Government of France
Overview
For a history of how the current constitution was enacted, see French Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

.


The government of the French Republic is a semi-presidential system
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 determined by the French Constitution
Constitution of France
The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth...

 of the fifth Republic. The nation declares itself to be an "indivisible, secular
Laïcité
French secularism, in French, laïcité is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of...

, democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, and social
Social
The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

 Republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

". The constitution provides for a separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

 and proclaims France's "attachment to the Rights of Man
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 and the principles of national sovereignty
National sovereignty
National sovereignty is the doctrine that sovereignty belongs to and derives from the nation, an abstract entity normally linked to a physical territory and its past, present, and future citizens. It is an ideological concept or doctrine derived from liberal political theory...

 as define aliens by the Declaration of 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

."

The national government of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , 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. Metropolitan France...

 is divided into an executive, a legislative and a judicial branch
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

.
Encyclopedia
For a history of how the current constitution was enacted, see French Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

.


The government of the French Republic is a semi-presidential system
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 determined by the French Constitution
Constitution of France
The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth...

 of the fifth Republic. The nation declares itself to be an "indivisible, secular
Laïcité
French secularism, in French, laïcité is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of...

, democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, and social
Social
The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

 Republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

". The constitution provides for a separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

 and proclaims France's "attachment to the Rights of Man
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 and the principles of national sovereignty
National sovereignty
National sovereignty is the doctrine that sovereignty belongs to and derives from the nation, an abstract entity normally linked to a physical territory and its past, present, and future citizens. It is an ideological concept or doctrine derived from liberal political theory...

 as define aliens by the Declaration of 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

."

The national government of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , 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. Metropolitan France...

 is divided into an executive, a legislative and a judicial branch
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

. The President shares executive power with his or her appointee, the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of France
The Prime Minister of France in the Fifth Republic is the head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France. The head of state is the President of the French Republic...

. The cabinet globally, including the Prime Minister, can be revoked by the National Assembly
French National Assembly
The French National Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The upper house is the Senate ....

, the lower house of Parliament, through a "censure motion"; this ensures that the Prime Minister is always supported by a majority of the houses.

Parliament comprises the National Assembly
French National Assembly
The French National Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The upper house is the Senate ....

 and the Senate
French Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the Parliament of France, presided over by a president.The Senate enjoys less prominence than the lower house, the directly elected National Assembly; debates in the Senate tend to be less tense and generally enjoy less media coverage.-History:France's first...

. It passes statutes and votes on the budget; it controls the action of the executive through formal questioning on the floor of the houses of Parliament and by establishing commissions of enquiry. The constitutionality of the statutes is checked by the Constitutional Council
Constitutional Council of France
The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958, and its duty is to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld.Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed...

, members of which are appointed by the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, and the President of the Senate. Former Presidents of the Republic also are members of the Council.

The independent judiciary is based on a civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 system which evolved from the Napoleonic code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

s. It is divided into the judicial branch (dealing with civil law and criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

) and the administrative branch (dealing with appeals against executive decisions), each with their own independent supreme court of appeal: the Court of Cassation
Court of Cassation (France)
The French Supreme Court of Judicature is France's court of last resort having jurisdiction over all matters triable in the judicial stream but only scope of review to determine a miscarriage of justice or certify a question of law based solely on points of law...

 for the judicial courts and the Conseil d'Etat for the administrative courts. The French government includes various bodies that check abuses of power and independent agencies.

France is a unitary state
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

. However, the administrative subdivisions—the régions
Régions of France
France is divided into 27 administrative regions , 22 of which are in Metropolitan France, and five of which are overseas. Corsica is a territorial collectivity , but is considered a region in mainstream usage, and is even shown as such on the INSEE website...

, départements and communes
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

—have various legal functions, and the national government is prohibited from intruding into their normal operations.

France was a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community
European Coal and Steel Community
The European Coal and Steel Community was a six-nation international organisation serving to unify Western Europe during the Cold War and create the foundation for the modern-day developments of the European Union...

, later the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

. As such, France has transferred part of its sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 to European institutions, as provided by its constitution. The French government therefore has to abide by European treaties
Treaties of the European Union
The Treaties of the European Union are a set of international treaties between the European Union member states which sets out the EU's constitutional basis. They establish the various EU institutions together with their remit, procedures and objectives...

, directives and regulations.

Constitution

A popular referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 approved the constitution of the French Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

 in 1958, greatly strengthening the authority of the presidency and the executive with respect to Parliament.

The constitution does contain a bill of rights
Bill of rights
A bill of rights is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement. The term "bill of rights" originates from England, where it referred to the Bill of Rights 1689. Bills of rights may be entrenched or...

 in itself, but its preamble mentions that France should follow the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

, as well as those of the preamble to the constitution of the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

. This has been judged to imply that the principles laid forth in those texts have constitutional value, and that legislation infringing on those principles should be found unconstitutional if a recourse is filed before the Constitutional Council
Constitutional Council of France
The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958, and its duty is to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld.Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed...

. Also, recent modifications of the Constitution has added a reference in the preamble to an Environment charter that has full constitutional value, and a right for citizens to contest the constitutionality of a statute before the Constitutional Council.

The foundational principles of the constitution include: the equality
Social equality
Social equality is a social state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in a certain respect. At the very least, social equality includes equal rights under the law, such as security, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and the...

 of all citizens before law, and the rejection of special class privileges
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 such as those that existed prior to the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

; presumption of innocence
Presumption of innocence
The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, is the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. Application of this principle is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognised in many...

; freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

; freedom of opinion including freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

; the guarantee of property against arbitrary seizure; the accountability of government agents to the citizenry.

Executive branch

France has a semi-presidential system
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 of government. This means that the presidential candidate is required to obtain a nationwide majority of non-blank votes at either the first or second round of balloting, which implies that the president is somewhat supported by at least half of the voting population.

