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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Historical development


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.1Historical development

Last update: 27 November 2023

Political situation

Since 1789 and the French Revolution, France has had 14 constitutions, including 5 republics. General de Gaulle put the current constitution in place in 1958. The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by referendum by the people and promulgated on 4 October 1958. The constitution establishes the different powers and the main republican principles. According to Article 1 of the Constitution, France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures the equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion. It respects all beliefs. Its organisation is decentralised.

There have been many constitutional amendments since then. A first constitutional amendment in 1962 established the election of the President of the Republic by direct universal suffrage. Until then, he was elected by a college of electors. The election by universal suffrage gives a strong legitimacy to the President of the Republic who is the elected representative of the Nation and establishes the pre-eminence of the Head of State. The constitutional law of 2000 introduced the five-year term of office and reduced the presidential mandate from 7 to 5 years.

Finally, the last major constitutional amendment dates from 2008. The powers of the President of the Republic remain unchanged, but are more restricted, in particular his power of appointment or the duration of the special powers provided for in Article 16 of the Constitution. The number of consecutive presidential terms is limited to two. At the same time, the 2008 amendment strengthens the powers of Parliament: control of half of the agenda of their work, strengthening of the scope of the right of amendment in committee, and increased powers of control and evaluation of public policies.

Situation with the European Union

France is a founding member of the European Union, and has been a member of all successive communities.