четверг, 28 августа 2008 г.
Paris, the city of light and its surroundings are one of the most visited areas. Paris is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.
West of France is turned towards the Atlantic Coast. In the north Normandy & Brittany have rolling hills, sandy beaches and quiet little harbour towns. Normandy & Brittany have a more rugged coast and many neolithic sites. It has quite a distinct atmosphere from the rest of the country; you can still sense the Celtic origin of the region and its inhabitants.
The eastern part of France consists of the Alsace, Lorraine, Franche ComtК and Burgundy regions. The landscape has rolling hills and many beautiful cities, such as Metz, Strasbourg, Nancy and Dijon. This region produces many famous wines, including magnificent pinot noirs and chardonnays valued the world over, as well as the famous "Yellow wine" from the Jura mountain vineyard.
The Center of France is in many ways the most quiet part of France. But the great treasure of this region is the Loire valley , with many great castles and beautiful towns. Chartres with its famous cathedral and Tours rate among the most beautiful French cities.
The Alps are great for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Albertville, Grenoble and Chamonix have all hosted the Olympic games. But the Alps also have nice towns to visit, such as ChambКry, Annecy or Grenoble .
The South with its lovely nature, good food, roman ruins and of course the Riviera draws a lot of visitors every year. Towns like Orange, and Arles but also big cities like Marseille and Toulon are must sees. The Provence is dotted with pleasant small villages. In the South west of France the Dordogne is one of the most quintessential French regions. The valley is so pretty, the towns are so cute and the food is so good, that it is hard to believe that the people who live here go somewhere else for their holidays. The Languedoc has its own language and culture. In the south of the Languedoc you find the Pyrenees, a great mountain range separating France from Spain, where you can hike and ski. The towns of Toulouse and Montpellier are nice and the medieval town of Carcassone is a top destination.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the right-wing anti-immigrant National Front Party, shocked France in April 2002 with his second-place finish in the first round of France's presidential election. He took 17% of the vote, eliminating Lionel Jospin, the Socialist prime minister, who tallied 16%. Jospin, stunned by the result, announced that he was retiring from politics and threw his support behind incumbent president Jacques Chirac, who won with an overwhelming 82.2% of the vote in the runoff election. Chirac's center-right coalition won an absolute majority in parliament. In July 2002, Chirac survived an assassination attempt by a right-wing extremist.
During the fall 2002 and winter 2003 diplomatic wrangling at the United Nations over Iraq, France repeatedly defied the U.S. and Britain by calling for more weapons inspections and diplomacy before resorting to war. Relations between the U.S. and France have remained severely strained over Iraq.
France sent peacekeeping forces to assist two African countries in 2002 and 2003, Côte d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Prime Minister Raffarin's plan to overhaul the national pension system sparked numerous strikes across France in May and June 2003, involving tens of thousands of sanitation workers, teachers, transportation workers, and air traffic controllers. In August, a deadly heat wave killed an estimated 10,000 people, mostly elderly. The catastrophe occurred during two weeks of 104°F (40°C) temperatures.
In 2004, the French government passed a law banning the wearing of Muslim headscarves and other religious symbols in schools. The government maintained that the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols threatened the country's secular identity; others contended that the law curtailed religious freedom.
In March 2004 regional elections, the Socialist Party made enormous gains over Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party. Unpopular economic reforms are credited for the UMP's defeat.
On May 29, 2005, French voters rejected the European Union constitution by a 55%–45% margin. Reasons given for rejecting the constitution included concerns about forfeiting too much French sovereignty to a centralized European government and alarm at the EU's rapid addition of 10 new members in 2004, most from Eastern Europe. In response, President Chirac, who strongly supported the constitution, replaced Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin with Dominique de Villepin, a former foreign minister.
Rioting erupted on Oct. 27, 2005, in the impoverished outskirts of Paris and continued for two weeks, spreading to 300 towns and cities throughout France. It was the worst violence the country has faced in four decades. The rioting was sparked by the accidental deaths of two teenagers, one of French-Arab and the other of French-African descent, and grew into a violent protest against the bleak lives of poor French-Arabs and French-Africans, many of whom live in depressed, crime-ridden areas with high unemployment and who feel alienated from the rest of French society.