As a consequence, the President is the pre-eminent figure in French politics. He appoints the Prime Minister; though he may not de jure dismiss him, if the Prime Minister is from the same political side, he can, in practice, have him resign on demand (and it is known that Prime Ministers are asked to sign a non-dated dismissal letter before being nominated). He appoints the ministers, ministers-delegate and secretaries. When the President's political party or supporters control parliament, the President is the dominant player in executive action, choosing whomever he wishes for the government, and having it follow his political agenda (parliamentary disagreements do occur, though, even within the same party).

However, when the President's political opponents control parliament, the President's dominance can be severely limited, as he must choose a Prime Minister and cabinet who reflect the majority in parliament, and who will implement the agenda of the parliamentary majority. When parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum control parliament and the presidency, the power-sharing arrangement is known as cohabitation
Cohabitation (government)
Cohabitation in government occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France's system, when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament. It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier that will be acceptable to the...

. Before 2002, Cohabitation was more common, because the term of the President was seven years and the term of the National Assembly was five years. Now that the term of the President has been shortened to five years, and that the elections are separated by only a few months, this is less likely to happen.

Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

 became President on May 16, 2007, succeeding Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac
Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

.

Government

The government is headed by the President. It has at its disposal the civil service
French Civil Service
The French Civil Service is the set of civil servants working for the French government.Not all employees of the state and public institutions or corporations are civil servants; however, the media often incorrectly equate "government employee" or "employee of a public corporation" with...

, the government agencies, and the armed forces
Military of France
The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

. (The term "cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

" is rarely used to describe the gouvernement, even in translation, as it is used in French to mean a minister's private office, composed of politically-appointed aides. In French, the word gouvernement can refer to government in general, but generally refers to the group of ministers.)

The government is responsible to Parliament, and the National Assembly may pass a motion of censure, forcing the resignation of the cabinet. This, in practice, forces the government to be from the same political party or coalition as the majority in the Assembly. Ministers have to answer questions from members of Parliament, both written and oral; this is known as the questions au gouvernement (questions to the government). In addition, ministers attend meetings of the houses of Parliament when laws pertaining to their areas of responsibility are being discussed.

Government ministers
French government ministers
The Cabinet of France is a body of top administration members of the Prime Minister's Cabinet. In French, the word gouvernement generally refers to the "Administration", but in a narrower sense to the Cabinet.The Council is responsible to the French National Assembly...

 cannot pass legislation without parliamentary approval, though the Prime Minister may issue autonomous regulations or subordinated regulations (décrets d'application) provided they do not infringe on the Parliament domain, as detailed in the constitution. Ministers, however, can propose legislation to Parliament; since the Assembly is usually politically allied to the ministers, such legislation is, in general, very likely to pass. However, this is not guaranteed, and, on occasion, the opinion of the majority parliamentarians may differ significantly from those of the executive, which often results in a large number of amendments.

The Prime Minister can engage the responsibility of his government on a law, under article 49-3 of the Constitution. The law is then considered adopted unless the National Assembly votes a motion of censure, in which case the law is refused and the government has to resign. As of 2006, the last time this article was invoked was for the "First Employment Contract
First Employment Contract
The contrat première embauche was a new form of employment contract pushed in spring 2006 in France by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin...

" proposed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a move that greatly backfired.

Traditionally, the government comprises members of three ranks. Ministers are the most senior members of the government; deputy ministers (ministres délégués) assist ministers in particular areas of their portfolio; ministers of state (secrétaires d'État) assist ministers in less important areas, and attend government meetings only occasionally. Before the Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

, some ministers of particular political importance were called "secretaries of state" (ministres d'État); the practice has continued under the Fifth Republic in a purely honorific fashion: ministers styled Secretary of State are supposed to be of a higher importance in the gouvernement.

The number of ministries and the division of responsibilities and administrations between them varies from government to government. While the name and exact responsibility of each ministry may change, one generally finds at least:
  • Ministry for the Economy, Industry and Employment (taxes, budget),
  • Ministry of the Interior (law enforcement, relationships with local governments),
  • Ministry of Justice and Keeper of the Seals (prisons, running the court system, supervision of the prosecution service)
  • Ministry of National Education,
  • Ministry of Defence,
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
  • Ministry of Transportation.


(For more on French ministries, see French government ministers
French government ministers
The Cabinet of France is a body of top administration members of the Prime Minister's Cabinet. In French, the word gouvernement generally refers to the "Administration", but in a narrower sense to the Cabinet.The Council is responsible to the French National Assembly...

)

The government has a leading role in shaping the agenda of the houses of Parliament. It may propose laws to Parliament, as well as amendments during parliamentary meetings. It may make use of some procedures to speed up parliamentary deliberations.

The cabinet has weekly meetings (usually on Wednesday mornings), chaired by the President, at the Élysée Palace
Élysée Palace
The Élysée Palace is the official residence of the President of the French Republic, containing his office, and is where the Council of Ministers meets. It is located near the Champs-Élysées in Paris....

.

Following the election of Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

 as President of the French Republic
President of the French Republic
The President of the French Republic colloquially referred to in English as the President of France, is France's elected Head of State....

, François Fillon
François Fillon
François Charles Armand Fillon is the Prime Minister of France. He was appointed to that office by President Nicolas Sarkozy on 17 May 2007. He served initially until 13 November 2010 when he resigned from being prime minister before a planned cabinet reshuffle.On 14 November 2010, Sarkozy...

 replaced Dominique de Villepin
Dominique de Villepin
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin is a French politician who served as the Prime Minister of France from 31 May 2005 to 17 May 2007....

 as the French Prime Minister on 17 May 2007.

Statutory instruments and delegated legislation

The French executive has a limited power to establish regulation or legislation. (See below for how such regulations or legislative items interact with statute law.)

Decrees and other executive decisions

Only the President and Prime Minister sign decree
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

s (décrets), which are akin to US executive orders. Decrees can only be taken following certain procedures and with due respect to the constitution and statute law.
  • The President signs decrees appointing and dismissing most senior civil and military servants, for positions listed in the Constitution or in statutes. He also signs decrees establishing some regulations (décrets en conseil des ministres). All such decrees must be countersigned by the Prime Minister and the ministers concerned.
  • The Prime Minister signs decrees establishing regulation
    Regulation
    Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

    s, which the concerned ministers countersign. In some areas, they constitute primary legislation
    Primary legislation
    Primary legislation is law made by the legislative branch of government. This contrasts with secondary legislation, which is usually made by the executive branch...

