France (country)

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France is a country in western Europe. Its capital is Paris. In addition to Metropolitan France in Europe France includes former French possessions which chose in referendum to because part of France.

The name is used in three different ways:

  1. Metropolitan France, located in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain[1]
  2. the above together with the overseas departments in Africa and the Americas; their people are French citizens, they elect members to the French Parliament and they are governed by French and European law[2]
  3. all the above together with overseas collectivities and territories; their people are also French citizens and they too elect members to the French Parliament, but they are governed by their own laws, not by French and European law[3]

In this wider sense France is in more continents than any other country (cf. List of countries spanning more than one continent), and the sun is always above the horizon somewhere within it (cf. the empire on which the sun never sets).

Administrative divisions


The 22 regions and 96 departments of metropolitan France includes Corsica (Corse, lower right). Paris area is expanded (inset at left)

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France is divided into 27 administrative regions: 22 regions in metropolitan France (including the territorial collectivity of Corsica), and five located overseas.[4] The regions are further subdivided into 101 departments,[5] which are numbered mainly alphabetically. This number is used in postal codes and vehicle number plates amongst others. Among the 101 departments of France, five (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion) are in overseas regions (ROMs) that are also simultaneously overseas departments (DOMs) and are an integral part of France (and the European Union) and thus enjoy exactly the same status as metropolitan departments.

The 101 departments are subdivided into 341 arrondissements which are, in turn, subdivided into 4,051 cantons. These cantons are then divided into 36,697 communes, which are municipalities with an elected municipal council. There are 2,588 intercommunal entities grouping 33,414 of the 36,697 communes (i.e. 91.1% of all the communes). Three communes, Paris, Lyon and Marseille are subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.

The regions, departments and communes are all known as territorial collectivities, meaning they possess local assemblies as well as an executive. Arrondissements and cantons are merely administrative divisions. However, this was not always the case. Until 1940, the arrondissements were territorial collectivities with an elected assembly, but these were suspended by the Vichy regime and definitely abolished by the Fourth Republic in 1946.

Overseas territories and collectivities

In addition to the 27 regions and 101 departments, the French Republic has five overseas collectivities (French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna), one sui generis collectivity (New Caledonia), one overseas territory (French Southern and Antarctic Lands), and one island possession in the Pacific Ocean (Clipperton Island).

The lands making up the French Republic, shown at the same geographic scale.

Overseas collectivities and territories form part of the French Republic, but do not form part of the European Union or its fiscal area (with the exception of St. Bartelemy, which seceded from Guadeloupe in 2007). The Pacific Collectivities (COMs) of French Polynesia, Wallis and Fortuna, and New Caledonia continue to use the CFP franc[6] whose value is strictly linked to that of the euro. In contrast, the five overseas regions used the French franc and now use the euro.[7]

Name Constitutional status Capital
Template:Flag State private property under the direct authority of the French government Uninhabited
Template:Flag Designated as an overseas land (pays d'outre-mer or POM), the status is the same as an overseas collectivity. Papeete
Template:Flag Overseas territory (territoire d'outre-mer or TOM) Port-aux-Français
Template:Flag Sui generis collectivity Nouméa
Template:Flag Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM) Gustavia
Template:Flag Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM) Marigot
Template:Flag Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM). Still referred to as a collectivité territoriale. Saint-Pierre
Template:Flag Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM). Still referred to as a territoire. Mata-Utu

External links and further reading

Notes and references

  1. This sense is used by the following: the United Nations Statistics Division,[1] (lists France under Europe and overseas departments as separate countries); the International Standards Organization, [2]; World Gazetteer, [3] (omits France from list of transcontinental countries); Encyclopaedia Britannica; the internet (domain .fr)
  2. This sense is used by the following: the BBC,[4]; the CIA World Factbook, [5]
  3. Europa World Year Book, Routledge