In March and April 2006, a series of huge and ongoing protests took place over a proposed labor law that would allow employers to fire workers under age 26 within two years without giving a reason. The law was intended to control high unemployment among France's young workers. The protests continued after President Chirac signed a somewhat amended bill into law. But on April 10, Chirac relented and rescinded the law, an embarrassing about-face for the government.
Presidential elections held in April 2007 pitted Socialist Ségolène Royal against conservative Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the nominee for the Union for a Popular Movement. Late in the race, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou emerged as a contender. Sarkozy, with 30.7%, and Royal, taking 25.2%, prevailed in the first round of voting. Sarkozy went on to win the runoff election, taking 53.1% of the vote to Royal's 46.9%.
Sarkozy immediately extended an olive branch to the United States, saying "I want to tell them [Americans] that France will always be by their side when they need her, but that friendship is also accepting the fact that friends can think differently." The dialogue signalled a marked shift from the tense French-American relationship under Chirac.
On his first day in office, Sarkozy named former social affairs minister François Fillon as prime minister, succeeding Dominique de Villepin. He also appointed Socialist Bernard Kouchner, a co-founder of the Nobel-prize-winning Médecins Sans Frontières, as foreign minister. Workers in the public sector staged 24-hour strike in October to protest Sarkozy's plan to change their generous retirement packages that allow workers to retire at age 50 with a full pension. On the same day of the strike, Sarkozy confirmed that he and his wife, Cécilia, had separated and planned to divorce. Rail workers staged a strike in November to protest Sarkozy's plan to end generous benefits that allow workers to retire in their 50s with full pension benefits. Strikers relented after nine days and agreed to negotiate.
In Feb. 2008, Sarkozy married Italian-born Carla Bruni, a former model turned pop star.
In July, Sarkozy launched the Union for the Mediterraneanan—an international body of 43 member nations. The union seeks to end conflict in the Middle East by addressing regional unrest and immigration
On July 21, 2008, Sarkozy won a narrow victory (539 to 357 votes—one vote more than the required three-fifths majority) for constitutional changes that strengthen parliamentary power, limit the presidency to two five-year terms, and end the president's right of collective pardon. The changes, approved in July, also allow the president to address Parliament for the first time since 1875. The Socialist opposition asserts that the changes actually boost the power of the presidency, making France a "monocracy."
The French Parliament approved a bill in July that ends the 35-hour work week and tightens criteria for strikes and unemployment payments. The new bill is intended to decrease unemployment and allow businesses and employees to negotiate directly about working hours.
A new France emerged from World War I as the continent's dominant power. But four years of hostile occupation had reduced northeast France to ruins. Beginning in 1919, French foreign policy aimed at keeping Germany weak through a system of alliances, but it failed to halt the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi war machine. On May 10, 1940, Nazi troops attacked, and, as they approached Paris, Italy joined with Germany. The Germans marched into an undefended Paris and Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain signed an armistice on June 22. France was split into an occupied north and an unoccupied south, Vichy France, which became a totalitarian German puppet state with Pétain as its chief. Allied armies liberated France in Aug. 1944, and a provisional government in Paris headed by Gen. Charles de Gaulle was established. The Fourth Republic was born on Dec. 24, 1946. The empire became the French Union; the national assembly was strengthened and the presidency weakened; and France joined NATO. A war against Communist insurgents in French Indochina, now Vietnam, was abandoned after the defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. A new rebellion in Algeria threatened a military coup, and on June 1, 1958, the assembly invited de Gaulle to return as premier with extraordinary powers. He drafted a new constitution for a Fifth Republic, adopted on September 28, which strengthened the presidency and reduced legislative power. He was elected president on Dec. 21, 1958.
France next turned its attention to decolonialization in Africa; the French protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia had received independence in 1956. French West Africa was partitioned and the new nations were granted independence in 1960. Algeria, after a long civil war, finally became independent in 1962. Relations with most of the former colonies remained amicable. De Gaulle took France out of the NATO military command in 1967 and expelled all foreign-controlled troops from the country. De Gaulle's government was weakened by massive protests in May 1968 when student rallies became violent and millions of factory workers engaged in wildcat strikes across France. After normalcy was reestablished in 1969, de Gaulle's successor, Georges Pompidou, modified Gaullist policies to include a classical laissez-faire attitude toward domestic economic affairs. The conservative, pro-business climate contributed to the election of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing as president in 1974.