    , in some others they must be subordinate to an existing statute
    Statute
    A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

    . In some cases, statutes impose a compulsory advisory review by the Conseil d'État (décrets en Conseil d'État), as opposed to décrets simples.


The individual ministers issue ministerial orders (arrêtés) in their fields of competence, subordinate to statutes and decrees.

Contrary to a sometimes used polemical cliché
Cliché
A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

, that dates from the third republic, with its decrees-law (décrets-lois), neither the president nor the prime minister may rule by decree
Rule by decree
Rule by decree is a style of governance allowing quick, unchallenged creation of law by a single person or group, and is used primarily by dictators and absolute monarchs, although philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben have argued that it has been generalized since World War I in all modern states,...

 (outside of the narrow case of presidential emergency powers).

Ordinances



The executive cannot issue decrees in areas that the Constitution puts under the responsibility of legislation, issued by Parliament. Still, Parliament may, through a habilitation law, authorize the executive to issue ordinances
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

 (ordonnances), with legislative value, in precisely defined areas. Habilitation laws specify the scope of the ordinance. After the ordinance is issued, Parliament is asked whether it wants to ratify it. If Parliament votes no to ratification, the ordinance is cancelled. Most of the time, ratification is made implicitly or explicitly through a Parliament act that deals with the subject concerned, rather than by the ratification act itself.

The use of ordinances is normally reserved for urgent matters, or for technical, uncontroversial texts (such as the ordinances that converted all sums in French Franc
French franc
The franc was a currency of France. Along with the Spanish peseta, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra . Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money...

s to Euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

s in the various laws in force in France). There is also a practice to use ordinances
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

 to transpose European Directives into French law, to avoid late transposition of Directive, which is often happening and is criticized by the EU Commission. Ordinances are also used to codify law into codes, to rearrange them for the sake of clarity without substantially modifying them. They are also sometimes used to push controversial legislation through, such as when Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin
Dominique de Villepin
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin is a French politician who served as the Prime Minister of France from 31 May 2005 to 17 May 2007....

 created new forms of work contracts in 2005. The use of ordinances in such contexts is then criticized by the opposition as anti-democratic, and demeaning to Parliament. It must be said, however, that since the National Assembly can dismiss the government through a motion of censure, the government necessarily relies on a majority in Parliament, and this majority would be likely to adopt the controversial law anyway.

Internal limits of the executive branch; checks and balances

The general rule is that government agencies and the civil service are at the disposal of the gouvernement, or cabinet. However, various agencies are independent agencies (autorités administratives indépendantes) that have been statutorily excluded from the executive's authority, although they belong in the executive branch.

These independent agencies have some specialized regulatory power, some executive power, and some quasi-judicial
Quasi-judicial body
A quasi-judicial body is an individual or organization which has powers resembling those of a court of law or judge and is able to remedy a situation or impose legal penalties on a person or organization.-Powers:...

 power. They are also often consulted by the government or the French Parliament seeking advice before regulating by law. They can impose sanctions that are named "administrative sanctions" sanctions administratives. However, their decisions can still be contested face to a judicial court or an administrative court.

Some examples of independent agencies:
  • The Banque de France
    Banque de France
    The Banque de France is the central bank of France; it is linked to the European Central Bank . Its main charge is to implement the interest rate policy of the European System of Central Banks...

    , the central bank, is independent (financial and economic code, L141 and following). This was a prerequisite for integrating the European System of Central Banks
    European System of Central Banks
    The European System of Central Banks is composed of the European Central Bank and the national central banks of all 27 European Union Member States.-Functions:...

    .
  • The Electronic Communications & Posts Regulation Authority (Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (ARCEP)), which was previously named Telecommunication Regulation Authority (Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART)), is an independent administrative authority for the open markets of telecommunications and postal services.
  • The Energy Regulation Commission (Commission de régulation de l'énergie (CRE)) is an independent administrative authority for the open markets of gas and electricity.
  • The Financial Markets Authority (Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF)) regulates securities markets.
  • The Higher Council of the Audiovisual (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA)) supervises the granting and withdrawing of emission frequencies for radio
    Radio
    Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

     and TV
    Television
    Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

    , as well as public broadcasting
    Public broadcasting
    Public broadcasting includes radio, television and other electronic media outlets whose primary mission is public service. Public broadcasters receive funding from diverse sources including license fees, individual contributions, public financing and commercial financing.Public broadcasting may be...

    .
  • The National Commission on Campaign Accounts and Political Financing ( Commission Nationale des Comptes de Campagne et des Financements Politiques) regulates the financing and spending of political parties and political campaign.


Public media corporations should not be influenced in their news reporting by the executive in power, since they have the duty to supply the public with unbiased information. For instance, the Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse is a French news agency, the oldest one in the world, and one of the three largest with Associated Press and Reuters. It is also the largest French news agency. Currently, its CEO is Emmanuel Hoog and its news director Philippe Massonnet...

 (AFP) is an independent public corporation. Its resources must come solely from its commercial sales. The majority of the seats in its board are held by representatives of the French press
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

.

The government also provides for watchdogs over its own activities; these independent administrative authorities are headed by a commission typically composed of senior lawyers or members of the Parliament. Each of the two chambers of the Parliament often has its own commission, but sometimes they collaborate to create a single Commission nationale mixte paritaire. For example:
  • The National Commission for Computing & Freedom (Commission nationale informatique et libertés (CNIL)); public services must request authorization from it before establishing a file with personal information, and they must heed its recommendations; private bodies must only declare their files; citizens have recourse before the commission against abuses.
  • The National Commission for the Control of Security Interceptions (Commission nationale de contrôle des interceptions de sécurité (CNCIS)); the executive, in a limited number of circumstances concerning national security, may request an authorization from the commission for wiretaps (in other circumstances, wiretaps may only be authorized within a judicially-administered criminal investigation).


