Year of EU entry: Founding member / Capital city: Paris / Population: 60.9 million
France is one of the largest countries in Europe, stretching from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. The landscape is diverse, with mountains in the east and south, including the Alpine peak of Mont Blanc which is Western Europe's highest point (4810m) and with coasts in the western and southern part of the country.
The country has an advanced industrial economy, including automobile manufacturing, aerospace, information technology, electronics, pharmaceuticals and fashion. France has produced some of the continent's most influential writers and thinkers from Descartes and Pascal in the 17th century, to Rousseau and Voltaire in the 18th, Balzac in the 19th, and Sartre and Camus in the 20th.
French cuisine is one of the finest in Europe; cooking and eating are an important part of the French culture and lifestyle.