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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 presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. 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.

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

Geographic coordinates: 46 00 N, 2 00 E

Map references: Europe

  • total: 547,030 sq km
  • land: 545,630 sq km
  • note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas administrative divisions
  • water: 1,400 sq km

    Area - comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Colorado

    Land boundaries:
  • total: 2,889 km
  • border countries: Andorra 56.6 km, Belgium 620 km, Germany 451 km, Italy 488 km, Luxembourg 73 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Spain 623 km, Switzerland 573 km

    Coastline: 3,427 km

    Maritime claims:
  • territorial sea: 12 nm
  • continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
  • contiguous zone: 24 nm
  • exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (does not apply to the Mediterranean)

    Climate: 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

    Terrain: mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east
    Elevation extremes:
  • lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
  • highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m

    Natural resources: coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorospar, gypsum, timber, fish

    Land use:
  • arable land: 33.53%
  • permanent crops: 2.07%
  • other: 64.4% (2001)

    Irrigated land: 20,000 sq km (1998 est.)

    Natural hazards: flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean

    Environment - current issues: some forest damage from acid rain; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff

    Environment - international agreements:
  • party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
  • signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants

    Geography - note: largest West European nation

    60,424,213 (July 2004 est.)

    Age structure:
  • 0-14 years: 18.5% (male 5,724,185; female 5,446,716)
  • 15-64 years: 65.1% (male 19,698,497; female 19,663,776)
  • 65 years and over: 16.4% (male 4,049,970; female 5,841,069) (2004 est.)

    Median age:
  • total: 38.6 years
  • male: 37 years
  • female: 40.1 years (2004 est.)

    Population growth rate: 0.39% (2004 est.)

    Birth rate: 12.34 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)

    Death rate: 9.06 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)

    Net migration rate: 0.66 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)

    Sex ratio:
  • at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • 15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
  • total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2004 est.)

    Infant mortality rate:
  • total: 4.31 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 3.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
  • male: 4.83 deaths/1,000 live births

    Life expectancy at birth:
  • total population: 79.44 years
  • male: 75.8 years
  • female: 83.27 years (2004 est.)

    Total fertility rate: 1.85 children born/woman (2004 est.)

    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.4% (2003 est.)

    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 120,000 (2003 est.)

    HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 1,000 (2003 est.)

  • noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women)
  • adjective: French

    Ethnic groups: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities

    Religions: Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%

    Languages: French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 99%
  • male: 99%
  • female: 99% (1980 est.)

    Country name:
  • conventional long form: French Republic
  • conventional short form: France
  • local long form: Republique Francaise
  • local short form: France

    Government type: republic

    Capital: Paris

    Administrative divisions: 22 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes
  • note: metropolitan France is divided into 22 regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and is subdivided into 96 departments; see separate entries for the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion) and the overseas territorial collectivities (Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon)

    Dependent areas: Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, New Caledonia, Tromelin Island, Wallis and Futuna
  • note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica

    Independence: 486 (unified by Clovis)

    National holiday: Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)

    Constitution: 28 September 1958, amended concerning election of president in 1962, amended to comply with provisions of 1992 EC Maastricht Treaty, 1996 Amsterdam Treaty, 2000 Treaty of Nice; amended to tighten immigration laws in 1993; amended in 2000 to change the seven-year presidential term to a five-year term

    Legal system: civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts

    Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

    Executive branch:
  • chief of state: President Jacques CHIRAC (since 17 May 1995)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Jean-Pierre RAFFARIN (since 7 May 2002)
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (changed from seven-year term in October 2000); election last held 21 April and 5 May 2002 (next to be held, first round April 2007, second round May 2007); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly majority and appointed by the president
  • election results: Jacques CHIRAC reelected president; percent of vote, second ballot - Jacques CHIRAC (RPR) 81.96%, Jean-Marie LE PEN (FN) 18.04%
  • cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the suggestion of the prime minister

    Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (321 seats - 296 for metropolitan France, 13 for overseas departments and territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms; elected by thirds every three years); note - between now and 2010, 25 new seats will be added to the Senate for a total of 346 seats - 326 for metropolitan France and overseas departments, 2 for New Caledonia, 2 for Mayotte, 1 for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, 3 for overseas territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members will be indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve six-year terms, with one-half the seats being renewed every three years; and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a single-member majoritarian system to serve five-year terms)
  • election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - UMP 156, PS 97, UDF 33, PCF 23, RDSE 15, other 7; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - UMP 355, PS 140, UDF 29, PCF 21, Radical Party 7, Greens 3, other 22
  • elections: Senate - last held 26 September 2004 (next to be held September 2007); National Assembly - last held 8-16 June 2002 (next to be held not later than June 2007)

    Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation (judges are appointed by the president from nominations of the High Council of the Judiciary); Constitutional Council or Conseil Constitutionnel (three members appointed by the president, three appointed by the president of the National Assembly, and three appointed by the president of the Senate); Council of State or Conseil d'Etat

    Political parties and leaders: Citizen and Republican Movement or MCR [Jean Pierre CHEVENEMENT]; Democratic and European Social Rally or RDSE (mainly RAD. and PRG) [Jacques PELLETIER]; French Communist Party or PCF [Marie-George BUFFET]; Left Radical Party or PRG (previously Radical Socialist Party or PRS and the Left Radical Movement or MRG) [Jean-Michel BAYLET]; Movement for France or MPF [Philippe DE VILLIERS]; Rally for France or RPF [Charles PASQUA]; Socialist Party or PS [Francois HOLLANDE]; Greens [Gilles LEMAIRE, Francine BAVAY, Jean DESESSARD, Christophe PORQUIER, Maud LELIEVRE]; Union for French Democracy or UDF [Francois BAYROU]; Union for a Popular Movement or UMP (including RPR, DL, and a part of UDF) [Nicolas SARKOZY]

    Political pressure groups and leaders: historically-Communist labor union (Confederation Generale du Travail) or CGT, approximately 700,000 members (claimed); left-leaning labor union (Confederation Francaise Democratique du Travail) or CFDT, approximately 889,000 members (claimed); independent labor union (Confederation Generale du Travail - Force Ouvriere) or FO, 300,000 members (est.); independent white-collar union (Confederation Generale des Cadres) or CGC, 196,000 members (claimed); employers' union (Mouvement des Entreprises de France) or MEDEF, 750,000 companies as members (claimed)

    International organization participation: ABEDA, ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, BDEAC, BIS, BSEC (observer), CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G- 5, G- 7, G- 8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, InOC, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MICAH, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, UN, UN Security Council, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNITAR, UNMEE, UNMIK, UNMIL, UNMOVIC, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WCO, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTO, ZC

    Diplomatic representation in the US:
  • chief of mission: Ambassador Jean-David LEVITTE
  • chancery: 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007
    FAX: [1] (202) 944-6166
  • consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco
  • telephone: [1] (202) 944-6000

    Diplomatic representation from the US:
  • chief of mission: Ambassador Howard H. LEACH
  • embassy: 2 Avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris Cedex 08
  • mailing address: PSC 116, APO AE 09777
  • telephone: [33] (1) 43-12-22-22
  • FAX: [33] (1) 42 66 97 83
  • consulate(s) general: Marseille, Strasbourg

    Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red; known as the "Le drapeau tricolore" (French Tricolor), the origin of the flag dates to 1790 and the French Revolution; the design and/or colors are similar to a number of other flags, including those of Belgium, Chad, Ireland, Cote d'Ivoire, Luxembourg, and Netherlands; the official flag for all French dependent areas

    Economy - overview:
    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 Socialist-led government partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, but the government retains controlling stakes in several leading firms, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales, and is dominant 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. The current government has lowered income taxes and introduced measures to boost employment. The government is focusing on the problems of the high cost of labor and labor market inflexibility resulting from the 35-hour workweek and restrictions on lay-offs. The government is also pushing for pension reforms and simplification of administrative procedures. The tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (43.8% of GDP in 2003). The current economic slowdown and inflexible budget items have pushed the 2003 deficit to 4% of GDP, above the EU's 3% debt limit. Business investment remains listless because of low rates of capital utilization, sluggish demand, high debt, and the steep cost of capital.

    GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.661 trillion (2003 est.)

    GDP - real growth rate: 0.5% (2003 est.)

    GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $27,600 (2003 est.)

    GDP - composition by sector:
  • agriculture: 2.7%
  • industry: 24.4%
  • services: 72.9% (2003 est.)

    Investment (gross fixed): 19.2% of GDP (2003)

    Population below poverty line: 6.5% (2000)

    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
  • lowest 10%: 2.8%
  • highest 10%: 25.1% (1995)

    Distribution of family income - Gini index: 32.7 (1995)

    Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.1% (2003 est.)

    Labor force: 27.39 million (2003 est.)

    Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 4.1%, industry 24.4%, services 71.5% (1999)

    Unemployment rate: 9.7% (2003 est.)

    Budget: revenues: $882.8 billion
    expenditures: $955.4 billion, including capital expenditures of $23 billion (2003 est.)

    Public debt: 68.8% of GDP (2003)

    Agriculture - products: wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish

    Industries: machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism

    Industrial production growth rate: -0.3% (2003)

    Electricity - production: 520.1 billion kWh (2001)

    Electricity - consumption: 415.3 billion kWh (2001)

    Electricity - exports: 72.6 billion kWh (2001)

    Electricity - imports: 4.2 billion kWh (2001)

    Oil - production: 34,920 bbl/day (2001 est.)

    Oil - consumption: 2.026 million bbl/day (2001 est.)