In addition, the duties of public service limit the power that the executive has over the French Civil Service
French Civil Service
The French Civil Service is the set of civil servants working for the French government.Not all employees of the state and public institutions or corporations are civil servants; however, the media often incorrectly equate "government employee" or "employee of a public corporation" with...

. For instance, appointments, except for the highest positions (the national directors of agencies and administrations), must be made solely on merit or time in office, typically in competitive exams. Certain civil servants have statuses that prohibit executive interference; for instance, judge
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

s and prosecutor
Prosecutor
The prosecutor is the chief legal representative of the prosecution in countries with either the common law adversarial system, or the civil law inquisitorial system...

s may be named or moved only according to specific procedures. Public researchers and university professors enjoy academic freedom
Academic freedom
Academic freedom is the belief that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.Academic freedom is a...

; by law, they enjoy complete freedom of speech within the ordinary constraints of academia.

Some important directorates and establishments

The government also provides specialized agencies for regulating critical markets or limited resources, and markets created by regulations. Although, as part of the administration, they are subordinate to the ministers, they often act with high independence.
  • The General Directorate of Competition, Consumption & Repression of Frauds ( Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF)) regulates and controls the legality and safety of products and services available on the markets open to competition for all economical actors and private consumers, and can deliver administrative sanctions in case of abuses.
  • The General Directorate of Civil Aviation (Direction générale de l'aviation civile (DGAC)) regulates the traffic in the national air space and delivers the authorizations for airways companies and other private or public organizations and people.
  • The National Agency for Employment (Agence nationale pour l'emploi (ANPE)) maintained a public registry for the allocation of social benefits to unemployed people (but now a single registry is shared with the independent ASSEDIC paying them, a joint association of employers and workers unions), assists them as well as employers seeking people, and controls them. The French State names its general director and the Parliament provides for its finances and personnel, but it only owns one third of the seats at its decision board of directors (the other seats are shared equally by unions of employers and workers).
  • The National Agency of Frequencies (Agence nationale des fréquences (ANFR)), a public establishment of an administrative character, regulates and maintains the allocation of spectral radio frequencies resources along with other international frequencies regulators and national regulators (the CSA and ARCEP) or public ministries, controls the operators on the national territory, and publishes compliance standards for manufacturers of radioelectric equipment.

Organization of government services

Each ministry has a central administration (administration centrale), generally divided into directorates. These directorates are usually subdivided into divisions or sub-directorates. Each direction is headed by a director, named by the President in Council. The central administration largely stays the same regardless of the political tendency of the executive in power.

In addition, each minister has a private office, which is composed of members whose nomination is politically determined, called the cabinet. They are quite important and employ numbers of highly qualified staff to follow all the administrative and political affairs. They are powerful, and have been sometimes considered as a parallel administration, especially, but not only, in all matters that are politically sensitive. Each cabinet is led by a chief of staff named directeur de cabinet.

The state also has distributive services spread throughout French territory, often reflecting divisions into régions or départements. The prefect
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

, the representative of the national government in each région or département, supervises the activities of the distributive services in his or her jurisdiction. Generally, the services of a certain administration in a région or département are managed by a high-level civil servant, often called director, but not always; for instance, the services of the Trésor public
Trésor public
The Trésor public is the national administration of the Treasury in France. It is headed by the general direction of public accountancy in the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry....

(Treasury) in each département are headed by a treasurer-paymaster general, appointed by the President of the Republic. In the last several decades, the departmental conseil général (see "Local Government" below) has taken on new responsibilities and plays an important role in administrating government services at the local level.

The government also maintains public establishments. These have a relative administrative and financial autonomy, to accomplish a defined mission. They are attached to one or more supervising authorities. These are classified into several categories:
  • public establishments of an administrative character, including, for instance:
    • universities, and most public establishments of higher education;
    • establishments of a research and technical character, such as CNRS or INRIA;
  • public establishments of an industrial and commercial character, including, for instance, CEA
    Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique
    The Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives or CEA, is a French “public establishment related to industrial and commercial activities” whose mission is to develop all applications of nuclear power, both civilian and military...

     and Ifremer
    Ifremer
    Ifremer, standing for French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea is an oceanographic institution in France.- Scope of works :...

    .

One essential difference is that in administrations and public establishments of an administrative character operate under public law, while establishments of an industrial and commercial character operate mostly under private law. A consequence is that in the former, permanent personnel are civil servants, while normally in the latter, they are contract employees.

In addition, the government still owns and controls all, or the majority, of shares of some companies, like Electricité de France
Électricité de France
Électricité de France S.A. is the second largest French utility company. Headquartered in Paris, France, with €65.2 billion in revenues in 2010, EDF operates a diverse portfolio of 120,000+ megawatts of generation capacity in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.EDF is one of...

, SNCF
SNCF
The SNCF , is France's national state-owned railway company. SNCF operates the country's national rail services, including the TGV, France's high-speed rail network...

or Areva
Areva
AREVA is a French public multinational industrial conglomerate headquartered in the Tour Areva in Courbevoie, Paris. AREVA is mainly known for nuclear power; it also has interests in other energy projects. It was created on 3 September 2001, by the merger of Framatome , Cogema and...

.

Social security
Social security
Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others. Social security may refer to:...

 organizations, though established by statute and controlled and supervised by the state, are not operated nor directly controlled by the national government. Instead, they are managed by the "social partners" (partenaires sociaux) – unions of employers such as the MEDEF and unions of employees. Their budget is separate from the national budget.

Legislative branch

The Parliament of France, making up the legislative branch, consists of two houses: the National Assembly and the Senate; the Assembly is the pre-eminent body.

Parliament meets for one nine-month session each year: under special circumstances the president can call an additional session. Although parliamentary powers have diminished from those existing under the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

, the National Assembly can still cause a government to fall if an absolute majority of the total Assembly membership votes to censure. It has never happened since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

The cabinet has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament. The government also can link its term to a legislative text which it proposes, and unless a motion of censure is introduced (within 24 hours after the proposal) and passed (within 48 hours of introduction - thus full procedures last at most 72 hours), the text is considered adopted without a vote.

