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Old 04-11-2012, 12:55 AM
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Default France

France (English i/ˈfræns/ FRANSS or /ˈfrɑːns/ FRAHNSS; French: [fʁɑ̃s] ( listen)), officially the French Republic (French: République française [ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃sɛz]), is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.[15] Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is often referred to as l’Hexagone ("The Hexagon") because of the geometric shape of its territory. It is the largest western European country and it possesses the second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,000 sq mi), just behind that of the United States (11,351,000 km2 / 4,383,000 sq mi).

Over the past 500 years,[16] France has been a major power with strong cultural, economic, military and political influence in Europe and around the world. During the 17th and 18th centuries, France colonised great parts of North America and Southeast Asia; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, France built the second largest colonial empire of the time, including large portions of North, West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Caribbean and Pacific Islands.

France has its main ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The French Republic is defined as indivisible, secular, democratic and social by its constitution.[17] France is one of the world's most developed countries,[18] it possesses the world's fifth largest economy measured by GDP, the ninth-largest economy measured by purchasing power parity and is Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP.[19] France is the wealthiest nation in Europe – and the fourth wealthiest in the world – in aggregate household wealth.[20] France enjoys a high standard of living as well as a high public education level, and has also one of the world's longest life expectancies.[21] France has been listed as the world's "best overall health care" provider by the World Health Organization.[22] It is the most visited country in the world, receiving 82 million foreign tourists annually.

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