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With 550,000 sq. km, France is the largest country in Western Europe (almost one fifth of the total area of the European Union), with a vast maritime zone.
Plains cover two thirds of the total area and the principal mountain ranges: the Alps (of which the highest peak, Mont Blanc, rising to 4,808 metres, is the highest mountain in Western Europe), Pyrenees, Jura, Ardennes, Massif Central and Vosges. The coastline (5,500 km) is bordered by four seas (North Sea, Channel, Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean).
Nearly 30% of French territory is covered by forests, placing France third in the European Union in terms of land under forest, behind Sweden and Finland. Forested areas in France have doubled in the last 200 years and have expanded by 46% since 1945.
Protection of the Environnement
In order to conserve and develop France’s natural heritage, the government has established national parks and nature reserves covering more than 7% of the country.
€28.8 billion is allocated to the protection of the environment - €469.00 per inhabitant. Three quarters of this goes towards waste water management and waste disposal.
France’s population is 60 million inhabitants (2003), i.e. a density of 111 inhabitants per sq. km. The capital city, Paris, has 11.2 million.
The French Republic includes…
Metropolitan France, divided into 22 regions and subdivided into 96 departments
Four overseas departments (DOM) - Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane (French Guiana) and Réunion
Five overseas territories - French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories
and one territory with special status: New Caledonia.
The Constitution of 4 October 1958 provides the institutional basis for the Fifth Republic. The main bodies are:
the Constitutional council
the President of the Republic
the Prime minister and the government
the two Chambers of the Parliament: National Assembly and Senate.