Members of Parliament enjoy parliamentary immunity
Parliamentary immunity
Parliamentary immunity, also known as legislative immunity, is a system in which members of the parliament or legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution. Before prosecuting, it is necessary that the immunity be removed, usually by a superior court of justice or by the parliament itself...

. Both assemblies have committees that write reports on a variety of topics. If necessary, they can establish parliamentary enquiry commissions with broad investigative power.

National Assembly

The National Assembly is the principal legislative body. Its 577 deputies are directly elected for five-year terms in local majority votes, and all seats are voted on in each election.

The National Assembly may force the resignation of the executive cabinet by voting a motion of censure. For this reason, the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 and his cabinet are necessarily from the dominant party or coalition in the assembly. In the case of a president and assembly from opposing parties, this leads to the situation known as cohabitation
Cohabitation (government)
Cohabitation in government occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France's system, when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament. It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier that will be acceptable to the...

. While motions of censure are periodically proposed by the opposition following government actions that it deems highly inappropriate, they are purely rhetorical; party discipline ensures that, throughout a parliamentary term, the government is never overthrown by the Assembly.

Senate

Senators are chosen by an electoral college of about 145,000 local elected officials for five-year terms, and one third of the Senate is renewed every three years. Before the law of 30 July 2004, senators were elected for nine years, renewed by thirds every three years. There are currently 321 senators, but there will be 346 in 2010; 304 represent the metropolitan and overseas départements, five the other dependencies and 12 the French established abroad.

The Senate's legislative powers are limited; on most matters of legislation, the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses.

Since the beginning of the Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

, the Senate has always had a right-wing majority. This is mostly due to the over-representation of small villages compared to big cities. This, and the indirect mode of election, prompted socialist Lionel Jospin
Lionel Jospin
Lionel Jospin is a French politician, who served as Prime Minister of France from 1997 to 2002.Jospin was the Socialist Party candidate for President of France in the elections of 1995 and 2002. He was narrowly defeated in the final runoff election by Jacques Chirac in 1995...

, who was prime minister at the time, to declare the Senate an "anomaly".

Legislation adoption procedures

Statute legislation may be proposed by the government (council of ministers), or by members of Parliament. In the first case, it is a projet de loi; in the latter case, a proposition de loi.

All projets de loi must undergo compulsory advisory review by the Conseil d'État before being submitted to parliament. Since 2009, the bill submitted to Parliament must also come with a study of the possible impact of the law: other possible options, interactions with European law, economical, social, financial and environmental consequences.

Propositions de loi cannot increase the financial load of the state without providing for funding.

Projets de loi start in the house of the government's choice (except in some narrow cases). Propositions de loi start in the house where they originated. After the house has amended and voted on the text, it is sent to the other house, which can also amend it. If the houses do not choose to adopt the text in identical terms, it is sent before a commission made of equal numbers of members of both houses, which tries to harmonize the text. If it does not manage to do so, the National Assembly can vote the text and have the final say on it (except for laws related to the organization of the Senate).

The law is then sent to the President of France for signature. At this point, the President of France, the speaker of either house or a delegation of 60 deputies or 60 senators can ask for the text to undergo constitutional review before being put into force; it is then sent before the Constitutional Council
Constitutional Council of France
The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958, and its duty is to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld.Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed...

. The President can also, only once per law and with the countersigning of the Prime minister, send the law back to parliament for another review. Otherwise, the President must sign the law. After being countersigned by the Prime minister and the concerned ministers, it is then sent to the Journal Officiel
Journal Officiel de la République Française
The Journal Officiel de la République Française is the official gazette of the French Republic. It publishes the major legal official information from the national Government of France.-Publications:...

for publication.

Budget

Financing Acts (lois de finances) and the Social Security Financing Acts (lois de financement de la sécurité sociale) are special Acts of Parliament voted and approved through specific procedures.

Because of the importance of allowing government and social security organizations to proceed with the payment of their suppliers, employees, and recipients, without risk of a being stopped by parliamentary discord, these bills are specially constrained. In the past, parliamentarians would often add unrelated amendments (cavaliers budgétaires) to the finance bills, to get such amendments passed – because of the reduced time in which the budget is examined. However, these are nowadays considered unconstitutional. If Parliament cannot agree on a budget within some specified reasonable bounds, the government is entitled to adopt a budget through ordinances
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

: this threat prevents parliamentarians from threatening to bankrupt the executive.

The way the Finance Bill is organized, and the way the government has to execute the budget, were deeply reformed in 2001 by the Loi organique n°2001-692 du 1er août 2001 relative aux lois de finances, generally known as the LOLF. Because of the major changes involved, the application of the law was gradual, and the first budget to be fully passed under LOLF will be the 2006 budget, passed in late 2005.

The LOLF divides expenses according to identifiable "missions" (which can be subdivided into sub-missions etc.). The performance of the administration and public bodies will be evaluated with respect to these missions.

The budget of the national government was forecast to be 288.8 billion Euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 in 2005. This includes neither Social Security, nor the budgets of local governments.

Multiple offices

See cumul des mandats
Cumul des mandats
The cumul des mandats , is a political practice that has evidenced itself in modern French politics. It consists of holding several political offices at multiple levels of government...


It has long been customary for Parliament members to hold, in addition to the office of deputy or senator, another local office such as city mayor, hence titles like "Deputy and Mayor" (député-maire) and "Senator and Mayor" (sénateur-maire). This is known as the cumul of electoral offices. Proponents of the cumul allege that having local responsibilities ensures that members of parliament stay in contact with the reality of their constituency; also, they are said to be able to defend the interest of their city etc. better by having a seat in parliament.

In recent years, the cumul has been increasingly criticized. Critics contend that lawmakers that also have some local mandate cannot be assiduous to both tasks; for instance, they may neglect their duties to attend parliamentary sittings and commission in order to attend to tasks in their constituency. The premise that holders of dual office can defend the interest of their city etc. in the National Parliament is criticized in that national lawmakers should have the national interest in their mind, not the advancement of the projects of the particular city they are from. Finally, this criticism is part of a wider criticism of the political class as a cozy, closed world in which the same people make a long career from multiple positions.

