serves as both the head of state and the head of the executive branch of the French government. Since May 2012, France’s president is François Hollande. At the beginning of the Fifth Republic, the president was chosen to serve for a term of seven years (le septennat), which may be renewed an unlimited number of times. Since 2002, the term length for the President’s election has been set at five years (le quinquennat). Since the passage of the Constitutional amendment in the year 2008, the maximum number of terms that a president is allowed to serve has been capped at two.
The President, who is also the highest-ranking military commander, is responsible for formulating national policy with the assistance of his Council of Ministers (Conseil des ministres). The Elysée Palace, also known as the palais de l’Elysée, is located in the city of Paris. It is the official residence of the President of the French Republic.
A prime minister is appointed by the president (Manuel Valls is serving in this capacity as of 2015), and the prime minister is responsible for forming the government. Matignon House, also known as l’Hôtel Matignon, is located in the city of Paris and serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of France.
In principle, the Prime Minister is the one who selects ministers; but, in fact, the President and the Prime Minister form the government together (a process known as “la cohabitation”), unless the President and the Prime Minister are from opposing ends of the political spectrum. The President is the one who has to give his or her blessing for new ministers to be appointed.
The weekly gatherings of the Cabinet, also known as le Conseil des ministres, are presided over by the President of the United States. It is the responsibility of ministers to formulate public policy and introduce proposed new laws to Parliament in the form of bills (projets de loi). Within the confines of the legal framework that already exists, ministers implement policy through the issuance of decrees (décrets).
The Branch in Charge of Legislation
There are two different houses or chambers that make up the French parliament. The Assemblée nationale, also known as the national assembly, is the lower and more important house of parliament, while the Sénat, also known as the Senate, is the upper house. During general elections (called élections législatives) held once every five years, members of Parliament, also known as Députés, are chosen by the people through the use of the universal franchise. The “grand electors,” who are primarily comprised of various other locally elected representatives, are the ones who vote for senators. There are two rounds of voting in the electoral system that is used for parliamentary elections. A candidate can be elected on the first round if they receive an absolute majority of the votes that are cast. The second round is a runoff between the top two (or sometimes more than two) candidates from the first round.
Until 2014, the left-wing Socialist party enjoyed a majority in both chambers. However, following the local elections, the Socialists lost their majority in the Senate in September 2014. Senators are selected by “grands électeurs,” who include, but are not limited to, mayors and other officials elected at the municipal level.
The Branches of the Judiciary
Despite the fact that the Minister of Justice, also known as le Garde des Sceaux, has authority over the operation of the justice system and public prosecutors, the judicial branch maintains a high degree of independence from both the executive branch and the legislative branch. The Code Civil is the authoritative guidebook that governs civil law in France.
How Legislation Is Formulated and Passed in France
Mont Saint-Michel, located in the region of Normandy in France, Source
Both new bills (projets de loi) proposed by the government and new bills (propositions de loi) proposed by private members are required to receive approval from both chambers of the legislature before they can become laws. In spite of this, a government in France is permitted, according to Article 49.3 of the country’s constitution, to ignore the opposition of parliament and pass a law without putting it to a vote in parliament. This is not something that takes place very often, and in the context of amending the constitution, President Sarkozy eliminated the option of utilizing Article 49.3.
However, in 2015, Prime Minister Valls was forced to resort to using 49.3 in order to push through parliament the contentious economic reforms of the “Loi Macron.” This was done in response to a revolt by members of his own Socialist party who adhered to a more extreme left-wing ideology.
The French government’s Constitutional Council
The purpose of the Constitutional Council, also known as le Conseil constitutionnel, is to decide whether or not newly enacted laws or decrees comply with the constitution. It has the authority to seek the withdrawal of decrees even after they have been promulgated or to strike down a bill before it is enacted into law if it is determined that the measure violates the constitution. The President of the Republic, the leader of the National Assembly, and the leader of the Senate each have the power to appoint three members to the Council. Additionally, any former heads of state who are still alive are automatically appointed to the Council.
France’s various political factions
The following are the primary political parties in French politics:
The Popular Union Movement may be seen on the right (UMP – Union pour un Mouvement Populaire)
Center Right: the New Centre (Nouveau Centre), and the Union of Democrats and Independents (founded in 2012) l’Union des démocrates et indépendants Center: The Democratic Movement (Mouvement Démocratique, MoDem)
On the left, you have the Socialist party (Parti Socialiste, PS), which has been in power in France since June 2012, the Radical left (les Radicaux de gauche), which is a group on the center left, the French Communist Party (parti Communiste Francais – PCF), and the Green Party (EELV – Europe Ecologie Les Verts)
In addition, France is home to a number of extreme groups, both on the left and on the right, including the National Front, the National Party Against Capitalism (NPA), and the Trotskyist Workers’ Party (Lutte ouvrière) (Front National).Present-Day Education in Mexico, Covering Levels Ranging from Preschool to Secondary Education