Much like Spain, France is a sovereign state with domestic and foreign territories under its control. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel/North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic. France’s foreign territories include French Guiana and a number of islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. France is divided into 18 integral regions (including 5 overseas) covering a combined area of 248,573 square miles with a total population of 67.25 million; the country is a unitary semi-presidential republic. France’s capital is Paris, which is also the largest city in the country.
France is considered an international hub for cultural diversity. It contains the world's fourth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the world’s leading tourist destination, receiving 83 million foreign visitors annually. In addition, France has the world's seventh-largest economy and is strong in terms of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. France is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and reserves the power to veto – it also has nuclear capabilities. France is a member of the European Union and the Eurozone, as well as the Group of 7, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, and La Francophonie.
The French political scene is informed and shaped by the French Constitution of the French Fifth Republic, which states that France is to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic", and provides for the "attachment to the Rights of Man and the principles of national sovereignty as defined by the Declaration of 1789."
The French Republic is a unitary semi-presidential representative democratic republic. The executive branch of the French Government has two leaders: the President of the Republic (currently Emmanuel Macron) who is head of state and is elected for a 5-year term, and the Prime Minister, who leads the Government.
The French Parliament is composed of a National Assembly and a Senate. The elected National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies over 5-year terms, and collectively retain the power to dismiss the government. Senators are elected for 6-year terms (previously 9-year terms), and half of the seats are re-elected every 3 years. The Senate bows to the authority of the National Assembly in the event of a disagreement. The French Government has a significant influence on the agenda of Parliament.
Parliament comes together for a nine-month session each year, though an additional session can be called if required. The National Assembly has the power to collapse a government if an absolute majority votes to censure it. Members of Parliament have full parliamentary immunity. Each assembly has a committee that writes reports, and each can establish parliamentary inquiry commissions if required.
France’s system of government is only semi-presidential as both a President and a Prime Minister are in power simultaneously. The President is the more powerful of the two, and he appoints the Prime Minister – he cannot dismiss him, but can ask him to resign if in the same party. The President is the main figurehead of executive action when his party controls Parliament, and he can choose Parliamentary members and set the political agenda at will. The President’s power is curbed significantly when his opponents control Parliament as he must choose a Prime Minister and Government who reflect the majority agenda.
The Prime Minister, chosen by the President, leads the Government, which is comprised of junior and senior ministers. It is responsible for the civil service, government agencies, and the armed forces. The government answers directly to Parliament and can be forced to resign if the National Assembly passes a motion of censure. One of the duties of ministers is to answer questions from members of Parliament, known as the ‘questions au gouvernement.’ Ministers must also attend Parliamentary meetings when applicable laws are being discussed.
By law, France has a separate judicial branch with an entirely independent judiciary which does not answer to the other two branches of government. France’s legal system is centered on codified law, yet case law has significant sway in the courts. The French judicial system is divided into two sections: judicial and administrative.