As a consequence, laws that restrict the possibilities of having multiple mandates have been enacted.

Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council is a consultative assembly. It does not play a role in the adoption of statutes and regulations, but advises the lawmaking bodies on questions of social and economic policies.

The executive may refer any question or proposal of social or economic importance to the Economic and Social Council.

The Economic and Social Council publishes reports, which are sent to the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of France
The Prime Minister of France in the Fifth Republic is the head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France. The head of state is the President of the French Republic...

, the National Assembly
French National Assembly
The French National Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The upper house is the Senate ....

, and the Senate
French Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the Parliament of France, presided over by a president.The Senate enjoys less prominence than the lower house, the directly elected National Assembly; debates in the Senate tend to be less tense and generally enjoy less media coverage.-History:France's first...

. They are published in the Journal Official.

Judicial Branch

French law provides for a separate judicial branch with an independent judiciary which does not answer to or is directly controlled by the other two branches of government. France has a civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 legal system, the basis of which is codified law; however, case law plays a significant role in the determination of the courts. The most distinctive feature of the French judicial system is that it is divided into judicial and administrative streams.

Judicial courts

The judicial stream of courts adjudicates civil and criminal cases. The judicial court stream consists of inferior courts, intermediate appellate courts, and the French Supreme Court.

Judges are government employees but are granted special statutory protection from the executive. Judges have security of tenure and may not be promoted (or demoted) without their consent. Their careers are overseen by the Judicial Council of France.

The public prosecutors, on the other hand, take orders from the Minister of Justice. In the past, this has bred suspiscion of undue political pressure to dismiss suits or claims against government officials charged with corruption, and the status of public prosecutors and their ties to government are frequently topics of debate.

Trial by jury
Jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 is available only for severe criminal cases,which are the jurisdiction of the Courts of Assizes. A full Court is made up of a 3-judge panel and a petty jury of 9 jurors (vs. 12 jurors on appeal), who, together, render verdicts, and if a conviction is handed down, also determine a sentence. Jurors are selected at random from eligible voters.

In most other courts, judges are professional, except that the criminal court for minors is composed of one professional and two lay judges. Also, several specialty courts of original jurisdiction are sat by judges who are elected into office. For instance, labor tribunals are staffed with an equal number of magistrates from employers' unions and employees' unions. The same applies to land estate tribunals.

Pre-trial proceedings are inquisitorial by nature, but open court proceedings are adversarial. The burden of proof in criminal proceedings is on the prosecution, and the accused is constitutionally presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Administrative courts

Courts of administrative law adjudicate on claims and suits against government offices and agencies. The administrative stream is made up of administrative courts, courts of administrative appeal, and the Council of State as the court of last resort.

The Council of State hears cases against executive branch decisions and has the power to quash or set aside executive-issued statutory instruments such as orders and regulations when they violate constitutional law, enacted legislation, or codified law.

Court proceedings mostly involve written hearings and are inquisitorial, with judges having the parties submit written testimony or arguments.

Any jurisdictional dispute between the judicial and administrative streams are settled by a special court called Tribunal des conflits, or "Court of Jurisdictional Dispute", composed of an equal number of Supreme Court justices and councillors of State.

Constitutional Council

Neither judicial nor administrative courts are empowered to rule on the constitutionality
Constitutionality
Constitutionality is the condition of acting in accordance with an applicable constitution. Acts that are not in accordance with the rules laid down in the constitution are deemed to be ultra vires.-See also:*ultra vires*Company law*Constitutional law...

 of acts of Parliament. While technically not part of the judicial branch, the Constitutional Council examines legislation and decides whether or not it violates the Constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

. This applies, prior to their enactment, to all forms of organic laws, but only by referral from the French President, President of the Senate
French Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the Parliament of France, presided over by a president.The Senate enjoys less prominence than the lower house, the directly elected National Assembly; debates in the Senate tend to be less tense and generally enjoy less media coverage.-History:France's first...

, President of the National Assembly
French National Assembly
The French National Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The upper house is the Senate ....

, the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of France
The Prime Minister of France in the Fifth Republic is the head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France. The head of state is the President of the French Republic...

, or any of the 60 senators or 60 assembly members of the other types of laws or treaties. After their enactment, laws can all be reviewed by referral from the highest administrative court, the Conseil d'Etat, or by the highest judicial court, the Cour de Cassation. The Constitutional Council may declare acts to be unconstitutional, even if they contradict the principles of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

 (cited in the Preamble of the Constitution).

Council members to the Constitutional Council are appointed for nine years (three every three years); three are appointed by the President, three by the President of the National Assembly, and three by the President of the Senate.

Financial courts

France's main Court of Audit (Cour des Comptes
Cour des Comptes
The Court of Audit is a quasi-judicial body of the French government charged with conducting financial and legislative audits of most public institutions and some private institutions, including the central Government, national public corporations, social security agencies , and public services...

) and regional audit courts audit government finances, public institutions (including other courts), and public entities. The court publishes an annual report and can refer criminal matters to public prosecutors. It can also directly fine public accountants for mishandling funds, and refer civil servants who misused funds to the Court of Financial and Budgetary Discipline.

The main and regional audit courts do not judge the accountants of private organizations. However, in some circumstances, they may audit their accounting, especially when an organization has been awarded a government contract over a public utility or a service requiring the permanent use of the public domain or if an organization is a bidder on a government contract. The Court is often solicitated by various state agencies, parlementary commissions, and public regulators, but it can also petitioned to act by any French citizen or organization operating in France.

The Court's finances are overseen by financial commissions of the two Houses of the French Parliament which also set the Court's working budget in the annual Act of finances.

Ombudsman

In 1973 the position of médiateur de la République (the Republic's ombudsman
Ombudsman
An ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests...

) was created. The ombudsman is charged with solving, without the need to a recourse before the courts, the disagreements between citizens and the administrations and other entities charged with a mission of a public service; proposing reforms to the Government and the administrations to further these goals; and actively participating in the international promotion of human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

.