    Oil - exports: 409,600 bbl/day (2001)

    Oil - imports: 2.281 million bbl/day (2001)

    Oil - proved reserves: 144.3 million bbl (1 January 2002)

    Natural gas - production: 1.898 billion cu m (2001 est.)

    Natural gas - consumption: 42.01 billion cu m (2001 est.)

    Natural gas - exports: 1.725 billion cu m (2001 est.)

    Natural gas - imports: 40.26 billion cu m (2001 est.)

    Natural gas - proved reserves: 12.86 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

    Current account balance: $13.8 billion (2003)

    Exports: $346.5 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)

    Exports - commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages

    Exports - partners: Germany 14.9%, Spain 9.6%, UK 9.4%, Italy 9.3%, Belgium 7.2%, US 6.8% (2003)

    Imports: $339.9 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)

    Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals

    Imports - partners: Germany 19.1%, Belgium 9.4%, Italy 9%, Spain 7.4%, Netherlands 7%, UK 7%, US 5.4% (2003)

    Reserves of foreign exchange & gold: $70.76 billion (2003)

    Debt - external: NA

    Economic aid - donor: ODA, $5.4 billion (2002)

    Currency: euro (EUR)
  • note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

    Currency code: EUR

    Exchange rates: euros per US dollar - 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001), 1.0854 (2000), 0.9386 (1999)

    Fiscal year: calendar year

    Telephones - main lines in use:
    33,905,400 (2003)

    Telephones - mobile cellular: 41,683,100 (2003)

    Telephone system:
  • general assessment: highly developed
  • domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay; extensive introduction of fiber-optic cable; domestic satellite system
  • international: country code - 33; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (with total of 5 antennas - 2 for Indian Ocean and 3 for Atlantic Ocean), NA Eutelsat, 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region); HF radiotelephone communications with more than 20 countries
    Radio broadcast stations: AM 41, FM about 3,500 (this figure is an approximation and includes many repeaters), shortwave 2 (1998)

    Radios: 55.3 million (1997)

    Television broadcast stations: 584 (plus 9,676 repeaters) (1995)

    Televisions: 34.8 million (1997)

    Internet country code: .fr

    Internet hosts: 2,396,761 (2004)

    Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 62 (2000)

    Internet users: 21.9 million (2003)

  • total: 32,175 km
  • standard gauge: 32,008 km 1.435-m gauge (14,320 km electrified)
  • narrow gauge: 167 km 1.000-m gauge (2003)

  • total: 894,000 km
  • paved: 894,000 km (including 11,500 km of expressways)
  • unpaved: 0 km (2000)

    Waterways: 8,500 km (1,686 km accessible to craft of 3,000 metric tons) (2000)

    Pipelines: gas 14,232 km; oil 3,024 km; refined products 4,889 km (2004)

    Ports and harbors: Bordeaux, Boulogne, Cherbourg, Dijon, Dunkerque, La Pallice, Le Havre, Lyon, Marseille, Mulhouse, Nantes, Paris, Rouen, Saint Nazaire, Saint Malo, Strasbourg (2003)

    Merchant marine:
  • total: 32 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 703,639 GRT/889,705 DWT
  • by type: cargo 3, chemical tanker 6, container 2, liquefied gas 4, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 10, roll on/roll off 2, short-sea/passenger 4
  • registered in other countries: 118 (2003 est.)
  • foreign-owned: Germany 1, Monaco 2, New Caledonia 1, Sweden 5

    Airports: 477 (2003 est.)

    Airports - with paved runways:
  • total: 283
  • over 3,047 m: 13
  • 2,438 to 3,047 m: 28
  • 914 to 1,523 m: 82
  • under 914 m: 65 (2004 est.)
  • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 95

    Airports - with unpaved runways:
  • total: 195
  • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
  • 914 to 1,523 m: 72
  • under 914 m: 120 (2004 est.)

    Heliports: 3 (2003 est.)

    Military branches:
    Army (includes Marines, Foreign Legion, Army Light Aviation), Navy (including naval air), Air Force (including Air Defense), National Gendarmerie

    Military manpower - military age and obligation: 17 years of age with consent for voluntary military service (2001)

    Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 14,487,165 (2004 est.)

    Military manpower - fit for military service: males age 15-49: 12,044,827 (2004 est.)

    Military manpower - reaching military age annually: males: 394,413 (2004 est.)

    Military expenditures - dollar figure: $45,238.1 million (2003)

    Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.6% (2003)

    Transnational Issues
    Disputes - international:
    Madagascar claims Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island; Comoros claims Mayotte; Mauritius claims Tromelin Island; territorial dispute between Suriname and French Guiana; territorial claim in Antarctica (Adelie Land); Matthew and Hunter Islands, east of New Caledonia, claimed by France and Vanuatu

    Illicit drugs: transshipment point for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and European synthetics
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