COUNTRIES

FRANCE

Programs Offered

Aix en Provence: Institute for American Universities

Cannes: Education en France, Escapade Cannes

Montpelleir: Accent Francais

Paris: Institut de Langue et de Culture Francaises, Catholic University

A few facts about the country:

OFFICIAL NAME: French Republic

GOVERNMENT TYPE: Republic

CHIEF OF STATE: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007)

POPULATION: 62,150,775

LOCATION: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain

TERRAIN AND CLIMATE: Mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east. Generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: French

GENERAL HISTORY: Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU's military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.

ECONOMY: France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. It maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. Widespread opposition to labor reform has in recent years hampered the government's ability to revitalize the economy. In 2007, the government launched divisive labor reform efforts that will continue into 2008. France's tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). France brought the budget deficit within the euro zone’s 3%-of-GDP limit for the first time in 2007 and has reduced unemployment to roughly 8%. With at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Government of France maintains a threat rating system known locally as “Vigipirate” it is similar to the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory System. Under this plan, in times of heightened security concerns, the government augments police with armed forces and increases visibility at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, major tourist attractions, and government installations. Over the last year, there have been numerous arrests of suspected Islamic militants involved in various terrorist plots. As with other countries in the Schengen area, France maintains open borders with its European neighbors, allowing the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.