The ombudsman is appointed for a period of 6 years by the President of the Republic in the Council of Ministers. He cannot be removed from office and is protected for his official actions by an immunity similar to parliamentary immunity
Parliamentary immunity
Parliamentary immunity, also known as legislative immunity, is a system in which members of the parliament or legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution. Before prosecuting, it is necessary that the immunity be removed, usually by a superior court of justice or by the parliament itself...

. He does not receive or accept orders from any authority. The current ombudsman is Jean-Paul Delevoye
Jean-Paul Delevoye
Jean-Paul Delevoye is a French politician.-Political career:After having worked in the food industry, he began his political career as a village councilman in 1974...

.

Basic principles

France uses a civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 system; that is, law arises primarily from written statutes; judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it (though the amount of judge interpretation in certain areas makes it equivalent to case law
Case law
In law, case law is the set of reported judicial decisions of selected appellate courts and other courts of first instance which make new interpretations of the law and, therefore, can be cited as precedents in a process known as stare decisis...

).

Many fundamental principles of French Law were laid in the Napoleonic Code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

s. Basic principles of the rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

 were laid in the Napoleonic Code: laws can only address the future and not the past (ex post facto laws are prohibited); to be applicable, laws must have been officially published (see Journal Officiel
Journal Officiel de la République Française
The Journal Officiel de la République Française is the official gazette of the French Republic. It publishes the major legal official information from the national Government of France.-Publications:...

).

In agreement with the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

, the general rule is that of freedom, and law should only prohibit actions detrimental to society. As Guy Canivet
Guy Canivet
Guy Canivet is a French judge., he is president of the Court of Cassation and as such is the highest judge in France....

, first president of the Court of Cassation
Court of Cassation (France)
The French Supreme Court of Judicature is France's court of last resort having jurisdiction over all matters triable in the judicial stream but only scope of review to determine a miscarriage of justice or certify a question of law based solely on points of law...

, said about what should be the rule in French law:
Freedom is the rule, and its restriction is the exception; any restriction of Freedom must be provided for by Law and must follow the principles of necessity and proportionality.

That is, law may lay out prohibitions only if they are needed, and if the inconveniences caused by this restriction do not exceed the inconveniences that the prohibition is supposed to remedy.

France does not recognize religious law
Religious law
In some religions, law can be thought of as the ordering principle of reality; knowledge as revealed by a God defining and governing all human affairs. Law, in the religious sense, also includes codes of ethics and morality which are upheld and required by the God...

, nor does it recognize religious beliefs as a motivation for the enactment of prohibitions. As a consequence, France has long had neither blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

 laws nor sodomy law
Sodomy law
A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but are typically understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed unnatural. It also has a range of similar euphemisms...

s (the latter being abolished in 1789).

Statutory law versus executive regulations

French law differentiates between legislative acts (loi), generally passed by the legislative branch, and regulation
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

s (règlement, instituted by décrets
Decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

), issued by the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

. There also exist secondary regulation called arrêtés, issued by ministers, subordinates acting in their names, or local authorities; these may only be taken in areas of competency and within the scope delineated by primary legislation. There are also more and more regulations issued by independent agencies, especially relating to economic matters.

According to the Constitution of France
Constitution of France
The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth...

 (article 34):

Statutes shall concern:
  • Civic rights
    Civil rights
    Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

     and the fundamental guarantees granted to citizens for the exercise of their public liberties; the obligations imposed for the purposes of national defence
    Defense (military)
    Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

     upon citizens in respect of their persons and their property
    Property
    Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

    ;
  • Nationality, the status and legal capacity of persons, matrimonial regimes, inheritance
    Inheritance
    Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

     and gifts;
  • The determination of serious crime
    Crime
    Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

    s and other major offences and the penalties applicable to them; criminal procedure
    Criminal procedure
    Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated criminal law.-Basic rights:Currently, in many countries with a democratic system and the rule of law, criminal procedure puts the burden of proof on the prosecution – that is, it is up to the...

    ; amnesty
    Amnesty
    Amnesty is a legislative or executive act by which a state restores those who may have been guilty of an offense against it to the positions of innocent people, without changing the laws defining the offense. It includes more than pardon, in as much as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the...

    ; the establishment of new classes of court
    Court
    A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

    s and tribunals and the regulations governing the members of the judiciary
    Judiciary
    The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

    ;
  • The base, rates and methods of collection of tax
    Tax
    To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

    es of all types; the issue of currency
    Currency
    In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

    .


Statutes shall likewise determine the rules concerning:
  • The electoral systems of parliamentary assemblies and local assemblies;
  • The creation of categories of public establishments;
  • The fundamental guarantees granted to civil and military personnel employed by the State;
  • The nationalization
    Nationalization
    Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

     of enterprises and transfers of ownership in enterprises from the public to the private sector.


Statutes shall determine the fundamental principles of:
  • The general organization of national defence;
  • The self-government of territorial units, their powers and their resources;
  • Education
    Education
    Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

    ;
  • The regime governing ownership, rights in rem, and civil and commercial obligations;
  • Labour law
    Labour law
    Labour law is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. As such, it mediates many aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees...

    , trade-union
    Trade union
    A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

     law and social security
    Social security
    Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others. Social security may refer to:...

    .


Finance Acts shall determine the resources and obligations of the State in the manner and with the reservations specified in an institutional Act.
Social Security Finance Acts shall determine the general conditions for the financial balance of Social Security and, in light of their revenue forecasts, shall determine expenditure targets in the manner and with the reservations specified in an institutional Act.
Programme Acts shall determine the objectives of the economic and social action of the State.

The provisions of this article may be enlarged upon and complemented by an organic law.

Other areas are matters of regulation
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

. This separation between law and regulation is enforced by the Conseil constitutionnel: the government can, with the agreement of the Conseil constitutionnel, modify by decrees the laws that infringe on the domain of regulations. At the same, the Conseil d'État nullifies decrees that infringe on the domain of the law.