Socialist François Mitterrand attained a stunning victory in the May 10, 1981, presidential election. The victors immediately moved to carry out campaign pledges to nationalize major industries, halt nuclear testing, suspend nuclear power-plant construction, and impose new taxes on the rich. The Socialists' policies during Mitterrand's first two years created a 12% inflation rate, a huge trade deficit, and devaluations of the franc. In March 1986, a center-right coalition led by Jacques Chirac won a slim majority in legislative elections. Chirac became prime minister, initiating a period of “cohabitation” between him and the Socialist president, Mitterrand. Mitterrand's decisive reelection in 1988 led to Chirac being replaced as prime minister by Michel Rocard, a Socialist. Relations, however, cooled with Rocard, and in May 1991 Edith Cresson—also a Socialist—became France's first female prime minister. But Cresson's unpopularity forced Mitterrand to replace Cresson with a more well-liked Socialist, Pierre Bérégovoy, who eventually was embroiled in a scandal and committed suicide. Mitterrand did succeed in helping to draft the Maastricht Treaty and, after winning a slim victory in a referendum, confirming close economic and security ties between France and the European Union (EU).
On his third try Chirac won the presidency in May 1995, campaigning vigorously on a platform to reduce unemployment. Elections for the national assembly in 1997 gave the Socialist coalition a majority. Shortly after becoming president, Chirac resumed France's nuclear testing in the South Pacific, despite widespread international protests as well as rioting in the countries affected by it. Socialist leader Lionel Jospin became prime minister in 1997. In the spring of 1999, the country took part in the NATO air strikes in Kosovo, despite some internal opposition.
Archeological excavations indicate that France has been continuously settled since Paleolithic times. The Celts, who were later called Gauls by the Romans, migrated from the Rhine valley into what is now France. In about 600 B.C. Greeks and Phoenicians established settlements along the Mediterranean, most notably at Marseille. Julius Caesar conquered part of Gaul in 57–52 B.C., and it remained Roman until Franks invaded in the 5th century A.D.
The Treaty of Verdun (843) divided the territories corresponding roughly to France, Germany, and Italy among the three grandsons of Charlemagne. Charles the Bald inherited Francia Occidentalis, which became an increasingly feudalized kingdom. By 987, the crown passed to Hugh Capet, a princeling who controlled only the Ile-de-France, the region surrounding Paris. For 350 years, an unbroken Capetian line added to its domain and consolidated royal authority until the accession in 1328 of Philip VI, first of the Valois line. France was then the most powerful nation in Europe, with a population of 15 million.
The missing pieces in Philip Valois's domain were the French provinces still held by the Plantagenet kings of England, who also claimed the French crown. Beginning in 1338, the Hundred Years' War eventually settled the contest. After France's victory in the final battle, Castillon (1453), the Valois were the ruling family, and the English had no French possessions left except Calais. Once Burgundy and Brittany were added, the Valois dynasty's holdings resembled modern France. Protestantism spread throughout France in the 16th century and led to civil wars. Henry IV, of the Bourbon dynasty, issued the Edict of Nantes (1598), granting religious tolerance to the Huguenots (French Protestants). Absolute monarchy reached its apogee in the reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715), the Sun King, whose brilliant court was the center of the Western world.
After a series of costly foreign wars that weakened the government, the French Revolution plunged France into a bloodbath beginning in 1789 with the establishment of the First Republic and ending with a new authoritarianism under Napoléon Bonaparte, who had successfully defended the infant republic from foreign attack and then made himself first consul in 1799 and emperor in 1804. The Congress of Vienna (1815) sought to restore the pre-Napoléonic order in the person of Louis XVIII, but industrialization and the middle class, both fostered under Napoléon, built pressure for change, and a revolution in 1848 drove Louis Philippe, last of the Bourbons, into exile. Prince Louis Napoléon, a nephew of Napoléon I, declared the Second Empire in 1852 and took the throne as Napoléon III. His opposition to the rising power of Prussia ignited the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), which ended in his defeat, his abdication, and the creation of the Third Republic.