Order of authority for sources of the law

When courts have to deal with incoherent texts, they apply a certain hierarchy: a text higher in the hierarchy will overrule a lower text. The general rule is that the Constitution is superior to laws which are superior to regulations. However, with the intervention of European law and international treaties, and the quasi-case law
Case law
In law, case law is the set of reported judicial decisions of selected appellate courts and other courts of first instance which make new interpretations of the law and, therefore, can be cited as precedents in a process known as stare decisis...

 of the administrative courts, the hierarchy may become somewhat unclear. The following hierarchy of norms should thus be taken with due caution:
  1. French Constitution, including the basic core constitutional values recognized by the laws of the Republic as defined by the Constitutional Council
  2. European Union treaties and regulations
  3. International treaties and agreements
  4. organic laws
  5. ordinary laws
  6. executive orders (advised on by the Council of State)
  7. other executive orders
  8. rules and regulations
    • of multiple ministers
    • of a single minister
    • of local authorities
  9. regulations and decisions by independent agencies.

Local government

Traditionally, decision-making in France used to be highly centralized, with each of France's departments headed by a prefect appointed by the central government, in addition to the conseil général, a locally elected council. However, in 1982, the national government passed legislation to decentralize
Décentralisation
Décentralisation is a french word for both a policy concept in French politics from 1968-1990, and a term employed to describe the results of observations of the evolution of spatial economic and institutional organization of France....

 authority by giving a wide range of administrative and fiscal powers to local elected officials. In March 1986, regional councils were directly elected for the first time, and the process of decentralization has continued, albeit at a slow pace. In March 2003, a constitutional revision has changed very significantly the legal framework towards a more decentralized system and has increased the powers of local governments.

Administrative units with a local government in Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 (that is, the parts of France lying in Europe) consist of:
  • about 36,000 communes, headed by a municipal council and a mayor, grouped in
  • 96 départements, headed by a conseil général (general council) and its president, grouped in
  • 22 régions, headed by a regional council
    Conseil régional
    A Regional Council is the elected assembly of a region of France.-History:Regional councils were created by law on 5 July 1972. Originally they were simply consultative bodies consisting of the region's parliamentary representatives plus an equal number of members nominated by the departments and...

     and its president
    President of the regional council
    In Italy, the President of the Regional Council is the Speaker who heads the consiglio regionale of a regione, a state-level territory....

    .


The conseil général is an institution created in 1790 by the French Revolution in each of the newly created departments (they were suppressed by the Vichy government from 1942 to 1944). A conseiller général (departmental councillor) must be at least 21 years old and either live or pay taxes in locality from which he or she is elected. (Sociologist Jean Viard noted [Le Monde, Feb. 22, 2006] that half of all conseillers généraux were still fils de paysans, i.e. sons of peasants, suggesting France's deep rural roots). Though the central government can theoretically dissolve a conseil général (in case of a dysfunctional conseil), this has happened only once in the Fifth Republic.

The conseil général discusses and passes laws on matters that concern the department; it is administratively responsible for departmental employees and land, manages subsidized housing, public transportation, and school subsidies, and contributes to public facilities. It is not allowed to express "political wishes." The conseil général meets at least three times a year and elects its president for a term of 3 years, who presides over its "permanent commission," usually consisting of 5-10 other departmental councillors elected from among their number. The conseil général has accrued new powers in the course of the political decentralization that has occurred past in France during the past thirty years. There are in all more than 4,000 conseillers généraux in France.

Different levels of administration have different duties, and shared responsibility is common; for instance, in the field of education, communes run public elementary schools, while départements run public junior high schools and régions run public high schools, but only for the building and upkeep of buildings; curricula and teaching personnel are supplied by the national Ministry of Education.

The 3 main cities, Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

 and Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

 have a special statute. Paris is at the same time a commune and a département with an institution, the Conseil de Paris, that is elected at the same time as the other conseil municipaux, but that operates also as a conseil général. The 3 cities are also divided into arrondissement each having its conseil d'arrondissement and its mayor.

French overseas possessions are divided into two groups:
  • Four overseas regions, with some strong similarity of organization to their metropolitan counterparts; in these overseas regions all laws of France are automatically applicable, except if a specific text provides otherwise or provides some adaptation. The four régions are fully incorporated parts of the territory of the French Republic, and as such belong to the European Union, which means that European law is applicable;
  • Territories, generally having greater autonomy. In general, French laws are not applicable, except if a specific text provides otherwise. A new Territory was created in February 2007: Saint-Barthélemy. This Territory used to be part of the overseas département of Guadeloupe. The statute of Saint-Barthélemy provides the automatic application of French law, except mostly in the domain of taxes and immigration, which are left to the Territory. The Territories do not belong to the European Union. However, as "overseas territories" they have association agreements with the EU and may opt-in to some EU provisions. EU law applies to them only insofar is necessary to implement the association agreements.


All inhabited French territory is represented in both houses of Parliament and votes for the presidential election.

FRENCH RULE* Légifrance
Légifrance
Légifrance is the official website of the French government for the publication of legislation, regulations, and legal information. Access to the site is free....


General


  • Official documentation
    • General
    • Financial jurisdictions
    • Budget
      • Alain Lambert
        Alain Lambert
        Alain Lambert is a French politician. He is a notary by profession.He has been involved in politics since 1983 and has served as a local councillor in Alençon and a councillor on both the department council of Orne and the regional council of Basse Normandie. Between May 7, 2002 and March 30,...

        , Didier Migaud
        Didier Migaud
        Didier Migaud is a member of the National Assembly of France. He represents the Isère department, and is a member of the Socialiste, radical, citoyen et divers gauche....

        , Réussir la LOLF, clé d'une gestion publique responsible et efficace. Rapport au Gouvernement, September 2005, ISBN 2-11-095515-5 (page, PDF)
      • Presentation of the LOLF
      • Edward Arkwright, Stanislas Godefroy, Manuel Mazquez, Jean-Luc Bœuf, Cécile Courrèges, La mise en oeuvre de la loi organique relative aux lois de finances, La Documentation Française, 2005, ISBN 2-11-005944-3
    • Independent administrative authorities
      • Conseil d'État, rapport public 2001, Les autorités administratives indépendantes (PDF) ISBN 2-11-004788-7

Further reading


External links


All external sites in French but most of them have pages in English.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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